Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Coach Mark Stoops on Meant hiatus, exit of tight end Long, more

MARK STOOPS

“It’s been good. Been good work. Things are moving fast. We have a lot in on both sides of the ball. It just goes to show you that we did a lot of work in the summer. Not as many mental mistakes, the ball is not on the ground as much, we’re learning how to practice. Still being super competitive and physical, but practicing very smart. We got a lot of work in the past couple of days and i’m pleased with where we’re at. Have a lot more to go. Have to continue to build some depth in certain areas. There’s no getting around that. We need certain groups to step up, in particular the defensive line. With that, I do have an announcement with Regie Meant. He will not be with us for a while. He will be out indefinitely for personal reasons. I ask you to respect that and leave it alone. It has nothing to do with football, nothing to do with us or playing or anything like that. It has to do with himself. Again, I ask you to just leave that and respect him. But it is a blow to us and our depth on the d-line. But other guys will step up and we’ll continue to do that. Other than that we’re in good shape, pretty healthy. One other departure: Darryl Long will no longer be with us. He’s going to transfer somewhere where he can get more playing time. We’re getting deeper at that position, even with the emergence of the true freshman Justin Rigg. We wish Darryl the best and I appreciate everything he did for us.”

On who is going to replace Meant: “Alvonte (Bell) is a big guy, Courtney Miggins as we talked about. We’ll bring some guys along. Kengera (Daniel) needs to really develop. He’s a guy that needs to step up and improve.”

On Alvonte Bell looking more fit this year: “He needed the redshirt. He just wasn’t ready to play. He couldn’t really help us last year. He worked hard. He’s physically in much better shape and needs to continue to play at a higher level.”

On if he expects to get Meant back this season: “I really don’t know. I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you at this time. I do not anticipate that.”

On if Meant will still be with the team in any capacity: “He is totally removed for personal reasons.”

On Kayaune Ross being more than just a big guy: “He’s what we thought but he has a lot of work to do. He needs a lot of work. There’s more to it than just running around out there and catching balls. I like what I see. He has to grow up. He’s been removed from organized football for some time. He’s got a lot of work to do but he has great potential. He’s a great kid. We’ll continue to bring him along.”

On if anyone in particular stood out on Monday: “No -- I’ll go watch the film right now. I liked the practice. It was a good, competitive practice. Both sides did some good things. Both sides were sloppy at times. In general we’re competing. Guys are flying around. Good physical day.”

On how he’d compare the pace of practice to the last few years: “I just think we’re more efficient right now across the board, both sides of the ball.”

On how the sophomore defensive backs have taken the true freshmen under their wings: “The true freshmen care. They want to be coached. They work hard. The older guys are starting to work with them. They’re very talented players. Jordan (Griffin) in particular -- they’re both, if you’re talking about the corners, are extremely talented and going to be great players. Jordan is a little more polished right now. Davonte (Robinson) is everything you want. He’s tall and long and can run. He has great top end (speed). But he needs some more work. They’re both going to be very good players.”

On players staying over the summer and if he’s seeing that payoff: “Oh yeah, definitely. Our guys have always stayed through the summer since I’ve been here. Things have changed a little bit the past couple of years with us being able to work with them. I think you’re starting to see that work pay off earlier. That’s where I say we’re further along and more efficient early in practice.”

On how realistic it is for the true freshmen defensive line to help: “They’re going to have to. They’re good players. They’re a long ways off right now but they’re good players. They’re what you want and what you look for. We needed a good solid d-line class. We have one in this group. We have to bring them along a little bit. How much they can help us -- I don’t know yet. It’s a little too early for that.”

On if he’s concerned about guys getting banged up the first few days: “I don’t think so. I think we’re in pretty good shape.”

On the young linebackers: “Eli (Brown) is doing some good things. He’s coming along. He ran some snaps with the 1’s today. I’m excited about him. It’s good to see Nico (Firios) out there. He’s starting to catch on and get some reps. We’re getting there.”

On Jordan Jones: “Jordan Jones is doing some good things on the field. We’re going to be a disciplined football team. Jordan needs to work on that discipline. If he can’t then he won’t play.”

On finding a new vocal leader with Meant gone: “We have a great leader in Jacob Hyde. He may not be the most talented defensive lineman but he’s a great leader in that group. Talking about outside guys, they work together a lot, Denzil (Ware) has been a good leader as well. Matt (Elam) is going to have to step up and play at a higher level and be a better leader. We’ll miss Regie for sure.”

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