Jen Smith on UK Football

Did Auburn win over Georgia expose anything about Bulldogs? Stoops weighs in

MARK STOOPS

“As I said in postgame, very good team victory. I was very proud of the way our team played in all phases, and it was nice to really put it together and play a complete game across the board. Hopefully we can continue to build on that. We’re going to need to this week going on the road and playing such a good team in Georgia. But I was pleased with the way our team responded from a tough loss the week before. As I mentioned last week, it does not surprise me with the character of this football team, and again, hopefully we can continue to build on this and play our best football here down the home stretch.”

On how much of the improvement and continuity on the O-Line can be attributed to Drake Jackson: “Um, I think it definitely helps a lot. You know, with Nick (Haynes) being not very healthy and of course Cole (Mosier) going out early, it threw a wrench in our rotation early in the year. As we mentioned throughout the course of this season, that last year it took us some time to find that right formula as well and to develop guys and bring them along. You’re still talking about a freshman, and I really appreciate him, and it doesn’t surprise us that he’s been so steady. He’s really doing some good things, and so I appreciate Drake and I think that has a lot to do with it.”

On if this feels more like last year now on the O-Line: “It does. It feels good to be able to have the continuity, but it also feels good to keep on developing guys and bringing guys along that can step in and play. And so that’s important at all positions, but it does feel good that the offensive line is getting that continuity. And most importantly I think, playing very physical. The run game success, as I’ve talked about here throughout the year, has a lot to do with them. But it also has to do with the tight ends. But it also has to do with the discipline of the running backs. They’ve really stepped it up as well. With the development piece, it was good to have a game like that and we played 10 guys in the secondary. We haven’t done that for awhile, and saw some young guys really do some good things. That was important as well.”

On being the longest-tenured coach in the SEC East: “Is that right? That’s scary. (laughs) I don’t get shocked in here too often.” (laughs)

On the coaching changes at Florida and Tennessee and how his extension helps stability at Kentucky: “I hope it helps us quite a bit. I greatly appreciate it, as I said in the postgame at Vandy, that I greatly appreciate the support. And when I got here that it was gonna take a great commitment from a lot of people, and we’ve been given that. The fans, and the media, the administration, everybody — we’re all in this together. It’s a tough grind and continuity is important. We also understand that we have expectations to meet and it’s very, it’s challenging. But that’s what makes it such a great league and so competitive. That’s why we’re here. That’s why I’m here. It’s a great challenge, but it’s something that you embrace each and every day.”

On if what happened to Butch Jones is one of the reasons coaches can’t relax: “Well, I can’t comment on what happened to Butch, but I can guarantee you that he didn’t relax. But it is, it’s alarming to see how things can change so quickly. We all know that. And that’s where we talk about that margin. It’s very small for a lot of us unless you’re, some of these programs have been recruiting at an elite level for 40 years. And you put that one on top of another and there’s still been some ups and downs for those programs with the rich tradition. But there’s a fine line there. The margin is very small. And when you come up on the short end of those, it’s tough. But I know the way, I just know from being around Butch and competing against him, the way they recruit, the way they go about their business, I can’t speak on them and what happened, but I definitely can say they worked their tail off. Butch works extremely hard and recruits at a very high level. Other than that I can’t comment on what happened.”

On how Davonte Robinson is playing and how did Chris Westry respond: “Both I was very pleased with. I was very pleased with Davonte. He’s been working very hard and we need to get him some reps. I was very pleased to get him some quality reps this past week when the game was still on the line. And he played well. We need to continue to do that with him because he’s very athletic and is doing some good things and getting better and better. So, we’ve had confidence in Davonte for some time. And so it was good to see him get some quality reps. Chris has responded very well in the past two games and he’s worked hard in practice, he’s given us quality reps in the game. He’s gonna continue to play when the game is on the line — early in games, be in the rotation. We’re playing all three of those corners quite a bit, and he’ll continue to do that. He’s responded well.”

On winning three games after a loss and if it’s mental or maturity: “Yeah, I think it’s always good. And y’all have been in here and you know I haven’t wavered from that. When asked how the team will respond from a tough loss or a blowout loss, my answer has always been the same because that’s what I believe, that it would not be an issue, that leadership is here within this team. There’s great pride within this team. And we’re going to go back to work and do the very best we can. It’s not for a lack of effort on anybody’s part, the wins and the losses. I do like the way we responded this past week.”

On being 7-3 and not 9-1 and what he’d tell disgruntled fans: “I understand that. I understand it. Don’t think for a minute — you know it’s very easy and we as coaches, you never want to look back — but don’t think for a minute. There’s a human side of me that says ‘what if’ and if you (trails off). I remember bad beats for 20 years. I’ll never forget bad beats. You always try to learn from them and grow from them. The only thing I can say to you is I understand. I’m frustrated and disappointed in some ways as well. Again, it’s not for a lack of effort. We’ll continue to work to put ourselves in position to win games because that’s easier said than done.”

On Georgia running back Nick Chubb: “Chubb and Sony Michel, they’re both just monster backs. Those guys are just really quality players. You’ve got to respect them and the physicality of their team. That’s what they want to do: They want to pound the football. They have a very talented, young quarterback and very explosive outside, so they always put that stress on you. If you think just off the run, they’re going to hurt you outside as well. So those are always teams that are very difficult to defend. When it starts with a physicality of an unbelievably talented running backs and physical offensive linemen. And then you load up and they can hurt you outside. Those are tough teams to defend.”

On if Matt Panton will be back this week: “Yeah, he’ll be back.”

On if Auburn did anything to expose Georgia: “As I’ve mentioned to y’all, to think, to count on a team to play at their very best for 12 weeks, I mean, I can’t comment on the psyche of Georgia and what happened. I can only comment on our team and what we try to get over. But sometimes things aren’t as drastic as they look. A few plays here and there and things change, and it’s not like they were overwhelmed by any stretch. Georgia’s a fantastic football team and there’s no doubt just like we have responded, they’ll be back at it today and Kirby (Smart) has done a phenomenal job. He’ll have their full attention and they’ll be back to work. They’re a very good football team that’s very well coached.”

On if he gives reassurance from the fact that Georgia is a beatable team or worry him that they’ll come out fiery: “I would never, I could never worry at all about what another team’s psyche is. And I can’t control that. I have no idea what they’re doing over there. I just know what I see on film and that’s a very good football team that’s very well coached. I’m worried about us and us continuing to sustain the good things we’ve done this past week and the good things we’ve done all year. And to improve on the areas we need to imrprove on.”

On the psyche of the team that just had a big loss or a big win: “Again, I have no idea about they’re (reporter says in general). With us, you’ve heard me say that each and every week whether it was a tough loss or a blowout like we had at Mississippi State, I have no doubt that our team would get back to work and focus on the next opponent and I’m proud to say they’ve done that. Again, we haven’t followed up with perfection the next week, but we’re always striving for that. We did play one of our better games this past week after a tough loss, so hopefully we’ll build on that.”

On if a win like that amplifies confidence: “Well, I hope it builds their, sustains the confidence we’ve had, but it’s about the preparation, it’s about the way we’ve gone about our work this past week and throughout the season and our guys are tuned into that. They understand that they understand what it takes to play consistent football across the board in this league for 12-13 weeks is very difficult, but that’s what we’re striving for. We did play a good game this past week and hopefully we’ll be confident and understand that it came with the preparation and the hard work we did last week.”

On unique challenges of recruiting a quarterback: “Well, I think it’s unique with quarterbacks because a lot of times you develop that relationship early and you get honed in with a certain guy and the quarterbacks are always looking for that perfect fit and you as a program are looking for the perfect fit, so I think that’s just in general some of the things that happen at that position.”

On if he wants to take a quarterback in every signing class: “You’d like to, fortunately for us, we took two last year, which is a good thing. Walker (Wood) unfortunately for him has to go, has another surgery on that shoulder. He had one — he doesn’t need one now; he’s rehabbing — so we have some good quarterbacks here.”

On if Vandy win was the most complete game they’ve had as a program: “I’m not sure if it was the most complete game or not since I’ve been here. Really haven’t looked at it like that. I do think it was one of our more complete games this year. I thought we did some really good things. We talked about that all week and some of the things that we talked about was that — trying to define what we mean by that edge and that mentality and that preparation. We have some things within our building that we’ve done this past week and just briefly, that was about conviction and playing with a great conviction and confidence and then being committed to each other, and our team is good. They’re a good team to coach and they really mean well. It’s just a matter of putting it altogether each and every week. We did this past week and hopefully we’ll build on that.”

On if that’s what players meant when they said there was a different vibe last week: “I don’t know what anybody can say to perfectly get your team in that vibe each and every week, because as I’ve said – I’m just saying in general – when you look at these kids, you look at their schedule, you look at what they’ve done since mid-July till now, it’s a lot. So they’re going to go through some ups and downs. It’s just a matter of trying to get your team in a good spot each and every Saturday. Again, easier said than done. You watch college football, you see the scores that are out there. We’re concentrating on us because that’s who you cover every day, but you watch college football in general and that’s why your eyes pop once in awhile when you see scores. It’s just the nature of this business, and you try to stay as consistent as you can.”

On if he thinks Georgia is better this year: “Oh, without a doubt. Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt that they’re better. I mean, you look at them on film and they’re a very good football team.”

On Jake Fromm: “Very talented player. Making smart decisions, but very talented in a lot of areas.”

On if he ever marvels at Stephen Johnson’s decision-making: “Yeah, I’ve been very pleased with just his poise and his composure. He’d be the first one to tell you he’s not perfect either. We left a few out there again, but that’s to be expected. That’s a tough position to play. Quarterback is a different deal. Again, I think all of us armchair quarterbacks can sit there and look at things and it’s pretty easy when you’re watching film or your watching TV or watching the game live, but when the bullets are flying and there’s pressure and all the things that are going on and all the moving parts, it’s easier said than done. Once again, that’s why that position until you get out there and see live action you never know how guys are going to respond. Stephen really makes a lot of good decisions and really has great poise back there. Even the way he scrambles to buy time once in awhile, the way he scrambles to run once in awhile and is making much better decisions just with dropback pass where to go with the football and when. There was one or two out there that we left, but that’s probably every quarterback every week.”

On how Johnson is holding up physically: “He’s doing good. He’s tough as we know. We’ve talked about that. He’s been very durable and has been handling it very well. That’s not to say that he’s not beatup. I think if you ask most quarterbacks in this week they probably are.”

On parity in SEC: “Yes, there’s great parity in the SEC. I think there’s no doubt it’s still super competitive and very, very physical. It takes its toll on you.”

On how Benny Snell has matured: “Benny has been consistent. Any player, any young player, is going to go through, again, some ups and downs, just like any player, young or old. But you’re going to go through some ups and downs. You’ve got to constantly strive to improve. It starts with the work ethic and the tough mentality. He’s had that. He had success early. This year, I think, again, you have to credit Eddie, Coach Gran, and his coaching abilities. He’s coached some talented, talented running backs.

“There was some conversations. I don’t want to make too much of it because he’s having a really good year and all that, but there were some things that it wasn’t as detailed as he has been. Coach Gran brought him in, pointed them out, showed him the discipline of some things that you have to push sometimes with sophomores because they have some great success and may all of the sudden think you’ve got it figured out and then you have to rein them back in. I think Coach Gran and his experience has really helped Benny, because some of the success the past couple weeks has been going back to some of the details that you just need to coach. Coach Gran has done a really good job with him.”

On Snell accepting coaching: “Yeah. Yes, I think it definitely does. That’s easy for players once they have some success to fill like they all have it figured out, and the great ones want that coaching. They want the medicine. Some of the best young defensive backs, some of the best players that I’ve ever been around wanted coached all the way through and were very hungry to get coached. The great ones in the NFL are the same way. I haven’t coached there, but all the players and the coaches that I’ve talked to, you give them medicine, you’re going to do something to help them get better then they’re going to take it.”

On if there’s a DB on this team that really wants it: “They’re all maturing at different rates, but there’s always room for improvement. There is. They need to continue to improve. No matter how much game time they’ve had, no matter how much experience they’ve had, they’re constantly learning. I tell the team that all the time. I mean, as coaches we’ve been in this business a long time and spent countless hours every day watching this game and there’s always things to learn and improve on.”

On if Darius West’s play has made it tougher to find snaps for Davonte Robinson: “Yeah, I think it is and I think it will benefit Darius to get Davonte in there some though. Because I think – I do feel good about where we’re at, but you hit that – as I’ve talked about – the long season and all the reps and all the plays, the more depth you have the better you’ll be in the long run. So I think it will help our team with both guys getting some action.”

On if he generally has an idea if his team will play well: “You do to some degree. I think sometimes it fools you. Again, I’ve listened to some coaches in top five and top 10 this year, and seen some clips up late at night when you’re watching to highlights. I’ve listened them respond that they did not see it coming. I think all of us coaches, I don’t know, it’s been my experience that you sometimes can see some things and you try to bring them in and get it corrected. You have to relay that sense of urgency. Other times you feel like it’s there all week. It’s hard to say 100 percent. Things we talk about often are is this routine or commitment? What’s our standard. It’s very easy through a long season to try and just get into a routine. Are they truly committed to being attentive in meetings, having great practices and having that great sense of urgency.”

On special teams: “Special teams have been solid all year. Again, it’s a nice year when you don’t talk about them very much in here. But you have to credit Dean (Hood). What he’s done. Individual guys have done great, like (Charles) Moushey all year. It was good to see Marcus Walker make a good play on the kickoff team inside the 20 this past week. Of course, Lynn (Bowden) with the great return. I wish he would’ve got it in the end zone but we were close. It was a big point in the game to get that kickoff return. I was very proud of Miles Butler with the way he punted this past week. I probably hurt him on his average because on the last punt it was just one of those situations where I didn’t know if they were going to wholesale come after him. I didn’t want him to hit a line drive right to him and give an opportunity for a return as well. At that point we were in pretty good shape and really told him to just be smart. He got it and kicked it out of bounds. I’ll take it. He listened to me but I probably hurt his average. He probably could’ve gotten it a little bit farther on that one but all three of his punts were inside the 20.”

On Garrett Johnson putting together a solid season under the radar: “He has. He has all year. You’re right, because a lot of his catches are big catches. Throughout this season there’s been some critical third down plays he’s made. It was nice to see him get as many catches as he did this past week, and get some yards. He’s done a really good job and he’s been solid all year. It was nice to see him get some catches.”

On if they’re going to take a page out of Miami’s book and get a turnover chain: “No. No. I think all that’s been worn out enough. I think I’ll leave it alone. I think it’s great. It’s been fun. It’s always fun when it works. When it doesn’t then you’re a fool (laughter).”

On Denzil Ware: “Yeah, Denzil has been really good. He’s another one of those guys that took it to heart this past week. Just like last week, some of the things I talk about, it’s easy to see mistakes in the secondary. People don’t always see all the mistakes that are going on. He’s one of those guys, and I’m not calling him out, I’m just saying in general when you talk about pass defense, two-minute drills, all those things, defensive line plays, run the games effectively, keeping contain, doing the things it all fits. He’s one of those guys that takes things to heart. He understands it. That’s a sign of maturity and a leader. He wants to do right by the team. He’s a guy that cares. It’s nice to see the production. He didn’t even have as many plays as he normally did this past week. He was a little banged up. He should be fine. He had a little leg injury that’s nothing major, but he didn’t have as many plays and he still had really good production.”

On if there’s anything behind winning five of seven games on the road: “We talked about it Monday coming off a loss. We had their attention, but it was about just having that mentality, that mindset all week. You’ve gotta be strong and you’ve gotta be tough to go on the road and win in the SEC. We did talk about that all week. That also comes, the confidence only comes from preparation. I know I kinda talk a lot about that, but everybody wants to win on Saturday. What are we going to do all week to put yourself in a position to win.”

On Kendall Randolph’s injury: “Yeah, I’m pleased. Got a good report this morning from Jim Madaleno and he should be out there practicing today, which did surprise me a little bit. I’m pleased. Just the nature of the injury wasn’t a head, it was more shoulder. It was one of those injuries that scares you more than anything because sometimes if you get a stinger it numbs you. It’s painful and it’s scary, but you get that calmed down and you can come back from it pretty good.”

On redshirt guys who have stood out: “Yeah, we really feel good. Guys that have been around for a while, again, Madaleno and TK (Tom Kalinowski) and some of the guys who have been around here for 20, 30 years, Jim always comments to me ‘man, I haven’t seen it.’ So, that’s a good sign. I think we all see some very good players that are redshirting and having an opportunity to get bigger and get stronger and get some extra weight lifting. I feel good about all those guys that are redshirting.”

On his relationship with Kirby Smart and if there’s any Kirby Smart stories he’d like to share: “I don’t know Kirby like that. It’s not like we go back like I do with some of the other guys in this league. I just know him through the profession. I have great respect for Kirby. He’s been a great addition in the league when we’re in the league meetings and all that. He’s a pleasant guy to be around. I really enjoy watching him. He’s another defensive guy. He does a great job. That’s evident with his team this year.”

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