Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on players growing up, linebacker play and more from practice


“Guys came back with a good practice this morning. We had great energy out there, very good enthusiasm. We cleaned up some mistakes, some things from Saturday’s scrimmage that we had to get ironed out, in particular on defense in defending the run. I thought we came back and improved in that area today and had a good competitive practice. We’ll go watch this film and move on and move forward.”

On how Denzil Ware improved last year and what he still needs to work on:I’ve said it a lot, and it’s so true: I think that position is very difficult. There’s many different nuances that get thrown at that position every day, so experience is key. I think he’s growing up, he’s more consistent. He’ll get better and better. I like what he’s doing. He’s an explosive guy. I think he’s getting better when we turn him loose and getting after the quarterbacks and rushing the passer. He’s better in that area. Again, with the more experience, the more comfortable you are playing on your feet, the better he’ll get.”

On if anyone stood out on the film from Saturday’s scrimmage: No, I really don’t think there was any one guy. I think you saw some improvement. You were out there, you saw it. I think the tempo and the urgency of the offense. There was some physicality at times. That was good to see. We need to be more consistent across the board and make some competitive catches and get open. For me, you look at it and if one side’s doing good, the other side’s not so well. So it’s always difficult to judge that in the spring. I just want to see good competitive football, and we’re seeing more of that.”

On Cole Mosier: ”What we’re seeing from him is we generally always see the same thing, which is good. The consistency is there. You know what you’re gonna get out of him. That’s good, because he’s a big strong guy. Technique-wise, if you were there Saturday, you saw us beat him from time to time with our tackles in particular, the twos were getting run by from the d-ends at times. So technique-wise we’ve got to improve a little bit across the board at tackle. But with Cole, he’s a big physical guy, and again, he’s been consistent. You generally know what you’re getting out of him. He does not make a lot of mistakes, he’s very good with his assignments and he gives you good effort all the time.”

On if he’s noticed a change in Drew Barker’s maturity:Big difference. I really do. I don’t see the ups and downs. I see a guy that’s very steady. You’d have to ask him, but I see a guy that’s enjoying practice but he doesn’t have to be out there talking. The guys are out there jawing, having fun, which I’m good with, but with him, I like to see the quarterback just being steady, very mature and I really like what I’m seeing out of him. He’s competitive and he likes to play, but the off days. I’m seeing a guy who’s studying film more, that’s more serious about his business and that’s showing up on the field. He’s much more consistent.”

On if that means Barker is growing up: “Yeah, I don’t know. I haven’t talked to him. I try to stay away from him right now. It’s a good thing when I haven’t had to talk to him much about that. So I don’t know what the reason is. I’ll grab him here and visit with him from time to time. Right now, I just see consistency. I’d say he’s growing up and more comfortable and more serious in his approach and it’s showing up on the field.”

On Ramsey Meyers not practicing Saturday: “He was back out there today part go. He got a head injury, so he’s out with that right now.”

On Greg Hart: “Greg Hart needs to get a surgery for a pinky, but it’s one of those fractures where you have to get it operated on. He will be out for a bit. He’ll be week to week. Hopefully we can operate and then put a cast on him and put him back out there.”

On pass rush options: “We’re working on it. I think the guys are working on it. We need to continue to work on it. Guys like Josh (Allen) and Denzil (Ware) really need to step up. I think Kobie (Walker) is a guy that can be an added help for us.”

On Mikel Horton: “He was out there.”

On motor of a De’Niro Laster: “He does. He has a good high motor. He’s a guy that again, he’s versatile. We’ve got to find the right spot for him. He could play outside; he could play inside just as well. I’m anxious to see how we progress here through spring and see how he does. I have high hopes for him and we’ve got to make sure we put him in the right spot.”

On if Boom Williams is showing increased maturity: “I have. He’s not out there full go with us because of the elbow, but he’s been out there and he has been more consistent. With a guy like Eddie Gran coaching him -- Eddie’s been around a long time. He’s coached a lot of great running backs and is very seasoned and if Eddie can’t get him right, nobody can. I have seen him making improvements.”

On Kobie Walker: “I’m seeing a guy that is good. You hear me talk about outside linebacker play. With all the things they have to do, I see a guy who is very comfortable on his feet. He needs to be more physical and he’s getting more physical with blocks at the point of attack, but he’s good in space and he’s very explosive. So he’s a guy that again, it will be fun to watch him for the rest of this spring and see how he progresses because I like him. I just think he’s -- for those reasons -- he’s good on his feet, he’s explosive, he’s athletic, just not overly big. Neither was Eric Striker.”

On run defense issues from partial scrimmage: “It was guys trying to do too much, honestly. Gap integrity. They were trying to do too much instead of just taking care of their business.”

On having maturity but also a competitive edge: “There’s always that fine balance. That’s why we have a lot of guys on this team and a lot of different types of personalities and I think you need that to have a great team. Just overall, I’m very comfortable with where we’re at. I think they’re work ethic, as I’ve mentioned several times this spring, has been more consistent.”

On offensive line performance on Saturday: “Not as good obviously. You saw it, if you watch the scrimmage, pass rush in predictable pass, we weren’t doing anything fancy, we were just rushing. In predictable pass, they were getting beat. In particular the tackles. But in the run game, we do feel like there’s some depth, in particular inside. We need to continue to develop some tackles.”