Mark Stoops Press Conference

Kentucky Football
Press Luncheon Quotes
Nov. 9, 2015 -- Lexington, Ky. (Commonwealth Stadium)


Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement … 

“Once again, like I said in postgame, not much has changed in my thoughts after the Georgia game. Clearly not happy with the way we played. We need to do a lot better job and that was the case. I felt like throughout this year and the times you hear me talk about opponents, what we are going up against and what we are going to do, one thing I applaud and talk about with other teams when I see it and with our own team is playing with that great passion, energy, desire and fundamentally trying to get better with everything that we do. That was not the case this past week and that is the frustrating part of it for myself and I am sure the fan base. I felt like we did at times. Certainly defensively, and our cover units are trying like heck, special teams we are having our issue but the coverage units are busting their tails, we have to kick better, and make better decisions on catching the ball and getting out of the end zone, and a lot of things we need to clean up. But the effort was there but not across the board and that is what is frustrating. We will get that fixed and we will move on. There are a lot of things to address and I anticipate that we will have a good meeting, have good practices and we will move forward. With that being said, we are very excited about the challenge of going to Vanderbilt and getting a victory. Like I said last week the only way you can move on as a program and make the bad feeling of losses go away is by going and getting a victory. We anticipate a great week of preparation this week. All hands on deck to go play a great game at Vanderbilt and try to get our fifth victory of the year.”

On if they will handle QB reps in practice differently this week … 

“Slightly different. I think we will handle it slightly different with quarterback reps. Drew gets quite a few snaps throughout practices anyway and the way we rotate guys, he is in there quite a bit with the ones anyway. Because with the receivers a lot of times we just sub them in and continuously rotate them. It will be slightly different.”

On if Boom Williams will be available this week … 

“(Boom Williams) should be good to go. We will see how the week goes. He is cleared to practice today.”

On the QB position … 

“We’ve addressed it with Patrick (Towles) and he understands that and accepts that. He has to go out and perform and produce just like everyone else on our team.”

On the mentality of Towles … 

“Patrick will be fine. One thing about him is he has been resilient and he has had some good games and some bad games. Again, it is not all on him. We need to play better around him. Certainly offensively, when you put on that film, and you look at the play of the other 10 guys and it was not up to par as well.”

On addressing dropped passes with WRs and how drops have shown up in key spots … 

“It does come back at critical moments. We have to have guys step up and make plays. We have to look at other guys, look at the rotation and mentally our players need to step up and accept the challenge as well. They are plenty capable of doing it and that is where you hear me talk about it throughout the seasons about being mentally tough. Being strong enough and that is where you need to grow as a program. You don’t go down to Georgia and not play your very best, have a strong mindset. I am not sure that was our best effort in that area.”

On if Dorian Baker’s drops are due to a focus … 

“I think it is focus. It is a focus about him and an attention to detail. That is an area that he needs to grow. It is not acceptable. He is 10 games into his sophomore season. He needs to play better than that.”

On Boom’s mentality … 

“Boom is fine. He was injured. He should be fine. I haven’t seen him today so we will see. He was injured last week but in good spirits. He is going to have to play with some form of a brace on his elbow. Hopefully he will be able to handle that, protect the football and play like we need him too.”

On if they will make any changes in punt return … 

“We are looking at some other options there. We will look at Charles Walker and Garrett Johnson there.”

On if he has a message to fans who may want to ‘jump ship’ … 

“I can’t control whether they jump ship or not. That is up to them. Everybody has a choice and I certainly understand that. Frustration is a word that you’ve heard me use a little bit. Of course, I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some frustration. You are always looking at ways to get better and eliminate mistakes and get your players to play at the highest level they possibly can. That is what I am going to do and what we are going to do as an organization. Like I said last week, like I’ve said many times, I very clearly understand what we need to do. There is no panic button. I am not happy, not happy with some things and some of the results but absolutely not panicked one second.”

On if his team is over playing a game that it didn’t believe it could win … 

“I think that is a fair question and I don’t think that was the case last Saturday. That we did go into that game believing we could win. No I don’t think we did. I don’t lie to you and I am not going to lie to the players. I didn’t see that belief.” 

On if the players believe they can win at Vanderbilt … 

“They better. I haven’t seen that all year. He asked me a question and I answered that. I would have no reason to believe that they would have no doubt that every time we take the field we have an opportunity to win. He asked me if I saw that last week and I didn’t.”

On when he last felt his team didn’t believe it could win … 

“In the past. Prior to this year.”

On Vanderbilt’s stingy defensive unit … 

“The first thing you look at, again to complement them and coach (Derek) Mason, you see a bunch of guys that are playing hard, flying around and playing energized. Again, you have seen us do that in spurts. We need to do that consistently. They are doing a very good job of that. They shorten the games. They are running the ball, using clock, playing good defense, trying to play field position, creating turnovers and it is a good recipe for them. Obviously they had a great chance to win this past Saturday doing that.”

On if it is harder to make a QB change before facing a strong defense … 

“It has crossed our mind. It is difficult. We will see how the week goes. Whoever gives us the best chance to go into Vandy and win will take the first snaps. If we feel confident in both guys and one is struggling then we will go to the other.”

On what makes Vanderbilt good at defense … 

“They are multiple in what they do. As far as fronts and alignments and things like that there is a lot of carry over in what we do. There is three down there is four down. They mix it up quite a bit in different packages with droppers and different things. There is a variety of things that they do.”

On if Vandy has athletes on defense … 

“They are athletic. I’m impressed with some of their outside backers in particular. Very good looking guys that are long and athletic and play extremely hard. They are good and they are back to where they were a couple years ago when you see this Vandy team that was capable of winning a whole heck of a lot of games. Coach Mason has done a great job. You can see the passion and energy on their team and in their defense in particular. No matter what their record is they are out there playing extremely hard.”

On if mental fatigue plays a part in potential struggles … 

“Sure it does. But, yes. It does but there is no excuse for it because everyone goes through it. You’ve heard me say it and I don’t want to get too much like a cliché but you have to be a man. You have to be grown to endure the schedule, the practice, the monotony of it, the physical nature of this game, and the mental stress that it puts on you. You have to be able to handle it. When we handle those situations we will win at a higher level.”

On if they are scheming the defense different with the injury loss of DT Melvin Lewis … 

“We have a variety of packages that we use. When we are in, what we call the big package, our big man is in there. Big Matt (Elam) is in there in our big package. Then we have a couple of other packages where we can put a couple other defensive linemen in there.”

On the development of the offensive line … 

“That was our worst game this past week, offensive line wise. I thought we got handled up front. I said it postgame and I second guessed myself on going for it on fourth and two and after watch the film it is frustrating because we had it. I get tired of hearing, ‘we had it, we could have done that’, but we flat-out got whopped on one block or it is creased. That pisses you off.”

On changing the practice schedule, etc. … 

“There is no quick recipe. There is no quick fix. You get back, you work, you fundamentally get better. I have not cut practice at all We’ve done the things necessary. We have still gone good-against-good to fundamentally get better. That is something that a year ago I didn’t do and it obviously didn’t work. We didn’t play good down the stretch and you are not developing players when you are cutting back and you are not going as much good-against-good. We’ve continued to do that and we have to continue to do that. We have to put our best players in position in practice against each other to fundamentally grow and get better. Now with that is the balance of physically how much can they handle.”

On Butch Jones saying it takes 6-7 years to build an SEC program … 

“I know this. I don’t want to divulge all the things that we (myself and other head coaches) talk about all the time. Let me tell you there are some growing pains when you are trying to rebuild a program in this league in particular. Those are some big, physical dudes.” 

On how he has adjusted practice and prep for the week … 

“Slightly. Not much like I just talked about with the practice schedule. We fundamentally need to continue to put our best players, on offense and defense to go against each other. To certain phases of the practice, we obviously need to allow time for scout work. We are not going to quit doing what we are doing. I did grab about five practice schedules from the week, from different coaches and people I know, I looked at two or three practice schedules from people in our conference and I looked at two or three out of our conference to see exactly what they are doing. How many reps they are doing? How much good on good they are doing and just to make sure to look at all options to make sure we are putting our players in the best position to play.”

On players talking about the importance of a bowl game … 

“Well, of course. I’ve never said those words out of my mouth but I’ve read some quotes and had some things told to me that ‘it was bowl game or bust’ or whatever they were saying. Well, I’m going to ask them about that today. I am going to ask them to get up and say what they believe. If that is important to them then they better start with a one-week season this week.”

On finding physical balance … 

“Of course you try to be. If you look at the elite teams in our league, they are good in all sides. Not just elite teams in our league, they are elite teams nationally. As you are growing, you try to play the very best you can in all sides. If you do that, play with the passion, energy and discipline that we want to have, then you have a chance to win. If you don’t, you have no chance.”

On the differences of having Defensive Coordinator D.J. Eliot coaching from the booth … 

“Well, I think we are trying to put our players in the best position possible. When teams are running tempo and they are changing personnel and we are changing, I know that sometimes that looks a little bit like a Chinese fire drill but we just do the best we can to match up the best we can. There are games being played. There is some deception in that, which is totally legal, but I am saying when they are subbing a bunch of guys, you are trying to get your matchups in there. Again, we need to be big when they are in big people. We need to have skill and DBs on the field when they are spread out. Certain teams create more problems. Other teams just want to line up and play and fundamentally do what they do. Yeah, I think it did, I do. I think it went fine.”

On if he is on the same page with offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson … 

“I definitely feel like we are on the same page. There are difficulties in every situation as you know. It is tough at times to do the very best you can to put your players in a position to win. That gets difficult. It gets difficult as an offensive play caller in understanding when to be aggressive and when to back off. When things aren’t going well, it is tough. On all sides. I’ve been there as a defensive coordinator, calling plays when things weren’t going well. And other times when you could call just about anything and things would go well. It is very difficult on offense as well when nothing is working. You may get good positive yards on first down. Get a five-yard run on first down against some of these teams, that is a darn good play. But when you can’t finish it on second and third down it is frustrating.”

On if there is a divide in the locker room … 

“They asked me about that and I said no, I absolutely don’t think there is one bit of a divide. If you asked every 110 people in our locker room if everyone is on the exact same page, I wouldn’t expect them to be. There are 110 guys in there, they have different opinions. There are no problems, whatsoever. Zero. Are there frustrations? I hope so. I hope some guys are frustrated. That doesn’t mean you are starting to point fingers.”

On what the team’s identity is offensively … 

“I understand that. That is a fair question. You could say the same thing about the defense too. And I work directly with the defense every day. We are trying to find a clear identity. I think we know what we want to be and who we want to be and then sometimes you try to do things to put yourself in a position to be successful and it doesn’t work. You might, and I am just talking defensive philosophy now, you may try to protect and guy and not leave him on an island all day. You roll one way and they run it out the other side. There are stresses that go hand in hand. As you build and as you get better and better, you can do a lot of things easier. Offensively, we want to have some balance. Coach Shannon has always believed in that since the moment he got here. It gets difficult to run against some of these teams and we would like to throw the ball off play action off of that. Which we have had some success. When you keep people off balance it is a nice clear identity. When you are not doing anything very good. There are frustrations in our identity. I think (Dawson) would be the first to admit that. I would too. So would our players. But as you are better, moving the ball, things get fun. Same thing with our players. When you are not getting as many snaps because you are not getting a bunch of first downs that makes it very difficult to do anything. We are not getting to some of the plays because we just didn’t move the ball well enough to get to some of those plays.”

On improving the team in final three weeks … 

“I don’t know about that. That comes down to fundamentally being able to do things. And blocking and running. I think its execution. Making sure we are putting our guys in position for successful plays. We are all accountable to doing the very best we can. Whether it is play calling, blocking, running, catching, all those things. There are a lot of things we can do better and we understand that.”

On if kicking injuries have caused him to rethink his roster in future … 

“Yes. You definitely do. We have to have some options.”

On Florida holding kicking tryouts and if he has thought about searching campus for a kicker … 

“If there is anyone out there. Ya’ll can publicize that (laughs). But if there is someone on this campus who can kick the ball out of the back of the end zone I would certainly take them on this team (laughs). For sure. But Miles (Butler) does a nice job. He does as good as he can. He is getting more confidence in extra points and field goals and he is trying his best on kickoffs. Austin was close last week. He wasn’t 100 percent on kickoffs. Shorter field goals and things like that I think he was good. He says he’ll be ready this week. So let’s hope he can. It’s his groin, its aggravating him. As he has to kick and prepare for the week, sometimes he’ll have little setbacks here and there.”

On the miskick at Georgia … 

“What do you mean? That was a great call (laughing). No, if it was a great call we would have had our guys onsides. I learned that lesson year one (at South Carolina). On onside kicks you have to be completely behind. On kickoffs they give you a little latitude here and there. But on anything that is a surprise onside, you have to clearly be behind. We were ahead there because the guys didn’t know. Plus the way we were kicking it to set up for the kicker was different. We try to keep on teaching them. We were trying to sky it and that slows the kicker down. We were a touch offsides there.”

On if there are any guys that stand out as playing well … 

“There are a number of guys. A guy you have to give some credit to is a guy like Khalid Henderson. He and Ryan (Flannigan) have had a great battle for two years. They both have done some good things at times and some things not so well. Both of them have kept a good attitude and played extremely hard. Josh Forrest has played extremely hard. Farrington (Huguenin), I thought Garrett Johnson is giving us everything. He didn’t have his best game out there last week but he is banged up and he is giving us everything he has. He has made some extremely difficult catches. There are a number of guys. A bunch of our guys are battling. I said that before. I said it in the opening statement. We need to get back to playing with that great passion and energy that we all want. We all will be proud when our team plays that way. We just haven’t been consistent enough in that area and we haven’t been consistent enough in a lot of areas.”

On how he rates the continued development of the offensive line … 

“You need to continue to have those big bodies. A guy like George (Asafo-Adjei) helps but George has been out for a couple of weeks as well. The more big bodies you have the more physical you can be day to day in practice on both sides of the ball. When you are two deep across the board on the D line and O line you can bang heads every day and you fundamentally get better. That is where we have stayed the course on our practices and all that but as you get deeper and get more physically mature you can endure that.”

On if George Asafo-Adjei can play this week … 

“Yeah. Darius (West) I am not sure about. George should be back. He is cleared to go out there today. We will see how he feels.”

On how comfortable he feels with Drew Baker in the lineup … 

“I do. I feel more and more comfortable with him. I really do. He has handled it very well. It was good for him to finally get some snaps at Mississippi State. Then he has the shoulder (injury) and is out for a week. Then he wasn’t at full strength, as far as zip on the football, but he was ready to play. This week, I expect him to be further along physically and be ready to go. He has handled it very well. He has worked hard. He is comfortable at practice. He is still learning and growing just like the whole team.”

On the strengths of Drew Barker … 

“Quick decisions. We all know that is important. One thing you see from him that you really like is that he is decisive in what he is doing.”