Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops’ final thoughts before Kentucky takes on Eastern Kentucky


“It was a good week of practice. We’re excited and ready to go. I hope everybody’s excited for the home opener. I know our players will be. It’s good to be back home in our stadium and we’re looking to improve on last week and all the areas that we felt like were not up to our standards. We play at a higher level. I think our guys really prepared very well, and we’re concerned about us and how we play. Hopefully we’ll go put that together this week.”

On if his team had jitters in Week 1: “Well, I don’t know if I’d call it jitters. I would think playing on the road against Southern Miss isn’t as easy as some people might think it is, but those are some talented guys. They’re very active on defense. And the first game of the year, you’ve heard me say it a whole bunch of times, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what you have, but you never know what your football team looks like until you get that first game under your belt. So to go on the road and win when maybe you’re not as playing as good as you like in certain cases offensively, to be able to do what you have to do to win the game is most important. I don’t know if it was jitters, but we certainly need to build on certain aspects of offense, defense and special teams. I hope we’re gonna improve this week. I think we will. We’ve had a good week of practice.”

On if they expect to have Bunchy Stallings back: “We do. He’s a little gimpy, but hopefully he’ll be able to play.”

On if he expects a big game from Lynn Bowden after talking to him earlier in the week: “Well, we’re just looking to get him involved. Again, we had plans last week. I wanna say we had him in in the second series of the game, but like I told you last week, we didn’t want to put him in and the first time he was touching the ball. We had plans to get him the ball soon after that, but first downs didn’t present itself. Any young player that we think is gonna have an opportunity to contribute we try to bring along. It’s no different from Josh Paschal and the guys that contributed last week — the young wideouts and all that. He’s no different. We’d like to get him involved. He’s very talented and each week he’s more and more comfortable. Hopefully he’ll get an opportunity to touch the football.”

On if they had a healthy week of practice: “We did.”

On how he thought Lonnie Johnson played: “Not bad. He’s got a ways to go. I’m hard on Lonnie because he’s got a lot of talent. We just gotta stay on him because he has the ability to be a very good football player. We’ve got to get some bad habits out of him and we’re gonna keep on staying on him, lean on him. But, he’s talented. Hopefully he’ll get more and more accountable each and every practice and each and every game.”

On how important it is for the young players to get experience this game: “Well, we played whatever that number was last week. It was a whole heck of a lot. I already went through that with my press conference last week. 23, 24 guys on defense played. Quite a few on offense. It was pretty important for us to play them in that first game. We don’t take anything for granted, like this is all of a sudden going to be real easy. But depth is always important. And building your team and building your program by getting reps in a game is always important. Whether we’re playing Southern Miss on the road in a tight game or playing here.”

On if he’s always wanted to play this many guys: “Of course. Saw some instances last year where we didn’t play as good as we’d like down the stretch. To have guys fresh and healthy is a big deal. You saw where it really helped us in our offensive line and developing the O line, playing nine guys last year. We’re not as deep this year so we’ve got to do the same thing and bring those guys along. But defensively it is very nice to finally have some depth, some guys we can count on to go in there, particular on the defensive front to play and give us quality snaps.”

On what he tries to focus on with freshmen after their first game: “It’s always the details. Again, I used the word sledgehammer a lot. But we just hammer them with doing their job. You never know how kids are going to react in a game. They revert back to bad habits and just playing ball. So playing young guys, it’s always like that. Especially when things start getting hairy. You’ve gotta zero in on what you’re supposed to do. You’ve gotta trust that your teammate is going to do his job and execute the way we teach them to. It doesn’t always happen but I think the more and more experience you get the better they are.”

On if he sees a difference from one week to the other with freshmen or if it’s too soon: “I don’t think we’ve arrived by any stretch in any area. I think we’re constantly going to be a work in progress. We just want to build on the good things we did and try to stay away from some of the mistakes.”