Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Kentucky’s Mark Stoops on replacing Andy Buh, other thoughts

MARK STOOPS

“After watching the scrimmage, I thought we did some really good things. We improved our run defense. Both sides made some very competitive plays, so I was pleased. Again, pleased with our effort this morning. The guys have been consistent, good meetings yesterday, Monday morning. Came out this morning and had another good, enthusiastic practice. We’re getting more consistent, just what I’ve been preaching and looking for all spring. So, happy about that. There’s a lot of things we need to clean up, in particular fundamentally defensively. We have some young guys in certain spots that we’ve really got to continue to improve and have a great end of spring practices here to fundamentally get to where we need to go.”

On losing Andy Buh in the middle of spring: “It was very difficult to lose Andy. I really have a lot of respect for Andy, just like I said in my statement. I think he’s a great football coach. He’s got great passion and energy. I really liked what we were doing in the special teams. So, it’s a tough loss, but I really wish him the best. He’s going to work for a friend of his, and I’m close with (Maryland head coach) DJ Durkin as well. So, we wish him and his family the very best. He had a great opportunity to go be a defensive coordinator. That’s what he ultimately wanted to be.”

On if this hit him like a side of bricks: “It did. Coach Durkin and I are good friends. He’s a Youngstown guy as well. So, I’ll get him this summer when I see him. (Laughter). But yeah, he called and he said he hated to do that at this point. Nobody likes to do that, but they had a situation come up. You have to go get the very best people you can, and Andy is a great coach. Again, we wish him the best. Bad timing, but we’ll be fine. We’ll manage it. Will elevate (quality control) Coach Matsakis, Louis Matsakis for the rest of spring to handle the special teams in particular. Coach Eliot will oversee the outside and inside backers. We’ll get through these last remaining practices and then I’ll have time to go look for somebody. I’m not going to disrupt practice like D.J. did to me. (Laughter).”

On what kind of coach he will look for to fill that role: “We’ll see. There’s several ways we can go. I can hire and inside backer and special teams guy or an outside backer. Coach Eliot is versatile enough, and we’ve gone back and forth just because Coach Eliot has so much experience with outside guys and d-ends coming from Florida State and the great things we did there. Fundamentally we need to get better at outside and inside, so we’ll see. We’re going to get the best coach we can, somebody with a strong special teams background as well.”

On how much it would help to have Ryan Timmons carry his spring progress to the fall: “Well, I think it will help a great deal. I just gave Ryan a ride over here, and I knew he was coming into the media before me today. I told him, I said, ‘I’m going to tell you the same thing I told them: Don’t make me regret complementing you. You need to stay consistent and stay with it.’ I just hope he finds that niche that he needs and just settles in, because I don’t know whether he was pressing too much or not pressing enough. I’m not sure, but he needs to continue to fundamentally learn to play wide receiver and then do what he does. That’s make some yards after catch. He’s got some talent, he can run the football and he’s dynamic after he catches the ball. He did that Saturday, had a few nice plays, so he needs to continue to stay with that.”

On Timmons being an example of how you have to be very patient with some players: “I think so. I think so. In particular on offense. On defense, it feels like you can just strangle them into doing what you want. Offensively I think they have to find that niche, that balance. That’s where you need coaches that find ways to reach the players, however that is, because everybody is different.”

On how he reacts to Timmons saying he didn’t get better at all last year: “I told him that on the way over: I talked about him going into last season, that I thought he would have a breakout year and have a really good year. It was disappointing for him and it was disappointing for us. So, he knows that. We have end-of-season meetings, and we’re very clear on the progress that our players make. So he knew where he stood with us, and he needs to make a giant step.”

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