Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops at Governor’s Cup luncheon

MARK STOOPS

“This is a good time of the year. This is always the first event of the season, of the talking season and getting rolling. We’re excited at Kentucky. I feel good about the team. All arrived back yesterday and got started with our summer program. We’re back in 100 percent, the players were very excited and worked extremely hard. I was out there watching them throw in their first workouts yesterday and today and the team is hungry. They’ve worked exceptionally hard throughout the spring and I think as I’ve said before and I said post spring, but I think we’ve grown a lot. The thing we need to do is continue to push. … But again, I think our team has worked exceptionally hard. What we need to strive for, what we need to do is to build a capacity to work at a high level all the time. I felt like we did that last spring. We had harder spring practices. We did the winter; we had a harder winter than we’ve ever had and we need to do that. We need to grow and we need to mature. There’s been too many opportunities we’ve let slip away. We’ve been close. Our football team is tired of being close; we want to get over the hump. We want to get over the edge and it comes with a lot of hard work. The recruiting is taking care of itself. We’re recruiting at a very high level. We’re building the depth we need to have in our program. But we mentally need to keep on pushing. I think that’s where we’re at and I feel good about where we’re heading and the direction of the team. It’s nice for us to have some experience. We have some players back that have played for a few years now and that experience and the talent that they have and the maturity that they have is what we’re looking for. We need leaders. We need leaders like these guys (motions toward UK honorees). We need leaders on our team to take us to the next level. I’m very optimistic and very excited about this season.”

On hire of Matt House: “As you’ve heard me say before, each and every hire is so critically important and I did take my time with hiring Matt House. I talked to quite a few people and I was just extremely impressed with him. He has great experience; he has defensive coordinator experience. He has special teams experience and he also has college and NFL experience. Extremely detailed, passionate and an extremely hard worker.”

On satellite camps and his opinion: “Yeah, Coach Petrino and I just spent a few minutes talking about the satellite camp. It’s a big issue, and I was just asked about it out there on ESPN radio and I said rather than getting in on this Twitter war and everything and all these people want to get into. To each their own. Whatever you have to do, do. It’s been my experience from participating in one -- and I’m going to participate in at least one more -- that I’m quite confident that our league will go back and evaluate this situation. To each league, they can do what they want. I don’t want to speak for the other 13 coaches in our league, but I can tell you I can pretty much assure you I feel pretty confident in the direction we’re going to head next year. We have very strong opinions about that after participating in one. I’m not so sure it’s going to be for Kentucky. I think there are some definite benefits, but I think there are some definite drawbacks.”

On if it’s because he wants to get recruits on campus: “That’s a big part of it, getting kids on campus. We’re not real big into working third party people to set things up and paying people to get people on their campus. That’s not what we’re going to do.”

On what he likes most about his team and his biggest fear: “What I like most is a big word that I like, I actually stole it from an incredible person, a tier one Navy SEAL, but we had a nice conference and some things and the word I’m going to steal from him is ‘capacity.’ With capacity you could go a lot of different directions, but I think our team can handle more mentally, physically, we’re certainly getting deeper, but we have to push them harder. We have to pay the price here in June and July to be able to finish the season and be able to finish games.”

On if satellite camp creators have their own agendas: “I don’t want to make this a satellite camp deal. I really don’t. I think I made it very clear that whatever I decide to do, fine. People want to criticize me for it, fine. I’m not going to attack anybody for it. People can do whatever the heck they want to do. I’m not going to get involved with third parties and pay people to have camps to recruit one player or two players. I’m not going to do that.”

On if Boom Williams is back: “He is. He is. There’s no tackling as you know right now. But he’s back doing all of the conditioning, all of the running. I just saw him this morning. He had a good workout this morning.”

On if Mike Edwards is back too: “Yes.”

On reversing recent trend of strong starts and poor finishes: “I think a big part of it is just what I’m talking about: We needed to have a stronger winter, lift harder, longer. We did that. We needed to have stronger spring practices, and we did that. We need to have a great summer. We need to pay the price. They announced at least one of our games. I think they’re announcing the other two here soon, but it’s always a challenge. Beginning of the season, middle, end of the season, it’s always a challenge, certainly with our schedule. I know we need to prepare for the beginning of the season as well. We’re going to play at 3:30 p.m. in the Swamp in our second game of the year. I think it will be a little bit warm down there. So we better be ready to go.”

On his secondary: “I think you know I am high on our secondary. I think we have an opportunity to have an elite secondary. I got to be cautious of all those words. These guys that I’m talking about are just sophomores. Fortunately we have some guys that are juniors and seniors, and that’s where I say that maturity hopefully will help lead us to finishing the second parts of the season and finishing games and doing all the things necessary to have strong leadership and strong, tough minds on your team. But these guys you’re talking about are young guys, so I’ve got to be very careful about complimenting those dudes. So they need to work and they need to have a great summer. They’re very talented, they’re long, they’re athletic. They played some football for us, so we need them to continue to grow.”

On if he’s seen the progress from Drew Barker he hoped for: “I saw a great growth out of Drew. It’s hard to put an exact figure or definition on that. He had the best spring he had ever academically. It was more – the leadership that I saw was really leading by example. I’m not really into guys talking just to talk or to act like they’re a leader because they’re saying things. I saw him actually become more calm or more quiet, but I liked that. He had great command, he had great command of the offense, he had great command of his group, but it wasn’t all the BS talking, just trying to be the leader just because you’re the QB. I like his growth, I like his approach, his work ethic. He looks good. He’s approaching every day the way we want him to do it, so that’s what I like.”

On best advice he’s gotten from Rich Brooks: “You know, there’s a lot of good advice I’ve gotten from Coach Brooks. We’ve been known to have a few bourbons together, and it gets real deep at that point. (Laughter). No, you see – last night if you were at the cocktail party, the first thing you see is the great respect from his previous players and all the people that worked with him and coached with him. I haven’t heard it lately, but when I first got here they said, ‘You remind me of Coach Brooks.’ I said, ‘Well that’s a real compliment,’ because I think the world of him. I always tease him, say he’s a Hall of Fame coach. He says, ‘My record is not good enough.’ Well I say, ‘You deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.’ He’s spoke to our team whenever he’s around, he always visits with myself and my staff. He’s a great man, great leader. He’s always willing to help and do anything he can to help our program move forward. We embrace that and we love having him in Kentucky and we love having him here today.”

On memory of loss to Louisville motivates players during the summer: “I hope it motivates our guys. I’m not going to sit there and talk about that all the time. I’m going to move forward, and I’m going to control the things we can control as we move forward in our approach and how we work. If that motivates certain individuals, so be it. I know I may have some self-motivation from that, but you’ve got to learn from every opportunity. Whether it be that game or the Vandy game or other close games that we have, we’ve got to learn from those failures and we’ve got to move forward. We’ve very close, and I’m tired of being close. I don’t want to talk about being close anymore, but we’re putting ourselves in a position to go to bowl games and to win more than that. Our margin for error has been small. As we recruit, as we develop, as we get physically tougher, mentally tougher and we work and we put the pieces together we’ll win those games and push us over the top to go to bowl games and beyond. That’s what we’re looking to do.”

On if he had any relationship with Muhammed Ali: “I am a boxing fan. I did not have any relationship with Muhammed Ali, but how can you not just be unbelievably impressed with him and his life and what he did in the ring and more importantly what he did outside of the ring.”

On using boxing as a training technique for football: “I think people use many different techniques, whether it be some form of karate to work hands or boxing to work hands. People will do many things to help themselves be better, and again, so be it. We haven’t used boxing, but individuals who have or on their own so be it. But I definitely grew up a boxing fan and grew up with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini. I just saw him not too long ago back home. We did an event with the United Way and all of my brothers and Ray was a part of it. He was a world champion, grew up on the street behind us, so we take a lot of pride in boxing. You saw me last year at the fight with (Mike) Tyson. I didn’t show you the picture, but we had one where Tyson was about to knock me out. I didn’t put that on Twitter, but it’s always enjoyable.”

On if new practice facility is still on schedule: “Yeah, as far as I know we’re moving in. They tell me we’re moving in in July. We’ll be in the new building, and we’re very excited about that. We really appreciate the stadium and how that turned out, and we’re really looking forward to the new building.”

On if there are certain players he’s pulled aside for leadership: “We’ve worked hard at leadership development in general with our team. We’re blessed to have Jason Cummins, retired military, taught leadership at West Point. (He) works with me, and he had a great seminar this past summer. Kevin Sumlin came in for it, and many different people and incredible leaders were there. We’re always looking to get better and pushing all of our players to be better leaders.”

On if all freshmen are going to be on campus: “We are. We’re counting on every one of them to be here today. I got a meeting with them at 3:45.”

On Jordan Bonner’s status after stabbing incident: “I’m not sure physically. He is one guy – you asked about freshman; he’s a junior-college transfer – he’s finishing up two classes. He’ll be here at the end of June. And that – part of the stabbing set him back to finish a few.”

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