Mark Stoops Press Conference

Kentucky Football Monday News Conference 
The New CWS – Lexington, Ky.
Nov. 23, 2015

Kentucky Football Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement … 

“We are excited about a great week and looking forward to a great football game here this weekend. We were pleased with our team’s effort this past week.”

On the emotion in the game last year …

“We just have to focus on playing football. I am really not looking forward to any of that to be honest with you.”

On the offensive line’s performance Saturday …

“I thought the offensive line did a really good job. We were much physical at the point of attack and our backs hit the hole. Overall, much better and something to build on.” 

On if he will talk to the team about no altercations like last year pregame with UofL …

“Yeah, I will. I definitely don’t think there is any part in that. We don’t need to do that. We need to worry about playing football and I will talk to the team about that. We need to worry about execution.” 

On the team having a chance to go to a bowl and get extra practices …

“Yeah, I think it would be very important. We need the practices. I think we are getting better as the season goes on. We are developing younger players and getting better. We need the work. As you know, we get to some stretches in the season with the depth of our team we get beat down at times. But with a little bit of time off and then get back and basically get another spring practice would be huge for us.”

On Drew Barker’s performance …

“I thought he did a good job. He looked very comfortable back there and was poised. He adlibbed a little bit with the little flip that he gave to C.J. Conrad. He was just playing football. He looked really comfortable and needs more reps. With his first start, I was pleased with what I saw.” 

On Louisville’s quarterback situation and the problems that presents …

“Yeah, they don’t change much. They do a lot anyway. They have a lot of offense and you have to prepare for a bunch in general. With our preparation, it really doesn’t change our prep much. They have all played quite a bit and are really good players in their own right. They do some very good things. We will have to be prepared for all of their quarterbacks.” 

On getting Jason Hatcher a few years back on signing day and beating out Louisville and Southern Cal for him to set a message in recruiting …

“Well, it was important for us to get Hatcher. It was our first year and to go in there and get him flipped from USC was important. You know, Jason, he had a big game a couple weeks ago and we have been trying to get him on track after the injuries and suspension earlier in the year. But he is really coming on and starting to play some really good football. From a recruiting point of view, it was really important. As you know, we work extremely hard at recruiting and as you go through the course of this season it is frustrating because you want these recruits to come in and make a change immediately. But Jason is one guy in that first class that was an impact guy and he is doing some good things but we need a whole bunch more. We have made in-state recruiting a priority No. 1 and he kind of set the tone with that.” 

On A.J. Stamps’ play and being listed as starter on the depth chart with Mike Edwards …

“Yeah, as you can tell we have been shuffling some guys around there. What is the difference? Depth. Putting him on the bench if he wasn’t doing good. That is a big part of it. He was demoted for a game or two and second in the rotation because we do feel like we have some guys at safety that we are bringing along with Mike, Marcus and A.J. in particular and Darius was banged up for a few weeks but is starting to play better. That is the key thing that you need. You need players. And by rotating some other guys in there and putting the pressure on there he has responded well and I have been pleased with how he has played. He has played well the last couple of weeks.” 

On putting two halves together Saturday …

“It was very important for us to play a complete football game. It is no mystery, we have had some struggles and I don’t want to keep going back throughout the year, but there was a lot to build on from Vandy and we just needed to clean it up. We played a lot cleaner football game and we did some good things at Vandy and played obviously much better and a complete football game this past week. Now we need to continue to build on that and get ready for a very good Louisville team and a great rivalry game. We just need to play our best football here at the end of the year. It is going to be a big game for all of us and certainly important for us to go out and play well and build on the things that we have been working on the past couple of weeks. So hopefully we go out and do that.” 

On if it is more important to win a rivalry game than any other game in the season …

“I think it’s extremely important, I have never denied that since I have been here, it is an important game with this being the last game of the year as opposed to the first. It’s a little different. We have a lot riding on it as you know, not just in-state and recruiting and things like that, but more importantly to just build our program and get that sixth victory. We put ourselves in this position with some miscues late in the season in the Vandy game in particular. So it is what it is and now we need to go out and play well in this game. It always has importance and I think it is very important to us this year.”

On playing some young guys on Saturday and if any stood out that haven’t seen much time so far this season …

“Yeah, it was good. I really thought it was good to get a bunch of guys out there and play and see what they can do. They all did some pretty good things, but it was good to get a bunch of guys in there and it was nice for some of our starters to not have to play every snap as well. That was a big part of the development process and hopefully plays a big part here in the last game of the year.” 

On if he has the conversation with the players about needing a win this week to go to a bowl game …

“Yeah, not much. Our players know that and we are not afraid to mention it and we will. It is important for us to get that sixth win and important for us to beat Louisville and end the season on a much more positive note. We will talk about it. But motivation, which was asked about earlier and last year and the tempers and things like that, that goes away very quickly. It is the team that is the most prepared and it is about execution and our team will be motivated to play and so will theirs. I think it is about controlling those emotions and executing at a higher level. That is what we have been concentrating on is playing better and doing the little things. As you know, we are a program that is growing and getting better and we are working to become better and this is another great opportunity for that. The motivation will be there. Our players care and have been preparing the right way the past couple of weeks. In any rivalry game there is going to be more emotions involved and we have to be able to handle that. If you go to last year, some of the emotions really hurt us. When we go score a touchdown and have some guys that aren’t normally on the sidelines and they run out onto the field and get a 15-yard penalty and that kind of stuff we can’t have. Every yard is going to be important and we have outgrown that and we will talk about those things. It is more important for us to be prepared today and start the week off with a great practice and preparation today throughout the rest of week. It is about our preparation and how we play during the game. Both sides are going to be ready to play.” 

On how much an advantage it is to play at home …

“Yeah, it is a definitely advantage for us to play at home. I said it postgame after the Charlotte game that I really appreciated all the fans that were here and I saw a bunch of my friends and different people at the game and I thanked them for being here because it was a dreary, nasty night against an opponent that not a lot of people knew a lot about and they were still there supporting us. Again, I ask for everyone there this week. We need the stadium packed and need a great environment to root this team on and cheer them on to get our sixth win. We need to use that home field advantage to help us.” 

On how you attack Louisville …

“This team is a good football team on defense. I want to say that 17th overall nationally in total defense and somewhere mid-40s in points scored. So they are a good defense and good up front. They are not as experienced in the back end as they have been. They have had some players that have gone on to the NFL and have some players there right now that maybe don’t have as much experience back there as they have had. But well-coached football team. Todd Grantham knows what he is doing and Terrell Buckley I coached with at Florida State a bit is there and coaching their defensive backs with Greg Brown, another great defensive backs coach. The two of them handle the secondary. So it is a very well-coached good football team on defense.” 

On the defensive improvement…

“We have improved and played more sound football. We have played with more discipline and passion. We gave up a few big plays – more than I would like – this past game. But we are playing at a higher level really across the board. Our secondary is playing much better than they have in the past and the good news is that three of the four starting right now are freshman, so that is good thing.” 

On the importance of going to a bowl game …

“Again, you could beat a dead horse here but there is no denying that it is important. It is important for our fans, it is important for our players and certainly important for our program to get the practices in and develop our team.” 

On Matt Elam’s progress …

“Definitely. Yeah, he is getting better each game and doing some very good things and we need to continue to work on Matt. But yeah he is making some progress.”  

On developing depth to use the bench to motivate players …

“I believe that it is starting to change that way. Is it where we want it to be, no. You hope to have enough depth that once you show them that pine that they could stay there for a long time, you know? I think that is the key. Again, just keeping accountability in your program and having players prepare the very best that they can. If they don’t play to that standard, then you have to move on to someone else. Competition helps everybody. It pushes everybody in your program at every position. We are getting deeper and getting better and we are going to continue to bring along and recruit great players and develop the ones that we have.” 

On Lamar Jackson and what sort of problems he presents to UK's defense… 

“He is a very talented young player, coming out of Florida. He is a guy that can obviously spin the football. He can throw the ball but he adds that dimension of adlibbing a bit. He is very athletic guy as well. He is a talented player. You can see he is a guy that can be a definite threat when he pulls the ball down and extends plays.” 

On getting through the rough patches of his tenure vs. Vanderbilt last week and turning it around Saturday vs Charlotte … 

“That is a whole another press conference. You have no choice in this business but to go back to work. And get your team and coaching staff back up and going to work. That is very easy for me to do because that is what we preach to the team all the time. There is nowhere to hide. There is no secret weapon. You just go back to work and you get better at what you do. You believe in what you are doing and you keep on grinding away. We know we are a work in progress but we are getting better. There is no doubt in my mind we are getting better and our players believe that. They are fun to coach. That is the only thing that makes thing dismal and makes things hard to be around, when your players aren’t buying in and they don’t want to be there and don’t want to be practicing. That was never the case with us. There are a lot of things that need pointed out that we can all do better and they need to do better, and the coaches need to do better but we are all in this together and we will. It has been a good group to coach. A great group of seniors. We are going to work hard this week to send them out on a positive note.”

On George Asafo-Adjei progressing as the season has gone on at the right tackle spot … 

“Big George is getting better. He played better this last week. As you know he had a few injuries, earlier, midseason, goes through some ups and downs as we talked about. But overall, going to be a great player. Has absolutely the right attitude that you want. He is a guy that cares deeply about his teammates and doing the right thing. You put that with the talent and the size that he has, he is going to be a great player.” 

On the senior class and what they have meant to this program  … 

“Brought them up because they’ve been a special group. I really do greatly appreciate these guys. They’ve bought in. They’ve continued to become leaders, even this last year. They care a great deal. It is our obligation, as the Big Blue Nation, to send them out the right way. We need that stadium packed. Our coaches are going to work hard for them to put them in a position to be successful this week. I know they are going to put their heart and soul on the line to help us get this victory. They mean a lot to myself and this coaching staff.”

On if Melvin Lewis will be out for Senior Day festivities … 

“Melvin will be out there with the seniors. As far as I know his family is still planning on being here. Whether he is out there or not – we have that turf field so he can get that cart out there, so I’d imagine that would help him with his little wheelie that he has right now.”

On the health of kicker Austin MacGinnis … 

“I hope so. We will see. I really don’t know to be honest with you. We will see how he feels.”

On the struggles of field position this year … 

“A lot of questions come up, as they should, as people talk about special teams. There are a lot of things that throughout the course of the year that go on and that you need to get fixed. One of the frustrating things for us has been the health of our kickers and actually kicking the ball well. We have had our struggles with that and it puts the coverage unit in some tough spots. They’ve been better lately. Miles Butler came in and did a great job this past week, kicking the ball. I thought he did a great job on kickoffs and he did a great job on filling in and kicking the extra points and field goals. I think we are getting better. And Landon (Foster) hit some good balls as well. Hopefully we will finish strong.”