Mark Stoops Previews Auburn Game

Shannon Dawson Video | D.J. Eliot Video

Kentucky Football Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement … 

“Excited about this week. Obviously, it is going to come very quickly so we have to get ready for a Wednesday-like practice today. We have another great opportunity, playing Auburn at home on national TV on Thursday night. We are excited and our team has prepared well during the off week and we are anxious to get going.”

On the difference playing on Thursday night …

“It is different because you don’t have quite as much time. It was nice, we got basically one whole extra day off on the front end. So I gave them Sunday and Monday off (after EKU game) where you are normally off on Sunday, they also had Monday off. We came back and practiced Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, coaches recruited on Friday and then it was a quick turnaround because Saturday morning was basically Monday for us. We got a day on the front end and then we will get a day or two on the back end as well. So, a little different. That is how it is different when you follow it up with a Thursday game.”

On the bye week …

“It definitely gave us some time healing up for the most part. We are at midseason and banged up a little bit, but we will have to deal with that, most teams are.”

On Jordan Swindle’s status …

“Jordan will be back. Yes, he will. The guys that are question marks would be Jordan Jones and possibly Cory Johnson as well, he got rolled up in practice a little bit.”

On the team’s redzone offense …

“First thought is that we have been efficient and made the most of our opportunities. As you know, we have had some ups and downs on all sides of the ball – offense, defense and special teams. But we have been efficient in the redzone and that is some of the reason we are 4-1 and some of the reason we have won some close games. In some games, we got it in the endzone that was the difference, in other games getting a three here and there helps as well. For the most part, we have been good with the ball not putting the ball on the ground a bunch with fumbles and things. That is an important statistic and again it has probably helped us to get to this point.”

On Auburn searching for their identity on offense and if that makes it challenging to prepare …

“No, if you look at what Auburn has done over the years their offense is very hard to defend. By no means is it very much fun for us defensive guys to prepare for that offense. They put a lot of stress on you. You have heard me say it time and time again, anybody that uses the quarterback in the run game puts stress on you. And then add numbers and taking shots downfield and so on. Just like most people would sit here and tell you, they wish they could have a few throws over and a few things over. They are plenty capable and very well coached and put a lot of stress on you.”

On Auburn struggling with a I-AA school similar to UK vs. EKU …

“Again, like a lot of teams in the country, you all cover us every day and you see that and see our ups and downs. But if you look at college football, which I am sure you do, most teams are going to have some struggles. You are guaranteed 12 games and very rarely are you going to see a team play 12 clean games. The key is to win the game when you are not playing your best. They did that and we were fortunate enough to do that.”  

On Boom Williams’s status …

“He is back in good standing and he was back for the Eastern game for a few days and ever since he has been back 100 percent and good to go.”

On if he appreciates the game more since he couldn’t be on the field vs. EKU …

“I hope so. I believe so. That is part of us building our program and growing and bringing along some young guys still. Just because we have talked about him for a year and a half doesn’t mean they are grown yet. We have a lot of kids in that situation that we are still trying to bring along. You know how we feel about playing in this league and competing at a high level. You better have some grown men. I know that term is used a lot, but you have to be grown and mature and you have to have some depth. We are working in those areas.”

On how much it helped to have that open weekend …

“I think it can help, it certainly could have really hurt us as well by the way we played. No disrespect to Eastern, but just how we played. There are no days off in this game. There just isn’t. You have heard me say it and I said it after the game, we respect all of our opponents and it’s about preparation and what you do and how you play. Again, it is hard to do but what we are all striving to do is play at that high level all the time.”

On if the team learned vs. EKU not to underestimate anyway and play with a chip on their shoulder at all times …

“I hope so. I hope so. You will have to ask them. We have had good practices and I have seen good energy. I have asked them to invest off the field and really do some things to take care of their bodies and try to heal up and get some rest to go through a tough stretch we all know is coming.”

On some areas he wants the team to improve … 

“There are plenty of areas we need to get better at. Defensively, it is position on the football and making good tackles and finishing plays. Offensively, same thing, Coach (Shannon) Dawson is here and he will visit with you guys in a minute. Both sides of the ball and on special teams, it can’t be 10 guys, just one person here and one person there completely derails you. Certainly offensively, because you can have one guy on one play in a series and it ruins your whole series. I think just getting consistency across the board and getting everybody on the same page and again, I want to see that great energy, focus and passion on every play.” 

On if the team is practicing like he wants them to …

“Much better. You can tell as a coach when guys are out there going through the motions, we have been beyond that. But you need to see again that consistency. You can’t be up one day and down another and good in one session of practice and down in another. I have seen the focus, what I am talking about there is not just physical but the mental focus that goes into it. You have to be sharp. Yes, I think we are much better in that area. No coach is going to be completely contempt with where you are at in that area or any area, but we are getting better. I really liked it over the last week and a half.”

On Dorian Baker’s game vs. EKU …

“Well, that is what I did appreciate was the word I was talking about there is consistency. He was much better in that game for the whole game. Not perfect, but he had a focus about him from the beginning of the game that he worked on not to get so amped up or hyped up where he can’t focus or concentrate or execute.  If he wants to be a great player and we want him to be a great player, you have to make plays when the game is on the line. That is a start. Let’s not anoint him yet, or talk nice about him too much yet. Let’s make him prove it. That is a good start and I love his attitude and toughness. He brings an energy you like as a coach.”

On extra motivation for the team to play on a Thursday night …

“I think there is a focus and an energy. We need to be consistent in that approach. I haven’t seen anything above and beyond and quite honestly I don’t want it to be that way. I want to see a good workman’s like approach all the time with that energy and enthusiasm and I have seen that. I think a day off or two helps. The mental pressure to have a few days off so you don’t have to be locked in quite as much. You know, that Sunday/Monday extra day to just decompress in the season is quite valuable. I think that has helped.”

On Patrick Towles vs. EKU …

“I think what was tough about him is he obviously had some tough series, tough throws, some plays he would like to do over, but he hung in there and made plays when the game was on the line. We talk about that all the time. That is part of growing and being a good football team. You may not play your best, but you have to play your best in certain situations to win games. Conversely, you could play a great game and not play a two-minute drill well or an overtime well and get a loss. Situations are big and I thought he managed it very well down the stretch and made some big plays when the game was on the line.”

On Auburn’s Peyton Barber and what he has done to their offense …

“I think they are very talented across the board at running back. I feel like him and the freshman as well are tough runners. We were just talking about that in our defensive meeting, they are going to be physical. This offense every year it starts with them having a mentality they are going to be physical and their backs are good runners and very physical. Their tackles are extremely good football players and their offensive line is good. They put a lot of pressure on you and it starts with a physicality about them and their backs are good players.” 

On difference preparing with questions for Auburn at quarterback …

“No, you have to be prepared for all their stuff all the time. I think there are some differences in their strengths and weaknesses but it doesn’t change our approach at all.” 

On if the read-option is the most unique offense UK will face all year …

“I am not for sure if you could put that on it. I will be sitting right here next week talking about our next opponent putting a lot of stress on us as well. Not that I look ahead, we never do that. Don’t get me in a gotcha. (laughter)”

On doing somethings in practice to adjust to their tempo …

“Yeah, we do and our offense can give us that look as well. We always try to prepare for the tempo. As you know, it is very difficult to simulate that offense with tempo. We can simulate the tempo with our offense, but it’s not the same offense. That urgency, that getting lined up, that communication is something we constantly try to stress but it doesn’t make it any easier. It is very difficult.”

On Thaddeus Snodgrass …

“We will see. There are other guys playing and he has been having some struggles. We will see where that goes.” 

On if there are any scout team guys that have jumped out to him this season …

“I think as you can imagine, just like our program, we feel very good about some of those players that are over there for sure. You look at some of the linebackers and defensive guys that are on the scout team and there are some really good players over there. Same thing offensively, Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood, we have been running them back and forth working with some scout team and with the offense. They are two quality wide outs. If it would have been our first two years here those guys would have played a bunch of snaps, but I think we are deeper and developing guys and bringing them along at the correct pace if you will. But across the board I think we are better on the scout team for sure.”

On how that makes him feel …

“They would have started and played every game no question. That is nice. I am sure they don’t like it, but they have a good attitude and working hard.”

On Austin MacGinnis …

“He has kicked lightly. We will see where it goes. That is day-to-day as well.”

On Jordan Jones and if he doesn’t play how that changes the depth chart …

“We will have Khalid (Henderson) to be able to back up either spot as well.” 

On getting to look at some guys that don’t get to play that much during the bye week …

“That was good. We got some good work from those guys. We did take some extra reps and pushed the younger guys and just get a look at them. It is always helpful. I constantly talk about developing our team and making our players better and that is a big part of it getting those young guys reps and getting them work.”

On Cory Johnson being questionable and how that effects the team at the tackle position …

“We will be in better shape because Regie (Meant) will be back full speed. They both have some strengths and they are different type players. Regie gives us a little bit more stout inside and Cory is more active against spread teams. Having Regie back will help if Cory is out.”

On if there is a place for both if they are both fully healthy …

“Yes, definitely. You know that, you can’t get enough d-lineman. You can’t get enough anything.” 

On a Will Muschamp defense …

“I have always had a lot of respect for Will. I think he works extremely hard and his players are always really fundamentally sound and they aren’t going to give you anything easy. They play really hard and it will be a great challenge. I have a lot of respect for Will, but like you said, we have faced it before.” 

On if Austin MacGinnis cannot go how does that change his thinking on field goals …

“Yeah, I think a little bit. I think you have to look at that and maybe your range changes a little bit. But (Miles Butler) has been consistent and done a nice job.” 

Kentucky Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson

On the ability to get good work in during a bye week … 

“We developed some younger guys. Gave them some reps and worked on specific things we need to work on offensively. Got some extra work. In those situations it is helpful to go a little more good on good which is helpful.”

On how a Thursday game changes you schedule … 

“It changes your days up. I got to enjoy a Saturday for one time, like regular people. Got to sit and watch some games later in the evening. But other than that, you just bump everything up accordingly. (Coaches) don’t know the days of the week anyway.”

On how different a game day can be leading up to kickoff on a Thursday … 

“It is different in a sense that there are not games. There is a lot of void. That day, middle of the week game, there is a big void because there is nothing going on. Typically you can fill that void on Saturday if it’s a late game because there are games. You can watch them on TV. It is just more of a hurry up and wait mentality, a lot of sitting around.” 

On the ability to play a primetime game … 

“You look forward to those games, no doubt. Everybody is watching. It’s a chance to go out and make a statement. I am sure Auburn is saying the same thing.”

On having a bye week to work on recruiting … 

“You pinpoint those dates on the calendar as a time to go out and see some high school games. Everybody was on the road. It helps. Not to say we never have anybody out during the week of games, because we do. There are some local things we can go see. As far as a whole staff going out, those games allow you to get more on the road. I definitely got out and saw some high school games.”

On Auburn’s defense, coached by Will Muschamp … 

“Well-coached defense. Obviously Will (Muschamp) has done a great job for a long time everywhere he is been. We are going to have our challenges to protect and get the ball down field. Ultimately when you play defenses like his you are going to have to win some one on one battles. That is the case. He is going to squeeze out a lot of things and you have to pick your chances to take opportunities down the field. Hopefully you can win some one on ones. You have to make plays with people on you, because they are going to be close.”

On if they need to temper Dorian Baker’s excitement … 

“He does a good job of that on his own. He never really strays from being even keel. The kid honestly loves competing. I don’t think there is anything we have to sit there and make sure he is grounded. He is typically the same person every day which is good to see.”

On if players can request getting the ball more … 

“I don’t mind it if you make plays. Anybody can say that if they are making plays. Not that I am going to listen to everybody but you have to go to the players who are making plays.”

On Boom Williams … 

“He’s doing great. Great energy, great attitude. Obviously we are a better team with him on the field. He understands that and we understand that. We want him to be on the field as much as possible. We are a lot better with him out there.”

On the talent freshmen receivers are showing in practice and battling redshirt chances … 

“It is. You battle. You go back and forth with those guys that are really talented enough to play but you don’t know how many reps they would get. What you don’t want to do is you don’t want to play them a limited number of snaps during a season and lose a year. We made decisions on those guys and it is a tough decision to make because sometimes you look at them and are like ‘dag gone,’ and then as the season goes you get thinner and it makes those decisions a little tougher. Guys are better. Everybody in here knows this, when they have a year with coach Ed (Corey Edmond) in the weight room. A year of just being in college. Typically, older guys play better. They are tougher mentally and tougher physically. That is where we want to go with the program. Obviously we are in a good place because we can redshirt some guys and develop them. Developing is a key component.”

On how close UK is to finding consistency offensively … 

“That is a good question. Hopefully close. Hopefully Thursday. Consistency overall. It is not just in the run game. We are inconsistent overall. We can play a quarter and you are like, ‘dag gone, we are pretty good.’ Then the next quarter we might go three and out four times. It is pretty baffling to me as well. You can either get frustrated or you can just keep working. My mindset is just to keep pushing it along. The guys are young and it would be different if it was an effort issue. It is an execution issue. Just knowledge of the game. There are certain things that kill drives. One guy doing something, that the more he plays football, a lot of times irons that stuff out. It is simple stuff. There are times when the defense just stops you and you have to say ‘good job guys, you beat us, good scheme, good blitz.’ But when you stop yourself it is a different deal. It has been a lot more of us stopping ourselves then the other way around lately. That is the most frustrating. You want to take advantage of things in real time.”

On if a bye week allows UK to self scout … 

“To be honest with you I am constantly doing that regardless of the week. This league is a little different. In the Big 12, the offenses are inbred. In this league the defenses are a lot alike. You can learn a lot from previous opponents. The other teams watch it, when their scheme is close. You can definitely go through and watch see what you could’ve done differently. Or what the specific players you are coaching could have done different. I try to do that week to week because it is smart to do that, learn from what you did the previous week.”

On playing with a tempo … 

“The problem with tempo and playing fast is you have to get some first downs. You can’t play fast if you are not getting first downs. Through the majority of that game, when you are not getting first downs, you don’t have the ability to play fast because you are not executing. That is what people don’t understand about offenses, and we don’t want to be just a straight fastball offense, that is not what we are doing but when we get on a roll, we want to have the ability to do that. We have to temper it, based on how we are playing. If you watch every game, the times that we play fast and have good tempo, we get a first down, or two first downs, then we can get rolling. It is hard to go three and out and play with tempo. It’s just impossible. And you put the defense in a really bad situation. If you are struggling at times, naturally you are going to slow down a little bit because you are trying to execute better. You are trying to, as a fault of the coach, you are trying to call perfect plays. Which there is not perfect plays, you just have to make it work. Ultimately, you have to understand the flow of the game too. Defense just had a long drive, then the worst thing we could do is go out there, play three plays and punt. We have to have some level of execution to be able to play with tempo. At times we achieve that and at times we don’t achieve that. I think everybody understand that.”

On getting Jordan Swindle back on the offensive line … 

“It is important but ultimately, in this game more than any other sport, it is a next man up mentality. We have to trust those guys that are key backups to go in and play and we have. Jordan is the starter for a reason, that is why we list him as a starter. He has been proven to be the best one at that edge. Pass protection is something that we have stressed. Every week, we are going to work on pass protection because typically we are always going to have to face someone that is disruptive. Especially in this league. It is not different Thursday, it is going to be the same. We have to keep doing a good job of stressing protection. Getting better at it. The quarterback has to do his job. We have to get rid of the ball in a timely fashion and we can’t sit back there and do that every play like we used to do. It has to be calculated. But having him on the edge should bring a little bit of confidence to the group. No doubt.”

On having a rotation for the offensive line … 

“We are always going to have a rotation. We did that even at the beginning of the year if you watched. If you are not playing eight or so guys, then when those situations come up, you are really in a bind. You have to be able to sub those guys throughout the game. We have a rotation and Coach John Schlarman does a great job with those guys and we are going to rotate those guys in as we see fit. They will play regardless of if someone is injured or not because we need fresh people in the game.”

On what Ryan Timmons needs to do to get on track … 

“Relax. There are times when I that kid presses too much like anybody. The kid is talented and he is position to make some plays. He just needs to relax and let the game come to him. You can’t force it. A lot of times in situations where we have things designed to get him the ball, when he gets it he just needs to make a play. Pretty simple.”

On when he sees what Florida did vs. Ole Miss and Missouri and if he feels better about the effort UK gave vs. the Gators … 

“They are pretty good. I knew that after the game. They are a good defense. No doubt. They are a good football team. The biggest thing in that game, I watched that game again this week, I made sure I didn’t eat before it. But we did a lot of good things in that game to be honest with you. That might sound weird because we only scored three field goals but we did a lot of things good we just didn’t score when we were down there. We’ve been good in the red zone this year. That game in particular, we settled for field goals. Which we hadn’t really been doing. We’ve been pretty decent that that. But I will say this, their redzone defense is pretty good. We learned a lot from playing them to be honest. We learned a lot from playing them that allowed us to win our next two games. There were situations that came up in that game that Patrick learned a lot from. For example we had been throwing and catching fade balls pretty good and there were a couple of times in that game that we should have thrown and caught fade balls but you have to be in those situations to see them and learn from them. There were definitely a lot of situations in that game that we learned a lot from.”

On Alex Montgomery … 

“Last few weeks have been awesome. Kid has been playing well. He’s going to play more and more. I love his attitude. Love his energy. We have a good group of inside receivers and we have to go with who is hot and who is playing the best at practice and he is definitely a kid who has been playing well.” 

Kentucky Football Defensive Coordinator D.J. Eliot

Opening Statement… 

“We’ve had a good couple weeks of practice now and are excited to get this game underway. We are having another practice today where we can emphasis on details and fundamentals, an opportunity to play physical and go against the offense some too. Looking forward to getting out there this afternoon and having a good practice.”

On what it was like to watch other teams play on TV during the bye week… 

“Much different. Got to watch and feel other people’s stress. It was good to get away for a while and spend some time with the family and concentrate on some other things.”

On if he was allowed to watch football at home on his one Saturday off …

“The channel was flipped to Sesame Street a couple of times, I will have to admit that. I have pretty low priority in that house with four kids and three of them are girls. Pretty low priority.”

On what’s different about Auburn’s offense depending on which quarterback is playing… 

“I don’t anticipate that there will be much of a difference. I know that each quarterback has different talents but the attack I don’t think is much different. I think they have their scheme that they run and you have to be able to defend a lot of thing. Which quarterback is in there won’t really determine, I think, how their scheme is run. I think it’s just that different quarterbacks have different talents.”

On what adjustments must be made to handle Gus Malzahn’s in-game tempo… 

“You have to be able to think fast, you have to be able to line up fast, you have to be able to communicate fast. Those are offenses that make a lot of hay on just not getting lined up, just not being in the right spots because of their tempo. And we’re emphasizing that and our players are doing a good job in practice of handling the tempo and it’s something that we expect to do in-game.”

On expecting to see the ball thrown or ran more …

“I don’t know what they are going to do, I know that he can throw, he has a good arm and I know that they run the ball well too, so I’m just preparing for both attacks and we will see what happens on Thursday.”

On how important it is to get Regie Meant healthy …

“I think it is very important. We need to have good play inside, they are a very good running team, they are physical blockers, they have a lot of power runs, their offensive tackles are very good, and I think it is important that we have good solid defensive line playing, getting Regie back will give us that.” 

On how concerned is he about the inside linebacker spot …

“You lose guys, and you valued a lot of reps in those guys, so it makes it more of a challenge. I think that we’re constantly trying to develop depth, and we may have to rely on some different guys in some different spots, maybe double up at positions, you know what I mean. But, for the most part, we have had a good rotation at inside linebacker play this week in practice and I think we will be OK.”

On giving Eli Brown more reps …

“Yes.”

On eager to see improvements vs. a power run team … 

“I think that we have made some improvements and I am excited to get after it on Thursday and we know our challenges there with that type of offense and those types of players and we’re ready and we’re excited to get after it.”