Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops after open spring practice

MARK STOOPS

“Good work today. As you guys could tell it was good work. It was a lot of work. It was good. Our players are able to handle more. I just told them we made a lot of mistakes today. It’s always going to be like that in the spring, you’re going to look sloppy. We’re nowhere near where we want to be, but our guys are able to handle more. We’ve been grinding these guys early in the morning throughout the week. We let them sleep in today – our first meeting was at 9 – but they handle work from 9 until 1. That’s all we’re allowed in a day: four hours. They’re able to do that now. That’s an improvement. They’re concentrating more. Like I said, we’ve got a long way to go, but I like the way we’re competing. You can see. For yourselves today offensively, the tempo, the attitude, those guys are doing some good things. We have a long way to go, but it’s a good starting point.”

On how much he likes the offense’s ability to run the ball: “You have to have that. You hear me talk about it and anybody – you watch enough football – you have to have some balance. I don’t care what the numbers say, but you have to have some physicality about you to get the tough yards and move it when you can and we’re seeing some of that.”

On Mikel Horton getting banged up: “Yeah, I think he’s going to be fine. It looks like he took a helmet to the shin, so hopefully it’s just that. We’ll see. Other than that I think we’re pretty healthy.”

On if he likes what he saw from Horton before the injury: “Yeah, I did. Definitely. He’s been better this spring.”

On Chris Westry’s progress: “Yeah, I hope so. He’s got a lot of work to do. It’s hard. As you know, sometimes guys that have some success as a true freshman they don’t really truly understand how much it takes to take it to the next level. Chris is a great kid and he knows how to work, but it’s just constantly – he’s got a lot to learn still and a lot to do. But he’s a great kid and he takes coaching and we’ve just got to continue to press with him.”

On Blake Bone making some plays: “He has. He shows up. You’ll see those flashes where he’ll make some one-handed catches or some flashy catches from time to time. He’s got that kind of ability. Again, he needs to be stronger and better off the line of scrimmage. He’s working on those things.”

On C.J. Conrad’s role growing: “It’s gonna. It’s gonna. We’re gonna get him the football. He’s a good player. He’s going into his sophomore year. Again, he’s just like Chris: He did some good things as a freshman and he needs to continue to push as well.”

On Ryan Timmons’ spring: “Timmons is doing better. “I told the offense this the other day, I said, ‘You’ve been doing some good things, but don’t make me regret it by complimenting you.’ I say the same thing about Timmons, so I’m biting my tongue with him. But he’s been good and I expect him to; I said that last year and I want him to do it this year.”

On if he’s happy with strength and conditioning: “Better. We’re better. The guys who’ve been here for two and three and four years, you’re starting to see that. The guys – we still have that balance. It is what it is. Every team in the country has some inexperienced guys. We’ve got to get those guys turned around quick. And some guys just, they’re true sophomores and true juniors, and they need to have a really good summer. But we’re getting better. We’re definitely better. We’re able to handle more volume, we’re able to lift more weight, we look better and we’re moving around better.”

On value in playing in front of fans today: “Yeah, I thought it was important. It’s a beautiful day. It’s nice to get out here. And I know y’all needed to get in here and watch a practice. You know, I got nothing to hide. We’ll let you in. But it was good to get the fans out here, get the media out here, and have a good day. It was kind of a half a practice and then an extended team period. Rather than just letting them in for practices (it was good) to let them see a practice. That’s a portion of our practice.”

On seeing new WR coach Lamar Thomas’ energy rubbing off on those guys: “Yeah, definitely. It’s been good. We need that. We need that across the board, coaches to push these guys and get them energized. He’s been a good influence on them.”

On offensive improvements: “The first thing I would say is just our attitude, just our mentality and I think the urgency – with the tempo in the spring and our coaches just pushing these guys – I think our urgency is the first thing. And with that comes competitive plays. Today, you saw the offense move the ball in the team portion, but during the segmented practice, the defense did some good things. It was reversed the other day. In Thursday’s practice, the offense really did some good things in the segmented part, in one-on-ones and seven-on-sevens, really had some big plays, but they weren’t as good in the team (portions). So we just need to get more consistency across the board, but we’re competing at a better level.”

On LB Courtney Love: “He’s real important, because as you’ve heard us talk about, he’s special when it comes to a person and leadership. He’s special. He’s way above the norm. And he’s a great kid. I think that’s important to have in your locker room. But he’s got to play that way on the field, and he’s done very well, he’s been really solid. As you know, he was ineligible (sat out a year after transfer from Nebraska) last year, so he really wasn’t with us. So he’s got to learn the defense.”

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