Mark Stoops Monday Press Conference Recap

Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement …
“A hard-fought game (vs. Mizzou), I thought we really did some good things on both sides of the ball. And did what we had to do to win the game against a quality football team. That was one of our more complete efforts in some time and hopefully we can use it and build on that. Looking forward to getting back out to practice this week and getting some things corrected that we did wrong in the game and moving on to Eastern Kentucky.

I would like to send my condolences to Coach Hood and Eastern Kentucky. Hearing about that tragedy, it is sad for all of us. Our hearts go out to him, his family and the entire program. That is sad thing about leading into this game because we are very excited to play them. We welcome them and look forward to another hard fought game in bringing them to Commonwealth. So look forward to a very good game with Eastern and I know they have some distractions this week in dealing with that tragedy. Again, I just feel for them and their program.”

On Jojo Kemp being listed as the starter at running back …
“The thinking there is that is the way we game went. Jojo was the guy that did some things in the game and he deserves an opportunity. Again, you guys get hung up on the depth chart and believe me it is important to our players as well – all of our players. We take all of that into consideration, but we need all of our players to compete at a high level all the time to help us win games.”

On if Boom Williams was upset after the game …
“I am waiting to visit with him myself. He had some academic responsibilities all morning. I have been trying to get him into my office prior to this conference. I haven’t been able to get the time. We will meet before our meetings this afternoon.”

On Boom Williams blocking …
“That’s not the issue. Was it up to snuff or not, just like some of our guys there are always things that we can critique them on and do better. That is not the issue. I guess I am not insinuating that there is an issue, but there could be I guess. We will look at it.”

On the health of the offensive line …
“Yeah, the health of them, that is what Jordan (Swindle) is not listed as the starter. If he comes back and gets healthy than obviously he will start, if he is healthy and ready to go. I would say he’d be questionable at best right now. He has a leg injury a pulled muscle right now and that is bothering him a little bit. I think George (Asafo-Adjei) will be healthy and Zach (West) will be healthy.”

On to clarify that Jojo is listed first because he played better …
“Yeah, that is what I said. I need to talk to Boom. I don’t want to say anything or insinuate anything. I need to talk to him.”

On Cory Johnson’s play Saturday vs. Mizzou …
“It was very big. With Regie (Meant) being hurt there is another example of some depth and a guy coming in and really just working to improve. Again, things I talk about all the time of developing our players, there is a perfect example of a guy. I am very proud of the effort that he had and Coach (Jimmy) Brumbaugh has worked really hard with him. He has come a long way and he has some ability, he is very active and disruptive inside. He comes in and produces and has a heck of a game. That is what you take from a game like that and there are many examples of our guys stepping up and doing that. But a guy that hasn’t played that much or produced that much and gets thrown into that role and has a great game and is SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week, I am very proud of him that is a great effort.”

On why Cory Johnson wasn't as productive last season …
“There are many reasons, you never know when a junior college player comes in when it all comes together for them. There is a lot of things and a lot of change, whether it is schematically or technique and speed of the game. There are many issues. It’s not a lot of fun playing defensive line a lot of times in the SEC. There are a lot of things that happen very quickly. You line up six inches from your other man.”

On Cory Johnson questioning his own work ethic last season …
“Yeah, that’s right. You hear me talk about that all the time in so many ways. When it clicks and the level of consistency that you have to play with and you have to prepare that way. You hear me talking about that every week. The urgency to prepare.”

On a common theme that players assume things will be handed to them …
“It’s no different at any place I have been. There is an adjustment period. That is what we always tell players and people ask us what we talk about in recruiting and it’s an opportunity. People have an opportunity and what they do with it is up to them. We do our very best to educate these guys about what it takes and we do our very best to teach them and mold them and develop them. Again, that is one point – since you brought it up – that you take away from this past game. We have certainly grown in that area. I think you see more guys able to overcome some bad things and you see guys step up and you see depth and you see guys playing to the best of our ability. We know we are going to play some more talented teams at times, but we have to play the very best we can and develop our players the very best we can.”

On having that conversation with players …
“I think it’s a conversation that we have with our players daily in so many ways. I mean, pointing it out and watch film and educate them. That is going to be a discussion with the guys today. Again, you heard me talk about it afterwards. Last week, I felt like Florida beat us beat us because they were more mature and played harder and that is a compliment to teams that play hard and with great urgency. I thought we were certainly better this Saturday, but there are still plays that I am not happy with that we need to play with a greater sense of urgency. There are no plays off. You never know what one play changes a game.”

On if he likes the way the schedule lays out with three SEC games done and a few non-conference left to go …
“I guess so. I don’t really look. I just take it one game at a time.”

On how he will approach the history of these two teams off the field …
“That will be addressed early in the week. We will talk about it and then it’s done with. We have to move on. I have great respect for Coach Hood and his program and the program he is building and the history they have had and what they have done. We will welcome them to our stadium. I think this can be a very good situation and a good rivalry. I have seen it before at other programs where teams that are so close let that kind of stuff filter into the game and there is no place for it. I will have no tolerance all week on anything off the field or any talk and all of that BS. I don’t want anything to do with that. We want to play a good, clean, hard-fought football game and that is what I am going to tell them and I don’t want to hear any of it. I have respect for them. This could be a good thing for the state and a good thing for both programs and we want a good game.”

On if he worries that once the pads go on things could get “chippy” …
“It needs to be addressed and we will address it and talk about it on our end that is for sure. Once the game starts I will have little tolerance. If I see any of that stuff, then they are not going to play. I am not going to deal with that stuff. That looks classless and looks sloppy and we will not play that way.”

On getting Drew Barker some playing time …
“I have wanted to get Drew in for some time, you’ve know that, I have talked about it. And you know the way that has gone with that position and you guys have been around enough and educated enough about football to know that the opportunity has not really been that and that disappoints me. At times I felt like I just wanted to do it, but I haven’t pulled the pin. I would love to play him in this game, definitely, and he will play in this game. I have been wanting to do that no matter what the game is, just force myself like we have talked about. If it’s the second quarter and the game is on the line or just any game. No matter what the game is, I have to get him some reps.”

On Matt Elam …
“Elam is doing good. What is happening in this past game in particular, when we are playing all these teams and they are completely spread out, they only played two snaps I believe or big sets in this game and we are playing some different packages. He is a true nose. I said that last week. When we are not in that package, he has not played as much. He has to continue to develop and get better. It is not like we are down on him, just what we are doing and what we are seeing.”

On winning close SEC games …
“We’ve won some close games, and again, I think that’s a credit to a lot of factors. I think, first and foremost, it’s just us growing as a program and finding ways to win. I think it’s the ability to overcome negative things that happen throughout the course of the game and adversity that seems to hit you in every game. I think we’ve done a nice job. Our players have been able to overcome it. I think we’re deeper. We’re a better football team. Again, you’ve heard me talk about it this year throughout these press conferences. As you get better, as you become a better team, you’ll win more games. We can’t talk our way through it. We can’t worry about it. It’s not about our opponents. It’s about what we do and how we prepare and how we fundamentally get better each week.”

On last week’s win building the team’s reputation in the SEC East …
“We play them every year anyway. Missouri is a very good football team, and I have a lot of respect for them, but them being on our side, I don’t understand the question. I think, just in general, I think the East is getting better. Just me watching games and once in a while catching glimpses on TV. I don’t really get into all that, you know that. We just try to win games. We’ve got our hands full trying to win games. They’re so important, they’re valuable, and that’s why everyone understands that, and we certainly do. I really don’t have an opinion. I’m rambling about it, but I really don’t care. I don’t care what the perception is with East or West. All I want to do is get better and win some games.”

On what is impressive about EKU and playing former players …
“It’s not weird. I have really great respect for those players and Eastern. There are always situations and circumstances. We deal with a lot of numbers and a lot of guys. Every situation is different, why guys choose to leave or need to transfer. I respect that. We have transfers on our team that I have great respect for that came from other places. Whatever is best for them, we support. We are in this for the kids and what’s best for them.”

On what stands out about EKU’s team to scheme for …
“No, I see a good football team. There are a lot of plays and schemes that we see a lot from different people. Everybody gets creative and tries to do different things for certain games, but I see a good football team that’s well-coached.”

On plans to honor EKU’s Joey Kraemer …
“I’m not sure. Certainly. Greg Hart played with the young man, and Greg came in my office this morning (I was in meetings) and left me a message. I’m going to get with Greg because it’s my understanding, I haven’t’ talked to Greg yet, but Greg and him were very close, so he asked me the same thing. Of course we would be certainly open to do that. It could be a great game for the state and our two institutions, and we would do anything to help bring some sort of peace to him and his family. I’m not sure on those sort of things. I’m in full support of and need to go through the chain of command. It’s above my pay grade. I might have to get (Sports Information Director) Tony (Neely) to make that decision.”

On EKU’s Dy’Shawn Mobley …
“Dy’Shawn was very productive for us, in particular at the end of my first year there. He’s a really good kid and really produced well at the end of the year, and he’s a very talented player. He’s been bothered by a nagging injury, seems like a hamstring that’s been bothering him or something. I’m sure he’ll be anxious and excited to come back here and play for his team and to help his team. They have a couple transfers, the other transfer from Florida who’s been playing very good at tailback as well. They have two or three guys that they like at that position who have been effective.”

On EKU’s Noah Spence…
“Great player. Started, I think, 13 games at Ohio State. He’s a five-star recruit out of high school, very talented player. He’s a very good player”

On how much stock Stoops puts into high school pedigree in recruiting …
“It’s certainly a factor, it certainly helps when you recruit players if they come from a winning program and have been used to winning. But it’s not the only factor by any stretch. There’s players that come from all different forms, different teams, different levels of competition that are extremely successful, so you could never just use that as criteria. But, you asked me, is it important? Do I care about it? Yes, I do, certainly. If they generally come from a program that’s been successful, generally they’re well coached and have been taught the right things. The culture certainly helps and if that rubs off on the other guys, and the competition part of it kicks in at practice and things like that, then you love it.”

On WR Garrett Johnson …
“I’ve been very pleased with Garrett. We’ve talked about him often, you’ve heard me talk about him. He’s made some tough catches. You heard me mention him in the [Missouri] post-game conference. He’s stood out to us for some time and you’d like to see him continue to grow and continue to make those catches when the team needs it. Making tough, competitive catches and tough, competitive plays. He’s doing a good job. ”

On how critical developing impact players is …
“We all like guys that change the numbers on the scoreboard. I think Garrett Johnson can become one of those players, and he is, but have a greater impact on games. He’s becoming that type of player. I thought we really played good across the board. At receiver Jeff Badet didn’t have the numbers, but he’s playing some good football, Dorian Baker came back and had a good game, and Garrett is playing good. C.J. Conrad had a good game. We mentioned all of the offensive linemen. I think four of those guys, except for [Jon] Toth, were all redshirted my first year and are all redshirt sophomores. They played extremely well. We’re developing more and more playmakers. ”

On Cole Mosier’s pass blocking …
“He held up very well, he was one of the players of the game for us, within our team. He really graded out well and performed very well and battled hard. Again, a great example of a kid that does anything we ask him to do. He’ll play guard, he’ll play tackle, he’ll play the right side, the left side. He’ll do whatever we ask him to do, he’ll battle, he’ll work. Again, Coach (John) Schlarman has done a good job of developing all of those guys. We had two or three injuries happen at one time and [yet] we go in and win a tough, competitive game. So, that’s that development I’ve been talking about. I appreciate that, I appreciate the coaching staff and what they’re doing to work and develop these players.”  

On talking about potential signees …
“I choose not to on that, Kyle. There are some programs that have been in trouble. I just choose not to comment on that. There is a loophole, and it gets dicey, it gets gray. We signed mid-year guys last year as you know, and we are all for mid-year guys, but how I talk about individuals publicly is gray. There have been programs that have been penalized and I would like to stay away from that.”

On UK replacing Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith in 2015 on defensive line …
“Just like we talked about at the beginning of the year, that it would take a group effort to replace Bud (Dupree) and Za’Darius (Smith), it is a group effort, it is a team effort. As I said prior to the season, I thought overall we would grow and get better defensively and I think we’ve shown that. Replacing those guys is hard to do, but our guys are playing hard and the unit is playing better.”

On who grades out players on Sunday’s …
“Position coaches. I have to get a little sleep.”

On defensive backs Mike Edwards and Darius West reps …
“They did and that is a perfect example like I talked about with Drew (Barker). We are talking about Darius (West) and Mike (Edwards). They played at safety and got some reps and when the game was on the line, in a tough game, we prepared them that way all week. They went in and played. They gave us some series that were very helpful. It is going to help them and it is going to help our program. We’ve got to continue to do that and I’ve got to do a better job of pushing position coaches to play them. It’s hard because every play, every series is so critical. But it is also critical to developing the program and getting that depth that you need.”

On Patrick Towles performance after a sub-par game vs. Florida…
“Patrick did a very good job. He played a very good game. As you know, that position gets a lot of pressure and there are a lot of critics out there. It is an easy target, to target one guy. I said that in my postgame and last Monday, that I understand what goes on in this business and that there is always someone to blame. After a loss, the bulls-eye goes on the quarterback. He bounced back and had a great week. That is why last week I said that and I will continue to say that, let’s not put it all on him. It can start with me and end with me. To criticize him – there are so many things that go on that not everyone gets to see – we are never going to deny that he might miss some opportunities, absolutely, he’s human. Every quarterback misses some opportunities. Every player will be held accountable on our team and if it is not up to standards then we will take another look. This Saturday is a perfect example of what he is capable of. He needs to continue to grow, continue to improve, just like our whole team.”

On offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson getting Towles comfortable …
“Part of that is the comfort level that Coach Dawson was trying to talk about last week. Just getting him comfortable and playing to his ability. Complement our coaching staff to get him in some plays and situations to get him comfortable, get him going, then let his ability and instincts take over. I thought he made some great decisions.”

On if he interjects himself into coaching the quarterback’s mental approach …
“I answered that quite honestly postgame when Jen (Smith) asked me what I said to him and I said ‘nothing, I try to stay away.’ I try to encourage him and push him. It is not like we have to handle a quarterback with kid gloves, but you don’t want to mentally get into someone’s head, or mentally get into a play caller’s head and take them out of what they do. That is my philosophy. I get on Patrick, but I believe in him and what he can do. We have to get the best out of him.”

On if the win over Missouri was a must-needed win …
“Of course. We needed it as a program. You always need to bounce back. Everybody is going to face adversity it is how you respond to it. That is what I am most proud of to see him (Patrick) do. In this day and age we don’t hide from anything. There is information out there, the players understand what is going on. The best thing is just to address it and move on. I’ve told them that many times, that I actually feel sorry for them with social media because it is just ridiculous at times for them. So they have to deal with that. The minute they get out of the game, if they happen to get a touchdown or something, their phones are blowing up. And if they don’t get a touchdown, it’s ‘why, why, why.’ That is what I try to tell you guys, it takes a whole team. Somedays you are going to get the ball, somedays you are not, catch some passes, play good defense, the whole thing across the board. You never know. That is why you have to have a team, team attitude and team effort. We are going to continue to push that and be that type of team.”

On the emerging depth at WR and the play of junior Ryan Timmons …
“There is a combination of things. Ryan needs to do his part and we need to continue to improve. We have worked hard, relentlessly around the clock, to put them in a position to be successful. At some point, another guys has to look at taking those reps, him or anybody. Ryan has done some good things, but there are things that he knows he can do better.”

On how his team handles adversity and success …
“Our resolve has showed throughout the course of this year. We have not played perfect football by any stretch, but I believe we have showed great resolve all year and I think we can build on that. Our team has had a tough attitude and their approach is better and more consistent. Not everyone will tell them they are good and we will see if we have a good week or not. We just need to put our head down and develop.”

On if they are looking at different options at positions …
“We always look at other options at every position.”

On the ability of freshman RB/KR Sihiem King to break a return …
“I do. I have been very pleased with him. He is a talented player. It is hard, when games are like they are being played. Certainly our SEC games this year. Both sides are playing some pretty good defense, there are not as many plays, not as many big runs. You are playing good teams, you need to grind things out. That is what is important for our players to understand. You are starting to see that at wide receiver, even though they are not gaudy numbers but when you make big catches in critical situations that is what we have to do. We might have to grind out yards, that is what we have to do. It is just like at the end of the first half, to grind out a first down to not give Missouri an opportunity to score is huge. I’ll take the booing, that is fine. But that is a huge play, to get a first down and not punt backed up and give Missouri a chance to score and get momentum. That happened to us the week before when we gave up a late (first half) touchdown to Florida. Those are hard to overcome in a close game. But grinding out first downs, then icing the game by grinding out first downs. Getting tough, two, three, four, five yards on certain carries, that is what wins you close football games.”

On fans wanting UK to score to end the first half vs. Mizzou …
“No. We were absolutely prepared to go full steam ahead on that, after one first down. What was the ball on the 10 or 15? You saw their pass rushers and you saw the week before. We weren’t going to just drop back and be reckless. So once we got the first down, we were ready to go. Shannon called a play that I’m not going to question, but got stuffed. So then you have to take the gas off and be smart. Shannon and I were on the headsets and we are talking. We were ready to go fast, fully prepared to go try to score. When the first two plays didn’t work on the second set of downs, we took the gas off and just wanted to get out of there. That’s just smart football. It may not please everybody but we don’t need to win every game 49-48, all that stuff that used to go on.  Some day that may happen and I’ll be darn happy sitting up here, but we will take it any way we can get it.”