Preseason Media Day Coverage
University of Kentucky Football Media Conference
Media Day PresserCOACH STOOPS: Start by thanking Mitch and Dr. Capilouto. You can tell by the stadium and what we're doing, there's been great support, so I greatly appreciate them. It's great to get started, as you know. I've been tired of the talking season, and anxious to get started with football.
It was good to get on some meetings this morning and get rolling with football. I'm excited about our players. Our players have worked extremely hard. I tell you, I've been very proud. As a coach the last thing you want is news in the summer. So our guys have really handled their business, taken care of themselves academically. There is a great energy in our building, so we're ready to go, players are optimistic, coaches are ready to go, so we're ready to roll.
Q. Therrell Gosier is not on the roster. He didn't make it?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, yeah, Therrell will not make it and neither will Javon. They won't be here.
Q. Is there a concern with Nick (Richardson) also?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Nick is no longer with us. There will be one other guy. Levon Livingston, we're still working through some things. So we're optimistic we can get him back later this summer.
Couple things too, Courtney Love and Greg Hart, we're not sure where that's at yet as well. So we're waiting on that.
Q. Do you have a timeline for how long before you have to say (Inaudible)? Do you practice them regularly?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it's a little tricky. We had that situation in the spring, but we will work with them. They'll get some reps. We will not work with the ones much, obviously, until we see where they're at. So it will be a week or two. We're optimistic that we'll get some resolution on that in the next week or two.
We're ready to go. Like I said, it was good to stop seeing your faces and see my team this morning. I can promise you that (laughing). Like I said, last night's meeting was good. Our players are all back. Just excited. They've worked hard. They're confident, as they should be, just because of the work. As I tell them all the time, you can be more confident if you put the work in. I feel like our players have dedicated themselves, gotten bigger, gotten stronger, and worked extremely hard.
So there is great energy, there is great optimism, but we have to go do it. We have to be more disciplined. We have to be more disciplined in our approach. Bottom line is we have to be more consistent, and I think we are. I think you'll see that from this team. So as I always tell you, we've not arrived yet, but we're on our way.
Q. You mentioned the body types, was there anything more profound this year than in previous years?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, as you would expect. We feel like we've recruited good bodies, some good lengths, some good size, and then you need to develop those guys. I feel like we're getting more of where we want to be. So we're not we're still a work in progress physically as well as we are mentally. But we're getting better, that's for sure. We have more bodies to work with. We look better.
Q. You have a new offensive coordinator. What will we see from him?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think you'll see some similar things. I think the roots of this system are similar, but I think you'll see more put on the quarterback as far as communication in our operation. I think you'll see a little bit different style of the run game at times. There will be some carryover as well with that, but I'd like to improve in our run game as we always do with everything in our program.
I think Coach Dawson does a good job of having a physical approach, and that opens up the opportunity to get the ball down the field, and that's where we need to improve. The run game puts pressure on people. You put pressure on people in the run game. It opens things up down the field. We feel like we're more experienced and have some more play makers outside. I think that's where you need to be good in this offense and in any offense you need to be a threat outside. I feel like we have some experience from those guys. Those guys are getting bigger, getting stronger, got some playmakers, so that will put some pressure on some people.
Q. Your depth chart with all the running backs, what have you seen from those guys to get started?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, because nobody's really jumped out and earned the spot. There's been inconsistencies in each of them, and there's been some very good things from each of them. So we'll see where they go. We're not really worried about it right now to you all and to them it is important to earn a starting position. But they have plenty of opportunities. They have about 29 practices to see who earns the opportunity to go out there first.
Q. You're more hands on with the defensive backs. You've talked about these freshmen wanting to get in there and work with them. How much are you anticipating getting to work with those guys, and how for those veteran guys you talked so much about being concerned at corner. You've got two guys that started for two years. How have they responded to your concern, I guess?
COACH STOOPS: They have no choice but to work to get better. We put pressure on all of our players to improve. They need to improve. We're proud of the work that they've done, but they need to be more consistent. As far as myself, I hope to be a lot more involved. I'm very confident. Coach Elliott's done a great job in organizing our package and being on the same page with our coaches and our players, and I really like where we're at systematically.
I really want to be more involved. I need to be more involved. The first two years, I think there's distractions that come with it. That's why it's just hard to handle one side or the other for me the first two years as far as you've got to have good people. That's why we've got great coordinators on both sides of the ball. I'm very proud of the work they've done, and I'm anxious to get back in there and get more involved.
So we'll work with Coach Ansley and Coach Eliot, and just see if I can help. Like I told you earlier with the hire of Coach Buh, I think there is so much pressure put on defenses. Certainly you see the SEC changing and everyone in college football and the pressure they put on defenses. Whether it's rules, whether it's tempo, a lot of things that factor into that, there is a lot of pressure on you defensively, and it takes a lot of it takes good players and it takes a lot of help in the defensive room.
So I'm excited to get in there and give as much as I can, and hopefully year three you settle in and you find your rhythm as far as when you get pulled out of the room and those things. You have your obligations as a head coach that I'm more comfortable with at this point in time. But I am excited to get back into the room.
Talking to you guys is exciting at times, but coaching defense and coming up with a game plan and seeing those executed is much more exciting.
Q. What factor will Jacob Hyde play in the running game? Is he still dabbling?
COACH STOOPS: We'll see. We'll see. Yes, he's dabbling. We'll see where it goes. If he can help us, we'll use him. The great thing about Jacob like a lot of our players he's very unselfish, and he's a guy that wants to help the football team win and he'll do whatever it takes to get on the field and help.
Q. (Inaudible) but you say you need to fit better around him (Inaudible).
COACH STOOPS: I think as we've said most of the summer, we're going to be inexperienced at the outside linebacker position. Denzil Ware, Jason Hatcher, Alvonte Bell a few guys, you've got Jabari back on edge into the boundary that played well last year. Those are a few names if you want them. But it is hard to replace those guys because they have the experience.
So that's what's going to be hard to replace, but we're more experienced inside. We're going to play much better at inside linebacker. I've made no bones about it as I've sat here through the first two years telling you that we haven't played well enough at times in a lot of positions, and certainly we haven't played to our standard inside.
I think you're going to see vast improvement at the inside linebacker position. I think you're going to see improvement from the secondary. We have some experience inside. We lost some experience. We lost some good players up front, but we have some coming back as well. Melvin Lewis, Farrington, Jabari, those guys are going to be good players for us and good leaders.
Q. Coach, have you made any progress deciding on a quarterback?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, again, we feel very good about it. I know it's something to write about and all that, but just like the running back position or whatever, there is a lot of competition that goes on. Nothing's going to be given to you in this program. You're going to earn it. You're going to work for it. I've made no bones about it.
I've been proud of the quarterbacks. I've been proud of Patrick. I've been proud of the work he's done. I think he's improved. You could go back to again, I could go back to the story when he was named to third team and a high profile talented quarterback could have put his head down and walked away and quit, and all he did was get better. I've asked him to get better from last year to this year, and that's what he's done.
So there is pressure on all of our players to improve. So that will work its way out. It could work its way out in one day. It could work its way out in two practices, it could work its way out in two weeks or through the first game. I don't know.
Again, as I've said, I think it's more of a compliment to Drew and his capabilities than anything negative in Patrick, because Patrick has done everything we've asked him to do. He's getting better. I think he's going to have a great year. But I feel, again, I go to Drew and the good things he's done. He deserves that opportunity, and we're going to get a good look at him.
Q. You said in the spring you challenged Drew with his maturity and stepping up in leadership. How has he responded?
COACH STOOPS: He's responded really well. We put pressure on him. He's responded. He's doing good. He looks better. He's worked on things. He's worked with Coach Dawson. I'm anxious to see him. It will be nice that you don't have to worry about dabbling with the red shirt and all that stuff. You don't have to worry about it. If he gets the opportunity to play, we'll see what he can do.
Q. Mark, you mentioned not wanting players to making meetings outside (Inaudible). What did you want the guys to learn from that?
COACH STOOPS: That was a long time ago, but as we have our preseason meets, we cover a lot of things. We pride ourselves on being a learning organization, all of us. We're here to get better and to learn and improve every day. We have a lot of learning opportunities and a lot of people point those out to all of us, so that's the good thing. But I think our team whether it be that incident and all the things you see in our society and all the things you see across the country, there are a lot of issues.
We've put a lot of people in front of our kids to educate them and to help them and support them to make good decisions. When you're dealing with the numbers that we're dealing with, there are going to be some mistakes. What they have to understand is they're in a fish bowl. Any mistake that they make is going to get brought to their attention to this state and to our community and nationally sometimes. None of us like that, but we're going to learn from it, and we're going to move on.
I've been proud of those guys, the work they've done to put themselves in good standing on this team and to move forward.
Q. On finding returners in special teams …
COACH STOOPS: Quite a bit, quite a few. We need to look at a lot of guys. We feel like we're getting more and more playmakers in there. I feel like kick returning, we're going to have a lot of options. Punt returns is the one that we have to shore up and T.V. Williams, Ryan, it will be interesting to see Ryan back there. I'd like to see him get comfortable and be able to do that.
So we'll look at some options at punt return. But kick return we feel like we're getting more and more playmakers, more and more guys with talent with the football in their hands. It's an easier catch, a little less pressure on them at the kick return. So I feel like we'll have some options there. And we need to make some explosive plays in the return game. So punt return is the one I'm concerned about.
Q. Does that frustrate you with Timmons a little bit because he was such an electric playmaker in high school, and at times when he gets the ball in his hands here he seems to have maybe sort of a mental hang up with the punt return aspect?
COACH STOOPS: No, I don't think so. I'm not frustrated with him at all. I think he's going to have a big year both with the return game and in receiver. Coach Dawson will do a great job of getting the ball in his hands, and I think he's a very good player.
That's not easy to do. The punt return is not easy to do. It takes a lot of it takes a good skillset to do that, and I anticipate he'll be out there battling to make some plays in the punt return game. So we'll see where it goes.
Q. How ready are Bell and (Inaudible) to help you now, and what do you want to see from them?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we'll see. Both guys have not been here this summer. They just arrived on campus, so it's hard to know what to expect. I know they both look good. I know they've both put a lot of work in and dedicated themselves to get here. They were very talented players in high school and junior college and on film. So I'm excited about them to see what they can do. So we'll see as we move forward with them. I'm not sure.
Q. What have you learned the most these first two years as a head coach?
COACH STOOPS: That's hard to put into context. There's quite a few things. I think as I said, I think it's constantly you're constantly learning. We pride ourselves I pride myself on pushing the staff and the players to constantly learn, put them in a learning environment. I'm always trying to do the same. I've always felt comfortable with the organization of what we have in place to move this program forward.
I think we're very clear and very defined on what we expect of ourselves, of our staff, of our players. I have great support around me. As I said earlier, I can't thank Dr. Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart enough. We have great people, whether it's strength and conditioning, high performance, leadership in Jason Cummins. We have great people around here that help us and help organize me and move the program forward. So there are a lot of areas, I believe, that we as an organization have improved on.
Q. I was just curious: How do you balance the need to settle on a quarterback with Reese getting the opportunity coming off an injury?
COACH STOOPS: Well, Reese isn't quite a hundred percent right now, so he won't be live in team drills for a while. So we'll see where he can be. He's coming off a pretty significant injury. We need him out there. We need the arms in camp to operate and to practice.
So he will be out there, and he'll do some seven on seven. His arm is good and he's throwing all that. But putting him in live situations right now, I don't know. He's not ready for that. But it will be important for him. Obviously, he will be behind the eight ball a little bit missing all of spring practice and all of summer, really. He's worked on his own, but he hasn't been in there much with the team.
So, again, thank you. I'm excited about this team. I feel like the bottom line is, as I said earlier at SEC Media Days, we're an improved football team, and that's what we need to concentrate on. I know we're better. I know our players have worked hard. They're doing the right things. They've bought into what we're doing.
We need to take the next step. We need to be more disciplined in our approach and more consistent. That is the bottom line. So I think that's what's exciting to me that these guys are eager. They want to win. They want to do the right things.
So we'll see. We have a great opportunity. It's an exciting time with the stadium, with the facility that's being built, with the staff we have in place. There are a lot of good things, a lot of positive things. So that's what we're anxious just to get going. As I said, we've got our first practice today and we're ready to go. Thank you.
Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson
On getting the season started …
“I’m excited. I’m ready to get going. The summer and everything rolls around, and when football season comes around, it gives everybody a reason to live, especially me. I get up with a little more pep in my step. I’m excited, I’m ready to go. I believe in these guys wholeheartedly, and we’re going to work to put a good product on the field.”
On the depth at wide receiver …
“We have depth. We don’t have a whole lot of experienced depth. We’ve got kids that, in my opinion, are capable of great things. They’re capable of 100-reception years like we’ve had in the past. We just don’t have a guy coming back from last year that has 100 receptions that’s going to lead that experience. Now, we do have two guys at every position, probably three at some, that I feel extremely comfortable putting on the field and playing. I like our depth. I think we’ve got numbers. There’s young and experienced depth. Someone needs to step up, bottom line.”
On Ryan Timmons being that guy …
“He definitely can be. Talented guy. Everybody’s got a unique skillset. That kid, in my opinion, is good, and you’ve got to be multiple with him and creative with that kid. You’ve got to find ways to get him the ball and put him in space. You have kids that are down-the-field guys that stretches the defense. You have good intermediate guys that are running routes off of linebackers and, in my opinion, you’ve got guys that you have to be creative with and get the ball in their hands. I think he’s one of those guys that can line up at multiple positions and do multiple things. His capacity is high as far as being able to do things with minimal reps. The one thing that you don’t want to do is expand his role in such a way where the things he’s doing the majority of the time he’s not getting good at. I think he’s got that capacity.”
On pass-catching tight ends …
“I’d love it. If we can throw it down the field to him every time, I will – if he’s open. I like giving the open guy the ball. The problem with tight ends is that not a lot of them can get open because defensive guys are typically more athletic than tight ends. So if you have a guy that’s athletic enough to create some space in routes is great. And I think we have those guys, so we’re going to use them. We’re not going to use them every time. We’re not going to get overly infatuated with a tight end set every snap. We’ve got to be careful because our depth there is not that great. We have a couple of guys that are good, a couple of guys that are talented. The issue with that is if you go into a game thinking that 80 percent (of the time), what if one of those guys gets nicked up? So we’re going to be multiple as far as formations and personnel goes, but I do believe that we have a couple of tight ends that can make plays down the field, which is ultimately the criteria for that guy for me. That’s number one. Blocking and everything else is really secondary to me because that’s effort.”
On C.J. Conrad being back to 100 percent …
“He is. He feels good.”
On Jacob Hyde at fullback …
“We’re going to use him leverage-on-leverage. He’s great at what he does, is a great kid, understands his role. So there’s going to be situations where it’s a half a yard and we need to get one, we’ll put him in there. Are you going to see him on first and 10? Probably not. Are we going to throw it to him a lot? Probably not. He understands his role, as we all should.”
On Drew Barker’s maturity …
“I’m glad I’m not judged on what I did at 18 and 19. That was my overall theme to him at the beginning. I’m not here to have a preconceived notion about people. I’m here to give people opportunities. The kid’s a great kid, he’s a talented kid. His maturity since I’ve got here has grown. You can put him in those positions more and more, and he’s going to get better in every situation – socially, athletically, everything. The kid has grown leaps and bounds like we all did at that age. Everybody’s got growing pains. He’s no different than everybody on our team and on our coaching staff. His maturity has been awesome.”
On what he’s watching for at quarterback …
“I think you’ve got to understand that when I sit in that quarterback room, everybody’s comfort level is different. Everybody’s eyes might see things slightly different than the other guy even though we’re going through the same progression and same offense. I don’t want a robot out there; I want your personality to show through. Even when I sit in the quarterback room, I might look at something on the film and you can tell me that that guy’s open. But in real time, what does it look like in your eyes. We’ve got to make decisions in real time. I think it’s kind of a soothing mechanism to those guys mentally to just relax and understand that maybe that throw that that kid made is not something that looks good to me, and I’m going to go through my progression to get it to this guy. I just think that ultimately your job as a quarterback is to distribute the ball, to put the ball in play. And so if you get that done, then that’s a plus. I want you to be an individual out there.”
On Jojo Kemp’s personality …
“I love his personality. He’s a confident guy. I like confident people overall. Usually they’re calm and perform well when things get tight. I think we’ve got a bunch of those guys, honestly. I love Jojo’s personality, and what he brings to the game is awesome and his energy is great. It’s set up in a way where everybody’s got personality and skill sets that are a bit different than the next person, which I think is really good. And so my job is to put them in an environment where they can be successful. Within the whole blueprint of the offense, all of those guys have to be able to do the same thing but they’ll showcase it a little differently when they’re on the field because their skill sets are a little different.”
On helping the quarterbacks prepare …
“I think we’re getting there. I don’t think you really know until we get in that situation. We try to simulate things as coaches at practice, but you can’t simulate what’s going to go on out here on our first game when it’s tight. I think that as coaches we have to prepare them in such a way that we they get into those situations it’s just second nature. And I think that’s a part of the program process with quarterbacks to slow down everything so we don’t stress about it. The more that we have short-term memory and move on, good things and bad things, I think we’re getting there.”
On his first impression on Boom Williams …
“Dynamic skill set. The kid can obviously outrun everyone on the field on both teams. All we’ve got to is get the ball in his hands. I love his skill set and his personality, too. Boom brings a lot of good energy to the group. Again, with running backs it’s really overall, with me, to find ways to get them the ball in a lot of different settings.”
On the difference between Lexington and West Virginia …
“My life doesn’t change much day to day. I’m at my house with my wife and daughter, then I’m at my office. And every now and then, we’ll venture out and go eat. The biggest difference is the town. The town is a lot bigger and a lot nicer.”
Defensive Coordinator D.J. Eliot
On the start of fall camp …
“I’m looking forward to starting fall camp and working with these guys each and every day making them better.”
On finding his rhythm as a defensive coordinator in year three …
“I’m definitely more comfortable in year three as a coordinator, but I’m thinking one of the most critical things for me as a coordinator is each program may be different, each player may be different, and each conference may be different so even though I have had to transition as a coordinator, I’ve also grown for this program, this league, and these players.”
On getting JUCO players up to speed …
“Well I think that each player is different sometimes, the positions are different. Some may require more technique and some positions may require more assignment. The ones that require more assignment it’s more difficult to get them up to speed. Defensive line, cornerbacks, I like to say that those easy in theory but they’re hard in application. There might not be a lot of things they have to know mentally, but it sure is hard to execute and with practice you can get those techniques executed. But sometimes with the lack of meeting with the safety and the linebacker hurts you assignment wise.”
On what he expects from the linebackers …
“Ultimately the defense as a whole has to be physical, we have to play with tremendous effort. We have to play fundamentally sound and we have to play together within the defense, but at linebacker the outside guys are critical in the run but very critical in the pass with the pass rush. Also the outside linebackers have to be able to rush the passer. Our inside linebackers make a lot of checks upfront, make a lot of adjustments and vs. the power run teams they’re involved in the inside run plays so much that they have to be very physical and they have to have the size and explosiveness to stop those plays.”
On the confidence of having the talent needed on defense …
“I think that our recruiting has been very good. I feel a lot better than when we got here on the talent on our defense and depth is critical. I thought it was critical last year and it’s something that we’re really focusing on going into training camp, developing depth at all of our positions.”
On the number of defensive ends that will be game ready in the 3-4 scheme …
“We’ll be three deep, well we’ll be two deep plus one. If you have two defensive ends you have two deep plus one ready to play in every game. If you have more that is great but I look at that at every position on defense going two deep plus one. So what that means is that I got two corners I want to be able to have two deep plus one that can go to either. Now if you got more that is great but that is the goal that I am looking for heading into camp.”
On the game readiness of the two JUCO players …
“Well you recruit JUCO players because you need veteran players at the position. That’s the reason you recruit junior college players. You may have a gap from an older player that left and the only player that are left on your roster at the position are younger players. So you need a veteran player to come in at that position and I know that both of those guys have a lot of talent. They’re going to be more experienced in college football, maybe not our defense but in college football in general than a freshman because they have played two years of college football and I think that they have done some great things. I’m looking forward to getting to work with them but like Coach Stoops says you really don’t know until you work with them.”
On the readiness for Mike Edwards and Darius West …
“Mike Edwards and Darius West as you know redshirted last year but they’re extremely talented. Mike is an excellent cover safety, Darius is an excellent run safety, he’s very physical, he’s fast. Mike can cover a slot, he can win one on one situations in pass coverage. I think those guys have a very bright future here and fortunately we’re starting to develop some depth in the secondary with guys like that on the team and we haven’t necessarily had that the last two years.”
On Kobie Walker getting back into the swing of things …
“It’s too early to tell how early he will be in full swing but I think Kobie Walker is a lot like some of our other young players that he has a lot of talent. He has a lot of talent, he’s long, he’s fast, he’s a guy that played DB in high school but now we’re playing him at linebacker so he has the coverage skills of a DB at the linebacker position and he’s put on about 10 or 15 pounds since he’s been here so he’s getting the size he needs to take that next step.”
On the play of Jason Hatcher to take the next step …
“Jason just needs to take it one day at a time and continue to work on the fine things and the fundamentals.”
On the depth of the defensive line …
“We’ve got a returning starter in Melvin Lewis back and Matt Elam saw significant reps last year as well. Regie Meant and Cory Johnson played for us last year as well. Farrington Huguenin played for us last year, we brought in Courtney Miggins, we redshirted Adrian Middleton and Tymere Dubose and on top of that Jacob Hyde is playing at the nose guard position as well. The majority of our players at that position are either seniors or they’re freshman and that is why it was critical to bring Courtney in because we added a Junior in there as well.
On what he likes about the 3-4 …
“Well I get a lot of questions about the 3-4 but I still consider our defense multiple. At FSU we didn’t run any 3-4 schemes, we ran 4-3 schemes and since we’ve been here we have evolved into 3-4 schemes but if you watch us you’ll still see a lot 4-3 schemes, a lot of four-down schemes. So if someone were to ask me which I know you all are going to do, what we are on defense I would tell you that we’re multiple. We’re a multiple defense but one thing I like about the 3-4 scheme is that the offense doesn’t know what the fourth rusher is. If you think about it in a four-down scheme there is four designed rushers, it’s the four defensive linemen but in a 3-4 scheme someone else is coming beside those three defensive linemen on any given down and they don’t necessarily know which one it is.”
On meeting with Rich Brooks …
“Rich Brooks and I have really hit it off and we talk he’s here periodically because his son works here so I see him when he comes into town. I have sat down with him and me being a defensive-minded coach I always like meeting with defensive minded coaches and he’s always given me some good advice.”
Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart
“Good to see everybody again. I wanted to take a few minutes before we get started with the coaches, staff and players today to welcome you back in Commonwealth Stadium as we begin to get into the daily grind of the 2015-2016 school year, the season, and the exciting time for our program and university as we see some changes occurring before our eyes.
Since we last met, I just wanted to take an opportunity to revisit in June where some accomplishments of a couple of our athletes you may have noticed, but I’d be remised if I didn’t mention Kendra Harrison and Dez Bryant. They were crowned national champions in Eugene, Ore., at the National Outdoor Track and Field Championships. I am really proud of them. They have graduated and have moved on to their professional careers, they have the opportunity to run in the Olympics and obviously internationally as we go forward we wish them all the best. Our women’s track and field team finished second in the country in June. Great effort by Edrick Floreal, our head men and women’s track and field coach. I am really proud of them in how they represented the university. It was a pretty cool atmosphere, great environment and those two young ladies distinguished themselves in a very unique ways so I wish them all the best.
Obviously we have a lot going on. I’ll touch on two or three areas and then take some questions and clear the stage, which is what you want me to do anyways so Coach Stoops can get up here and get going.
I want to address the building process that is going on in Commonwealth. The excitement we are experiencing with that. I’ve had an opportunity to walk around to pay attention day-by-day and I try to go around every five to six days just to see the progress these guys are making and they are working really hard. I wanted to take a moment to thank Russ Pear and our staff internally at UK: the physical plant division at the university, the folks at Skanska and Congleton-Hacker, they are working diligently. There is an upward of 350-400 workers on the job every day to get the stadium ready for September 5. I think I would say about everyone that is worried, people are walking around worried, but I haven’t been a part of a building project that didn’t run down to the wire and every one of us in this enterprise in college athletics has been at those places where you are trying to get a facility ready for a certain moment and you are literally dusting floors and polishing things up at the last minute. It’s all hands on deck and that’s what it’ll be. Everybody is working hard towards September 5 we certainly know the timeline, the construction folks know the timeline, our staff knows the timeline, but that’s exciting. I think some people look it as a difficult process, but I look at it as a great opportunity. It’s a great chance for us to have a lot of fun and to do some special things together. It’s going be great to open that thing on September 5, it’ll be a neat moment for our football players and coaching staff, when you look to the other side of the stadium and you see the training center with the steel going up and that facility being built and moving along. We hope obviously to have that thing under roof, to see that facility going up and it being under roof by the winter. Have an opportunity to work on that and have it ready by next summer; the two additions will make a great difference in what we are able to do on the field in terms of our players and the recruiting off the field. We are really excited about those projects, we are “All In” and it’s probably a 170-180 million dollar investment in our football program. We are just trying to give us the best opportunity to compete in the great conference we are in. It’s a great time, I want to thank the guys for their efforts, they are working tirelessly, we will do all we can to support that effort and we will be ready to go on September 5 and have at it. I am looking forward to the season, the other thing I would say, I want to take a minute or two to thank the coaching staff. Coach Stoops and the staff have been incredible in terms of recruiting and the things they continue to do to represent our program. I am really proud of what they have done, our players have had a really good offseason and I am sure coach will address that. I see them coming and going a little bit, different places, doing there workouts and working hard. I was able to see them for the first time last night when we welcomed them all back from campus and saw some of the newcomers. The physical change in their bodies and the strength they have obviously gained was impressive. I told them that last night, that you could see the change. I think sometimes when we are away from young people for a couple of months and you don’t see them in person day to day you don’t notice the change as dramatically as if you all the sudden walked up on them after a while it was evident. I told them that last night, when they walked into the room last night there was a physical change on a bunch of those players. So I told them that those are the steps necessary to become a great football program. To have the success that we want to have, I told them that I was proud of their efforts. We challenged them a little bit last spring in the academics and off the field and how they conduct themselves and the things we do and we challenged them to get ready for the eight home games in Commonwealth Stadium in an opportunity to move forward with our football program. By all accounts everything that I have seen over the last two to three months, obviously being further removed from that, but from everything that I have seen they have given that kind of an effort to enter in this summer camp in preparation for our football season in one of the best shapes I’ve ever seen. I am really excited about that and to watch that. I want to thank the coaches and Corey Edmond, has worked extremely hard in the weight room and I am really proud of what he has done and those efforts. I was talking to him last night and he said that they didn’t have one player miss one workout in the summer. He was very impressed with their work ethic so I am proud of them for that.
In closing, building is a process as we listen to whatever is going on behind us, it’s a process and whether it’s a facility, department, or program you build on the field in the hallway in your offices and off the field. I hear coaches and folks talking about sticking to the process, I am not sure what that even means. Other than to say that you keep going and don’t stop, so sometimes it takes a little side turn sometimes it’s straight ahead where it’s very defined and very easy. But I will say this, the coaching staff is building a program and that’s what we want. We want people to be at Kentucky that want to build a program, sustain it and keep it going for this University. I think we have a great set of head coaches, but this football staff is building a program and that’s what we want so we are excited about the progress that we have made.”
On if he is satisfied on ticket sales for this upcoming football season …
“Yeah, I am. We are continuing to get better. We dipped down a couple years back and we are working our way back. The transition of the new stadium will be good for folks. It isn’t easy. I have done three to four stadium renovations in my career and anytime you do that you have to change seating structures and bowls and it’s hard. They are not easy changes and change is not unemotional. Obviously, some folks are okay with change. What I have found over time is that if we want to move where we want to go as a program we have to continue to change. We can’t be stagnant; so that change occurred in the way we structured the stadium. That caused us to renumber some things and change some seats and that wasn’t easy. Some people sacrificed and I am thankful for how they were sacrificial in the way they approached it. Then there were some folks that were not happy in the way we changed the seats. It’s not going to be a perfect science, but at the end of the day I think everybody is really going to enjoy it and by-in-large everyone has been terrific. The K Fund and ticket office staff worked really hard to make that change occur and we have grown our season and student tickets. We aren’t done on those numbers yet. I haven’t seen them lately but we have surpassed clearly where we were last year and move into some of the numbers we are used to seeing when we are in that 40,000 range. The capacity of the stadium is going to be in that 61,000 range as we get the final seat count. We are hoping that it will be cozy but it’ll be cool in there. You’ll see a lot of folks that will look for, with being grammatically incorrect, “more better” seats. We are trying to get to that, where there are a high quality number of seats and that might be fewer seats but everybody has a better experience. We are working diligently on that. I love how the new field turned out. People will be excited as they get a look into the stadium when they get in there tomorrow. I am pleased with where we are.”
On the feedback he has received from the community on the Thursday night game vs. Auburn …
“Again, change is never easy. I would say 95 percent of the people are thrilled and there is about five percent that say this is a great inconvenience. It is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your University. You don’t want to get in a habit of doing it because Saturday is traditionally where you play college football but every once in a while that Thursday night game is a huge deal. This is the first time we have had that opportunity at Kentucky to do that. To have that Thursday night opportunity to showcase our campus and have the opportunity to move around and see different things and to have the Nation’s eyes on us on a Thursday night is special. We are excited about it. We have a great opponent in Auburn University to play us and I hope it’s one of the great memories in terms in what we helped create for the University with what we can do this year.”
On the importance of reaching a bowl game this season …
“Obviously you want to reach a bowl game and that’s the goal every year to get to postseason play. That’s the goal in everything we do, so bowl games are important but I think that’s a step. Where we want to get to is competing for championships but that’s a logical step to get there (to bow games). Is that imperative? No. But, we build programs and building is a process. It’s a step-by-step deal. We are going to do that. This is my 14th year and I know that may shock some of you that I am still here. Reflect back to my early years but you have to stay with it. You have to keep going and I think it’s hard. Some think it’s really easy. I was talking with a commissioner of another league about when I first started. If you had a job whether it was a coaching or AD job you had four-to-seven years to turn a program around. In today’s world with social media and the pressures with that going on, legitimately whether it is at the professional or college level in today’s world people are already impatient after two to three years. They might give you three. It’s really hard to turn the clock back on that timetable in today’s world. We need to continue to try and do that and sometimes circumstances indicate something different. At the end of the day, this staff has worked so hard and has done such a good job in the recruiting process and they set the table for the next few years and continue to work through all the things we have resource wise. I am really excited for what they have done and how they have done it. The bowl game, yeah, we would love to get to a bowl game. For the players we would like to get to a bowl game I think that’s really important for them to be rewarded for their hard work and the things that we have done. Last year we got off to a great start but we had some injuries and fatigue from depth and we just ran out of gas at the end. Some of those things continued to get shored up and continue to gain more depth, stronger, and physically can get after it then we will have a great opportunity to enjoy a bowl season.”
On what the measure of success in three years looks like …
“Everybody looks for a number and I don’t think that’s fair to ask. But if we don’t get five and a half wins … seeing if you are paying attention. You just want to make progress, we have seen this group of players to get better with the staff and the growth of individuals or by position or off the field in recruiting. We just need to see improvement and that’s what I like most. That is how I measure most of our people in our department and staff with progress. I believe these guys are making progress in a fairly rapid rate.”
On if Mark Stoops feels pressure with the administration committing all of the funds to the football program…
“I don’t think there is anyone in this enterprise or industry that doesn’t feel pressure. I respect all of our head coaches. Some of them don’t get all the accolades like the football or men and women’s basketball coaches get, but they feel an incredible pressure to perform for Kentucky and for the fans, athletes and university that you represent. I don’t think if you are in this thing with a heartbeat and you don’t feel pressure. You don’t go to bed and say you failed miserably and I feel okay with it. There is no one that wakes up and doesn’t feel pressure in this deal that doesn’t want to perform at a high level with, work for, or represent. Mark is a competitive guy and there isn’t a moment where he doesn’t think about what the next thing is to do to be a champion.”
On continuous renovations …
“Over the last decade we knew there was a time we needed and wanted to do some things. We had to wait our turn as a part of the University. It’s a part of the greater good. There were things that this university needed to be done, whether it was in the medical center, housing, academic buildings. These were all really important things that this university needed to do. We needed to wait our turn which was important to us, we did and we now have an opportunity to improve our program and now that’s what we are doing. We have been waiting awhile, football program has been waiting awhile and now you look out there and it’s happening. To look ahead to next summer and have this stadium complete and have a football training center our guys can work out of is outstanding. It’s an exciting time for us. As a department you are always looking to improve and expand on and we have a design for a tennis center and baseball stadium on the docket right now. Those are the next two steps for us and that is really important to move football into our new building and move gymnastics and track and field into the old Nutter football facility to use that efficiently for our students. We are excited about that. We are a part of the piece to a greater good. Don’t lose sight of the contributions that will help the new science building to go up. A variety of things are happening on campus and us giving scholarships for regular students on campus. Different ways that we are attributing to the University at the same time doing the best for our student athletes and that’s what is important.”