Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops on newcomers who might play, scrimmage rehash, key players


“Thought we had a good morning practice. We’ll have another one this afternoon. It was very good work. Guys had good energy, good focus, improved. I felt like after watching the scrimmage, again, there was some really good things in there. I felt like we made a big jump defensively. As I touched on after the scrimmage, depth is an issue, but we’re gonna be just fine. As you piece it all together and put everyone together and move some guys around, we’re gonna be in good shape. Anxious to get into game week. We’ll have our last two-a-day today and have one tomorrow and start school on Wednesday, so anxious to put it all together and get into game week here soon.

On if he feels comfortable to turn back on offense during practice and focus on defense:Well, that’s what I do during practice but we watch everything together, so I watch every offensive snap with the offensive coaches and every defensive snap with the defensive coaches. So I have a good handle on what they’re doing, but yeah, I have great confidence in what they’re doing. But I’m always gonna pay attention to it and know what’s happening over there, but during practice, I’m definitely working with the secondary.”

On cast on Matt Elam’s hand:Nothing major. Just preventative. Just something with his thumb.”

On if Matt Elam is holding up better now: “Yeah. I mean, Matt, he’s got to continue to fundamentally play better. He’s improved in certain areas. His conditioning, his weight is better, but it’s still a work in progress.”

On any injury updates: “Uh…You know, there’s guys that are dinged up and out a little bit. Ramsey (Meyers) was a little bit sick today, throwing up and had some issues this morning. Should be fine. Jabari (Greenwood) will be back in a couple days. Bunchy (Stallings) will be back – he’ll be back tomorrow. A couple guys that were in red that were just a little bit dinged up, but nothing major.”

On if he has an idea of what newcomers they will prepare to play after scrimmage: “Yeah, we’re working on it. I think T.J. Carter is a guy that will play, that we’ll need to bring along and play. Kash (Daniel), I think is a guy that we have to look at defensively.”

On if playing both punters is because the competition is too close to call or if they’ll use different guys in different situations: “Yeah, I mean, you were out here today. What did you see? (Laughs). You’re splitting hairs right now. We’ll let them keep on battling and see what happens. Both of them hit some very good ones, and both of them have been a little bit inconsistent.”

On Jordan Jones and where he fits: “Jordan, he and Eli are battling for the starting will linebacker position. Both of them have shown very good promise. Both make a few mistakes but they’re playing really good football. He actually got a little dinged up (in the scrimmage) with his shoulder, nothing major. He was out of some of the full contact stuff today.”

On Jordan Jones: “I don’t know if he’ll ever get out of the doghouse.”

On feeling confident: “Our team has been able to handle more. They practice hard. They have great attention to detail. They’re focused. We’re more mature. Physically we can handle more and mentally we can handle more. You put that together with some depth and we’ve got a better team. Like always I’m not pessimistic, but you certainly want more depth and more players. That’s the league we’re in. Heck, everybody wants more good players.”

On where De’Niro Laster has played: “De’Niro’s playing inside right now. He’s been playing Mike.”

On Kobie Walker taking over a starting spot: “It depends on the package and depends what we’re in, but yes he’s been very good for us. He’s very active, he’s very versatile. He can cover, he’s a really good rusher, he gives us some flexibility with what we’re doing out there with his spot.”

On multiple defenses: “We’re going to be three down and we’ll get in four-down fronts as well. We’ll do both. We’re quite multiple in what we do blitz wise, coverage wise and all that.”

On how many ones/twos he feels good about and how much deeper do they need to get: “Yeah, we feel like – it’s hard. I bet if you asked any SEC head coach if they had a solid two-deep across the board at every position, it would probably be pretty hard to come by. So we know we’re not going to ever play with 10 O-linemen in a game and so on. But I do feel like we’re getting where we need to be; when you’re piecing 3-4 inside linebackers together that can play at a winning level for you, four outside linebackers, and we need six or seven D-linemen. We’re getting to that point. If you look at our receivers, we do feel good about two-deep across the board, which is nice. We’re certainly deep at the running back position. We’re getting some depth at tight end. O-line, we feel good about six, seven, eight guys who can play winning football, which is nice to see, which we haven’t had in a while. So we’re getting depth. It comes in spots. Certain positions come together where you feel really good. You guys have seen the growing pains we’ve had over the years at receiver. Since I walked in here, that’s been a position we’ve been working every year, relentlessly, about building depth at receiver. We finally feel like we have that. We have some players capable of making some big plays, and we have some depth to help them out; if you get an injury, it’s not going to completely set you back. So we’re getting there.”

On DE Alvonte Bell: “Alvonte’s making some good progress. He really is. It’s still, with what we’re doing and being as multiple as we are, putting it all together and being on point and being perfect in his assignments and technique every play is always going to be a challenge and we’ve got to continue to push. But I like what he’s doing. He’s made a lot of strides.”

On the new guys being put on scholarship Sunday night: “It was fun. It’s always rewarding. We had the scholarships available, with some attrition, some guys that wanted to go somewhere and play. So it was really nice to give it to the players that bust their tail every day. They do whatever we ask them to do, whether it’s scout team, special teams. Those guys have been around here. All three players that I put on scholarship are going to graduate this year, which is nice. We get the scholarship right back, and we get to reward them. And it was really nice to see our team really respond and be very happy for those guys. Because they know the hard work and the effort that they put in. And there’s more. There’s more walk-ons that are out here, and we couldn’t function at a high level without them. And we appreciate all their work.”

On if there’s a guy this camp that he didn’t know if he could count on coming in, but has shown that he can compete: “I don’t know that there’s any one guy. Maybe Eli, is a guy I feel like that’s really shown some really good signs. We always knew he was going to be a good player, but how early or when, we were unsure. I think he’s a guy that’s stepping up.”

On the team chemistry this year: “I think the team chemistry is wonderful. I really do. Our players have really invested a lot. They’ve worked hard. They have a good mentality. They have a good mindset. And I’ve been pleased with that. I really have. Even late at night, we constantly do meetings and walkthroughs. We’ve got speakers coming and talking to them, and they’ve been very attentive and they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. That’s been fun to see.”

On when they officially start Southern Miss prep: “We’ll start on Thursday.”

On De’Niro Laster at inside linebacker: “That’s the best position for him, but De’Niro is versatile. We’re trying to find the best spot for him, and I felt like inside was best for him.”