Stoops Previews Mizzou at Monday News Conference

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Kentucky Football Head Coach Mark Stoops
Opening statement …
“Just like I said after the game, I was disappointed in the Florida game and the outcome. I felt like our team played exceptionally hard, but didn’t make enough plays to win the game. We are optimistic as we move forward. We have to get back and have a good week of practice and prepare for another great opportunity this week with Missouri.”

On Regie Meant’s status …
“Yeah, he got banged up. He is better. Had a good report today. He will be questionable. As of last night we thought he was doubtful when we put that depth chart together, but there is a chance he could play a little bit so we will see. We will see how he progresses throughout the week.”

On the team’s performance Saturday …
“Well, if you look in general, I was pleased with the way the defense played and overall effort. We are always picky and looking for that perfect game knowing that it probably is never going to happen. But you are always striving for perfection. You know, we were far from that defensively, but I did feel like the guys played really hard. We limited big plays. They had one big play in the game and really disappointed in that one. It was a pass play that really A.J. Stamps had a great opportunity to defend and didn’t make the play and weren’t in position to make the play and we should have been. Outside of that, the unit really played hard. There were some missed opportunities and give them credit in the way they escaped some pressure at times. We were harassing the quarterback and we were on him and both touchdown drives we had opportunities to stop them and didn’t do it. But overall it was good effort and I think that was good to see. Offensively, the effort was there as well just need to convert and be precise in certain situations.”

On Ryan Flannigan’s status …
“Yeah, he was cleared late in the week but hadn’t had a rep or hit anybody live. We even took him out there Friday and had some pads on people and let him hit a little bit and he felt good. He just hadn’t had a lot of reps. It is very big to have him back this week. He will be full-steam ahead. Get him in there and get him ready to go this week.”

On Maty Mauk’s ability to rush and the concerns that presents … 
“It’s very concerning and we need to do a better job and it starts today. We will work on that and getting some things corrected. In our pass lanes in general weren’t great and in some of our pressures and some of our technique issues were there and some of it was athletic ability. Sometimes you just have to make a play.”

On Jason Hatcher moving up the depth chart …
“He has earned the right. We wanted to make sure he earned his spot and worked his way back in there and did some good things. In certain packages we will go with some other guys. That is again for you all. Y’all make a bigger deal out of the depth chart than we do, I promise you. Certain packages mean certain guys start and some don’t. We will see. He is going to play and so is Denzil (Ware) and so is Jabari (Johnson).”

On the offensive line protection issues …
“Well, there is technique with the guys up front. There are guys overreacting. Maybe they get beat with a speed rush one time so they start popping out too far and they come under. There are things the quarterback can do in stepping up into the pocket. There is protection we could do and call things better. All of us could do a better job and will. Give them credit, they were very disruptive and caused some havoc for us up front, but there are things we can do better and will do better.”

On Kentrell Brothers from Missouri …
“He’s just a very good football player. What I like when I watch Missouri and have a lot of respect for is how hard they play. I really do. Defensively, they have been that way and play very hard and very disruptive and I appreciate that.”

On how you counteract a linebacker as disruptive as Brothers …
“We have got to do what we do. If you haven’t noticed, we are going to face very good players throughout the year, but we can’t overreact to one player. Certain players throughout the year demand some attention, in particular up front if you can’t handle a pass rush or something like that. But with any defensive player you have to do what you do and try to do some things better and more effective than we did last week.”

On Dorian Baker and if Coach Stoops worries about recent drops becoming mental …
“A little bit, sure. You have to look at things. He is one of those guys that is high energy. I have talked about him before bringing him back in sometimes. He’s erratic. But I love the way he plays and love his energy and his passion. You just have to make sure he’s ready to play. There is always that balance as a coach. I have talked about it often, we do our fair amount of getting guys ready and talks and pregame speeches throughout the week – motivating guys. But most of it has to come with motivation and preparation. You can’t talk yourself into being ready to play on Saturday morning or Saturday afternoon. He is a guy that seems to always be ready. Maybe he is too amped up, I don’t know. But usually he makes those catches and if he is going to be the guy that we think he could be he has to be consistent.”

On Boom Williams …
“He has been a really good player for us so far this year. At times last year as well, as you know. He is growing and growing and needs to continue to do that. He has been steady this year in his practice and his approach. He’s a talented football player. What makes him effective? It is hard to put my finger on it exactly, except he is extremely talented and explosive. And those things, you’ve heard me say it before, those things are between him and God, some of those moves. We can’t teach him those things. You have to have great instincts and he has shown that.”

On if he is OK health wise after getting banged up in the first half vs. Florida …
“He’s fine. I didn’t even know that (he got banged up).”

On comparing Florida and Missouri defensively …
“Both effective and both four-down primarily and both disruptive up front. Missouri, after playing them third year in a row here, it starts with them up front. They are disruptive up front, just like Florida. They play hard and play with an edge to them and I like that. When I watch a defense it starts with them up front. We will have to be better and I expect we will be.”
 
On facing tough defenses throughout the SEC …
“Well, as far as the league goes I think that gets talked about plenty. We obviously have great respect for all of our opponents and we know it is going to be a real challenge week in and week out. That is the same old story that you are going to be tired of hearing me and every other SEC coach talk about in the grind that we always have to live. It’s important that we have some experience at quarterback and we need to play better at that position like we do across the board. I think a lot of people, it is easy for people to look for someone to blame when you lose a game. I don’t think that is right or fair. That has not been my style. If there is any one person and anything to blame, it starts and ends with me. We will play better at quarterback and better across the board. The good news is we are closing the gap. We are in a one possession game and we are all upset. That is a good thing. The fans are upset and want better play and so do I. So let’s go back to work today.”

On Patrick Towles’ mindset …
“You know, there are things that we are constantly looking at to help alleviate some pressure and different things. There are things that we can do better. There are things we can do throughout the week and some formations we can put him in to help him be successful. We will all do our part and he will be fine.”

On what he wants to see Towles do better …
“Probably the things that you saw and he saw, certain passes that are there we can’t miss. He does some very good things. The deep ball he threw to Jeff (Badet) and passes throughout the game that the talent is there. The frustrating thing for him and for myself and for all of us is when there are layups there you can’t miss layups. That, he has to improve on and he knows that.”

On Missouri exceeding expectations …
“Well, that’s the greatest compliment you can give a team or a coach is when they exceed their expectations, and they’ve certainly done that the past two years as far as what everyone has picked them and all that. Not from a coaches point of view, but from the media and things like that. They’ve always played hard, and they win close games. That’s credit to what they’re doing and how they’re coaching them, and like I said, the energy that their team plays with is good.”

On special teams so far …
“Well, there are things that they could do better. For some reason, Landon (Foster)’s not kicking the ball as good as he can and that’s creating some problems. We’ve got to get those things figured out, and it’s putting a lot of pressure on our punt team, on the cover guys, because we’re not kicking the ball very good. We’ve got to get some things figured out, but the effort and the coaching and what guys are doing I feel very good about.”

On Ryan Timmons returning punts …
“Yeah, there are times when we would like him to get to the ball, but in general, he’s looked pretty comfortable back there. He’s done a good job.”

On lessons from Saturday …
“Well, there’s a lot to learn from. Every time we step on the field, there’s so much to learn from, and we will. Again, the good thing is, and I’m taking nothing from Florida because they had a lot to do with us not playing well, but we feel like we could play better. We’re in a one-possession game with an opportunity to win the game and didn’t get it done. There’s a lot to take from that that we will get better, and we will continue to improve on things. I like our team’s attitude. I like our focus.  I have no doubt in my mind that we’ll be anxious and excited to get this film watched and corrected, as painful as it will be at times, but then to get back on the practice field this afternoon and prepare for a team like Missouri is going to be another great opportunity for us, and we’ll be excited and ready to play.”

On preparing against two quarterbacks …
“No, no different. No different to plan for the two quarterbacks. Maty’s got more experience, and he’s got a great feel for the pocket, like we’ve talked about. He’s a big part of why they’ve won so many games because he’s a player and finds ways to move the ball and create space in that pocket. He’s always a guy that, from a defensive point of view, that is a pain in the butt sometimes when they ad-lib and make plays.”

On getting Flannigan back and if that helps going against running quarterback …
“It does. Ryan was really playing some great football. You heard us talking about him throughout the spring and throughout the summer. He was really playing fast and explosive. Anytime you’re getting a player like that back, you’re happy. Khalid (Henderson) will still get some reps and play and maybe back us up at both spots and be able to help because he’s done some really good things for us. I really appreciate the great effort he’s given us and really played well at times. It’ll be good to get Ryan back as well and get that depth because we’ve been pretty thin there.”

On Flannigan staying plugged in during injury…
“I think that’s always a challenge for guys, in particular, that have been starters for you, and then you pass them up with someone else on the roster and give somebody an opportunity. That’s hard on anybody, not just him, and that happens across football. That’s part of our business. There’s things that, you know, we’re moving forward, and we are not making any knee-jerk decisions around here just because of a loss, like I said. I like where we’re at, believe me. I wished we would have played better, and I know I could do better, and our team could do better to have a different outcome last Saturday, but it’s over. We’re going to move forward, but that being said, we’re not going to stay the same. We’re going to move forward, and we’re going to get better. We’ve got to get players in there that are going to make plays. Even some older guys, I’m going to talk individually with that I know can play better, and if they don’t, we’re going to move on.”

On the growing pains Asafo-Adjei is facing…
“Definitely some growing pains. You’re playing some dudes out there, you’re playing some young guys. On the road at South Carolina, at home against Florida, those guys can go, they can rush. We want to throw the ball and get the ball down field. You’ve got to protect. He’s going through some growing pains, but he’s also doing some very good things so I’m very pleased. I know he’ll get better and better.”

On whether or not it’s easier for younger players to be able to forget mistakes and move on…
“I don’t know, I’m not sure. I hope so, we’ve got a lot of young guys. Young or old, we’ve got to move on. We talk about it every Monday with the team, we’re in there on Sunday, they’re in here on Monday. We’ll get it corrected and we’ll look to improve and we’ll move on. I don’t anticipate any lingering effects, or any hangover whatsoever. We’re doing a lot of good things and there are a lot of things we can do better.”

On Baker’s confidence and the importance of him making a big catch in the closing minutes of the game…
“I think it’s important that he made that play, [for all of us and for him], because we know he’s capable of it. We expect big plays out of him. We can’t overthink the drops, because he doesn’t drop many, honestly but he has two big drops at the beginning of two games in a row.  I’ll get asked about it and he’ll get asked about it. Just have to deal with it and move on.”

On the overall health of both Kentucky and Missouri…
“We’re in pretty good shape and they seem to be in in pretty good shape. It’ll be a good game, it’ll be a hard-fought game. They’re a very well-coached team, I have a lot of respect for Gary Pinkel and what he’s done and the way his teams play. I’m excited about it. I ask the fans to come out again. I wanted to keep on winning in part to keep on packing this stadium. Let that not be an excuse. We want it full. I greatly appreciate everyone’s support. It has been a great environment. We’ll look to play a little better to give them a few more things to cheer about.”

On the attitude of the team, its confidence compared to the beginning of the season, and how the players prepare leading up to every matchup…
“They play and they prepare to win every week. We have confidence in what we’re doing. I expect them to have the same confidence today that they had before the Florida game. We’re all disappointed in the outcome, and nobody is more disappointed than them and the coaching staff, but the good thing is that we were in a position to win the game, we just didn’t make the plays. It’s hard to play a clean game, it’s a long season. We’ll play better, our players have a good attitude, are working hard and we’re getting better, and we’re getting in a position to win games. You’re not going to do it all the time although we’ll strive to do it. We’re fine, our psyche is fine, their confidence is fine, so we’ll move on and get ready.”

On getting a win over a ranked Missouri team …
“It’d be good. Any win is good, as you know. You all know it, and our fans know it, but wins are valuable. They are hard to come by. If they are ranked, great, but also because this team has won the (SEC) East and they are a good team.”

On if ‘program-building wins’ are important …
“Sure. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t. That is why people are upset about the Florida game. They are tired of hearing about the streak. We just need to win. It doesn’t matter to me if they’ve won 28 in a row or one. Each win is valuable. I know it matters to the fans and I appreciate that. This win, this week, it is our opportunity to prepare for a great team and try to get a victory at home.”

On the offensive line last week vs. Florida …
“There were a couple of pressures that we could’ve handled better. A lot of it was just speed and athleticism. They won too many one-on-ones for us to be successful.”

On starting freshman George Asafo-Adjei at right tackle …
“Oh it’s hard. It is difficult. He’s never seen anything like that. It’s hard to simulate that. He’s going to get better and better, he’s done some good things, but it’s hard. Anytime you were to ask any coach about starting a true freshman at offensive tackle in this league, they would be a little bit alarmed. It’s not easy to do. I appreciate the effort that he is giving, he’s getting better and I’m proud of him and the way he’s working.”

On sophomore offensive tackle Kyle Meadows …
“Kyle did some good things. Kyle will help us as we move forward.”

On if linebacker/end Alvonte Bell has a redshirt available …
“He does. That is what we are working on. We’re preparing him. He’s practicing with us and he’s getting better. I don’t want to burn it if it’s just going to be very limited play.”

On the play of senior defensive tackle Cory Johnson …
“Better. He’s doing some better things. He played pretty well.”

On the play of sophomore defensive tackle Regie Meant …
“Regie was really doing some good things before he got hurt. Then he hurt that shoulder. That was a little bit disappointing because he is the type of guy that every time he takes the field and plays more he’s getting better and better. Just reps and playing, getting a feel for that game experience. He’s getting better and better.”

On creating new packages to get pressure on quarterback …
“We are. Coach (D.J.) Eliot has done a nice job with creating somethings schematically to mix some things up. And doing the very best we can at trying to get some pressure and get creative at what we are doing.”

On freshman defensive tackle Adrian Middleton …
“He’ll get some action again this week. He’s getting better. He’ll get more involved this week. It will be fun to get him out there, get him amped up and get him playing and coming along.”

On the process of working in youthful players into the rotation in close games …
“It is funny as we talk throughout camp and we talk about depth and different guys. Then you get in these games and it is so darn tight, that it is tough (to play guys). We need to continue to push our young guys, develop them and get them game experience. We haven’t really played a lot of snaps – defensively that is a good thing – and offensively unfortunately we aren’t playing as many snaps as we’d like to. We need to continue to bring along some guys.”