Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on Kentucky’s return to practice field after spring break


“I was impressed with practice being that we had the long layoff with spring break, so kind of figured it would be a little slow, a little sluggish, need to prod them a little bit, but they came in with a good attitude. Had a good practice, were sloppy from time to time as you could expect from having that many days off with spring break, but they really have been consistent in their approach to practice and I’ve been impressed with that. So that’s been a good step for us. We’ll see if we can continue to do it the rest of the week, and that will be the key for us to be consistent throughout this spring, throughout this next four weeks to get much better. As we talked about before, it’s nice having only three practices this week so have a lot of time off in between to watch that film and have walk through and really be efficient with our time. We’ll see if we can keep this consistency, but overall pleased. First day in pads. There were some guys that looked like we were more physical; we’ll see. I’ll go watch the film here right now, but overall, pleased with practice, pleased with their effort and enthusiasm and the way we’re approaching it.” enthusiasm and the way we’re approaching it.”

On what LB Eli Brown gained from redshirt year: “He needed, Eli needed the redshirt. But it is nice, you see him showing up even today. You see him showing up, seems like he has a good knack for getting to the football and showing up. He definitely needed the year off to get more physical and put some weight on and some muscle on and rehab that knee that he had from high school. It was good.”

On improvements from offensive line: “I think we all know that we haven’t been good enough in any area, any position group hasn’t been up to the standards that we need to compete at a high level in this league. We know we’ve had some struggles at offensive line and I think when you’re playing five of them and you’re playing against the defenses we play against and the D-linemen that we play against, you cannot have one guy here and one guy there because it blows up the entire offense. We do feel like through the course of the last couple years we’re developing some good guys and we feel like right now, there’s definitely more bodies in there. We’re trying to find the right mix. We feel like certainly we are getting physically where you need to be, inside in particular at the center and the two guards. Tackle we’re continuing to work and need some more depth, but overall I think it’s definitely an improvement.”

On import of that red-shirt junior group: “It’s critical to get some guys and that’s where we need to take the next step as a program, getting some guys who have some playing time under their belt and physically are able to do it. So I think some of those guys are getting to that point.”

On Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood’s progress: “Tavin and Jabari both showed up today. I feel like they’re definitely going to be good football players. They need a lot of work. You can see them physically kind of getting bounced around a little bit at times, but they’re out there competing and making some competitive catches. I like their mindset and if they continue to work and give the effort that they gave today and develop, then they’re going to be good players.”

On if that whole WR group is on notice after last season: “Definitely. Absolutely. We need to improve, not just singling out that group, but make no mistake about it, that group needs to improve and they know that.”

On how hard it is for redshirt freshmen to be now learning a second offense: “We’re in a learning environment every day, so it really never changes. Certainly, you don’t want that every year – we would like to get some continuity year after year as far as our system – but, with that being said, this is football. We’re in here studying, whether it be technique, scheme, we’re grinding on that for hours upon hours every day. That’s never going to change.”

On how the QBs look so far: “They’re doing good. We’ll see. It depends on how the whole offense goes – how we’re running the ball, how physical the O-line is that we were just talking about and the decisions they make on RPOs (run/pass options), and then being accurate on our pass game. I think we’re seeing some flashes; not as consistent as we need it to be, but you would expect that after three days of spring.”

On how many scrimmages this spring: “Yeah, I think Saturday – I need to talk to Susan (Lax) and Tony (Neely, sports information directors), but I believe there’s no reason why we couldn’t open up practice for y’all Saturday and get you in there. Saturday, we’ll get through Thursday and see where we’re at as far as the implementation of the offense and the defense, but I would anticipate Saturday – I was thinking about originally on the schedule having a full-scale scrimmage, but I think I’ll have a half practice and half scrimmage. Be in the stadium and let y’all come in for at least half that. I would imagine there should be no reason either (not) to open it up to the fans if they want to come in, too, so we’ll probably open it all up Saturday.”

On young defensive guys UK needs to step up this fall: “Oh, there’s a bunch of guys we’re going to need, certainly. You know we still have some inexperience at linebacker across the board, outside and inside. We’re going to need everybody, and this is big for the linebackers in general.”

On Bengals coach Marvin Lewis saying at Pro Day that this UK team is starting to look like an SEC team: “I just think it doesn’t take much when you walk around our building and you see our players and you see our young guys watching the older guys and you see the players, just physically. I would say that, and you’ve heard me talk about that the past couple years: we’re starting to look like that, starting to have that length that you need and the mass that you need. As you’ve heard me say, you need some sharp arrows to work with.”

On saying he has to keep a boot in Chris Westry’s behind and if he’s responded: “He responded. He came back – Coach Clink and I have been on him, and he came back and responded and had a better day today. And he’s going to need that. But you see those guys showing up. I noticed that again today. In general, you definitely feel our secondary much more than at any point that I’ve been here. Again, you would anticipate that with playing quite a few young guys last year and the past couple years. But that’s a good group. Marcus McWilson’s the guy that’s been around the most, but the rest of the group is fairly young but very talented.”

On if Marcus McWilson had any lasting effects after a car accident over spring break: “No.”

On staff cohesiveness with new coaches: “Oh, it’s great. No issues at all. I know Eddie (Gran) so well and he has great command of the offense and his group. So it’s been very smooth.”