Kentucky Football Blue/White Game -- Post-Game Quotes

April 26, 2014

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Head Coach Mark Stoops

COACH STOOPS:  On defense we just kept it pretty vanilla.  Just like I've been saying most of the spring, you guys could see we're a little bit more efficient at throwing and catching the ball.  We are by no means a finished product, but I felt like we've improved, certainly from the fall.

This spring we are getting better.  Got a long way to go.  But overall, I was very happy with the team's energy.  They have been solid all spring, really.  It gets long for these guys sometimes in the spring beating up on each other with no games and all that.  They had good energy, worked hard.  Went out today and played good, solid, clean football and made some plays.

You could you see we are still a little bit thin in certain positions and we need to continue to work on and certainly when you're putting on two teams, it waters you down.  So you don't get the quality that you are going to see in the fall.  But I like where we're headed.  I like this group and we certainly are making some strides.

Q.  On naming a starting quarterback.  

COACH STOOPS:  You know, Tony (Neely) tried to grill me the whole way down here.  Tony was trying to prepare me as best he could for that first conversation there.  Neal (Brown) and I, we didn't have chance to see each other yet.  We'll see.  We'll see what happens.

I think you saw Patrick (Towles) do some good things.  You saw the other quarterbacks do some good things.  Patrick, along with the other two, were a little bit shaky at times, as well, like you'd expect, a rushing a few things, missed a few throws, things that they would like to have over but Patrick is improved, you saw him a year ago and you see him now, you see the improvement and I'm proud of that.

I think we are better around him.  I think when we have everybody healthy, all the quarterbacks will look better.  So there's no decision yet.  I'm proud of the effort Pat has done and I really like the other two, as well.  I think the other two are great quarterbacks and certainly had some great days this spring.  So we'll see.
Q.  Patrick leading the drive for a score going into the halftime break - does that make a statement to you?

COACH STOOPS:  It does.  And again, I've been as honest with you all as I thought I could be this whole spring.  We have got kids here that are competing for starting positions.  And you know, I've told you that Patrick has made some improvement.  You saw it right there on that drive and throughout a good part of this game.

You know, he's doing some good things and he looks comfortable back there.  It's not easy.  You take Reese (Phillips), who is just a freshman and of course Drew (Barker) should be in high school right now.  It's not easy.  It's a different game going from high school to college and I was very proud of the way Reese and Drew played throughout the whole spring.  But I did like that.
Q.  Running back, are you not concerned about the depth there?

COACH STOOPS:  I feel good about our depth, I really do.  As you know, we need it, and I like the way those guys played.  You can see Jojo (Kemp) is a different guy.  He's healthier.  His ankles are healthier.  He's stronger.  He's more explosive.

And certainly having Braylon Heard, we are awfully excited about Braylon.  He's just got a calmness about him.  He always competes, but he's a very mature kid and he's explosive out there.  So great to have him.  You saw the other guys, too, Josh (Clemons) and Mikel Horton. We are deep there.  So we are going to need him.
Q.  How much could you tell from the offensive line?

COACH STOOPS:  We are better.  Again, I say it over and over, but it's true, we are going to get better, we are going to get stronger, we are going to get deeper but I like the way those guys are playing.  They have a pride about them, and you guys can see that; and even at times last year, we are going to have some physicality about us.  I'm know not saying we are going to go in there and smash mouth everybody but you have to some have some toughness about you and some physicality, and we are going to continue to work on that.
Q.  When you look for depth at a spot like linebacker, how important is it for Daron Blaylock to make some plays?

COACH STOOPS:  It was very important.  Daron is a guy that since he's been here, really since he was recruited, he was in-between linebacker and safety.  He's a good player that we need to find the right spot for him, and Daron needs to continue to play with great fire and great energy.

He has some ability.  We have got to find the right spots for him and we do need him to be a good player.  I was very proud of him a year ago the way he always competed and played on special teams.
Q.  The decision on quarterback, what is the timetable on that?

COACH STOOPS:  We are going to go back and look at this tape and we'll look at the spring in its entirety and look at all the drives and everything we've been through and we'll sit down next week and see where we are at as a staff.  I respect how important it is to tell you all right away (laughter) but we'll make some decisions in house and see where we're at.

You know, again, right now, with three guys, it's been helpful, honestly, because when you are competing with four and five, it's hard being just the reps. It has not distracted from anybody at this point because we get so many reps in the spring.
Q.  Is there a chance for you to name a starter next week?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, there's a chance.  Probably pretty slim but there's a good chance (Laughter).

I do tell you, I try to be honest with y'all, you know I do, give me that.  (Laughing).
Q.  How important is it to see the running backs spot get deep?

COACH STOOPS:  Oh, yeah, you could see him (Horton) out there, and I told you that at times this year, he needs to run those pads a little lower and get used to.  He's talented; he's not only big but he has some good feet and good vision.  He's the whole package.  He needs to just continue to develop.

Again, he's another that should be at the prom this weekend.  Matter of fact, Thaddeus (Snodgrass), he booked it out of there; he's got his prom tonight.  He's on his way back to his prom.

Q.  When you say Jojo (Kemp) is a different guy, how does it show up?

COACH STOOPS: Just as you would expect - just more mature, physically more developed and he's really grown as a leader.  He's got a great personality.

You heard the comments I told y'all in the summer and things, and you love his energy and you love that passion that he has but you've got to have a maturity about you, also.  Can't just be all fun and games.  So I really see him growing.
Q.  What about  Kemp’s physical state?

COACH STOOPS:  Physically, his ankle is cleaned up.  We had to go in and clean up some bone spurs and that's helped and you put on more weight and that's just obviously going to make it more explosive as well.
Q.  How do you feel now versus this time last spring?

COACH STOOPS:  You feel much better.  You know, I really tried not to ever you know, throw everybody under the bus, including myself and the team, but we just weren't very good.  We're better.  We're still not where we need to be but we're better.  We're at that point where you can really starred to feel that improvement.
Q.  How disruptive did you see Za’Darius Smith and how much are you looking for that in the fall?

COACH STOOPS:  Well, absolutely, it's just like the screen that he intercepted.  When we are in a live situation, we may chop him a little bit more than that.  So you can't put that all on Patrick (Towles) there.  We have to get him down.

But he's a big guy and he's put on a lot of weight, and he's always been a technician, but you just    again, that maturity, a year older, that experience, just to be a playmaker.
Q.  The guys who came here last year and have been in the program stepping up

COACH STOOPS:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Everybody talks about the youth.  You know, I love them, I love the young players, but we need to have guys like ‘Z’ (Za’Daruis Smith) and Bud (Dupree) and all the other older guys.  They are the guys that are going to help us win SEC games.
Q.  Demarco Robinson, is there anything off the field where you feel confident he's going to be there in the fall?

COACH STOOPS:  You know, he's really improving.  I'm really proud of the effort that he's made off the field.  He's not perfect.  Demarco has a lot of work to do in certain areas, but he's trying and he's battling and I've been proud that he's really improved in a lot of ways.

Q.  With the three quarterbacks, what do they need to do throughout the summer?

COACH STOOPS:  They, just like the rest of our team, need to continue to work hard and improve.

Very few teams in the country got done as late as we did today.  We needed that work.  We needed a long winter to get physically bigger and stronger and to develop our skills and fundamentally getting better.

Our players need to take a little bit of time here, decompress and do good in finals and all those things, and then we have to get right back to work.  We have got to have a great summer.

We have so much work to do and we can improve so much just through this summer, so they have to continue to work and they have got to be great leaders and they have got to bring everybody along with them.
Q.  What are the things that you're looking for?

COACH STOOPS:  Well, everything, just consistency, just throwing and catching, with those guys, just timing, that's just something that you just can't get enough of.  They can do that in the air and then when we get together and compete with the defensive guys, we have to have quality work.

We are not allowed to work with them when it comes to seven on seven and things like that.  With the new rules, we are not allowed to be out there with them when there's a football out there.  So they have got to have great leadership and continue to work through the summer and get quality work.
Q.  Do you feel like your team is healthy?

COACH STOOPS:  We are.  Jim (Madaleno) told me as I was walking off the field that we are in pretty good shape.  We have got some bumps and bruises and things that you would expect, but seems like we are healthy.
Q.  On Rashad Cunningham running into the Gatorade cooler on the sidelines and if he ‘s OK.
COACH STOOPS:  I didn't even see that.  I don't know.

Kentucky Players

#3, Jojo Kemp, RB
On how the team played today …
“We were very consistent today. Everyone went out there with a better mindset. We’re there to just compete and have fun and just play. We still messed up on some little things but you know that's going to come as the season goes on. We’re going to start progressing more and getting a little more comfortable. ”

On how the team has progressed from last year …
“It’s much better, like I said before, everybody has the mindset to compete and we don’t want to lose like we did last year. Everybody has that different mindset and everybody just wants to compete. Go out there and play their best game so we can win. We’re t rying to change the program around so that's just what we have to do.”

On how he feels physically…
“I feel good. I'm coming out of my cuts a lot faster and I'm just going out there having fun. You know last year I was scared to make a mistake because I was a freshman and now since I've been there I'm just going out there and playing and having fun.”

#14, Patrick Towles, QB
On his performance…
“Overall, I thought it was a good game. I had one blemish, when I threw a pick to Za’Darius (Smith) but he didn’t score which I can kind of live with I guess. But overall I think it was a good day, we improved a lot and we still have a long way to go.”

On his improvements during the offseason…
“I worked with Donald, who has been awesome, and Coach Brown on fundamental work in the winter, which was extremely beneficial. And as you said today, I am a totally different player than I was last year. It is night and day. I am excited about where we are at as a team, where we are as an offense and excited about where we are going.”

On his most beneficial change during the offseason…
“It is not necessarily changes as far as mechanically, but my release is a lot shorter. It really just starts with work, work and more work. You can always rep more on your own and I feel like my drop, my feet have gotten so much better. My feet are fast, they were slow and average but now they are fast enough to make plays.”

#12, Reese Phillips, QB
On whether he believes the crowd made the quarterbacks a little more tight today…
“I think it is a mixture of a bunch of different stuff. There were some nerves. We all had a little nerves, but we’ll get it fixed. I’m not too worried about it.”

On how he feels like he has progressed since last year…
“I’m just comfortable. The bottom line: I’m just a lot more comfortable. With the offense, as far as going out there and if I make a mistake, I don’t freak out. I know what I’m doing, to relax. I know the offense enough to where next play I can bounce back.”

On whether he feels the rest of the team is feeding off of his relaxed demeanor…
“I think that’s just the way I play. I’m a very relaxed person. I don’t scream and do a bunch of stuff like that. I’m a very relaxed person, especially on the field, I try to be. I think that’s good for the rest of the team.”

#94, Za’Darius Smith, DE
On his interception…
“I told myself throughout the whole spring that I wanted to make a play like that. Today was the day that I made it and it felt great. I wish I could have gotten the touchdown, though.”

#7, Drew Barker, QB
On how he felt the day went…
“It was fun to get out there for the first time in front of the crowd and stuff. It was a good atmosphere. As you can see, there is still a lot of room for improvement but, individually, I know I could get better. I know I didn’t have my best day but that’s alright. I’m still supposed to be in high school. But, as a team, I thought we did some really good things and I think this spring we really have put a step forward in the right direction. I’m really looking forward to how we go through the summer and into the fall camp.”

On whether he had any nerves initially…
“I would be lying if I didn’t say I did. It was my first time in front of the crowd so I probably did a little bit.”

On whether he feels like he got a lot out of coming early…
“Definitely. If I had to do it all again, I would definitely come early. In a position like quarterback, you have so much to learn. I feel like if I came in, in the summer with only two months to learn before the camp, I’d be so far behind. I’m glad I made the decision to come in early.”

#21 Josh Clemons, RB
On how the offense can be better this fall…
“I think we can be a lot better, keep working on our tempo, try and get faster, stay on our assignments and keys that will allow us to be faster on the field.”

On how it felt to be back on the field…
“It felt good. It felt like what we have been doing in practice, just taking the coaching and just putting it out there in front of the fans, it was pretty normal.”

On how the team is loaded in the backfield and the competition between the running backs…
“Oh, it’s fun every day. We push each other, one guy makes a big run and you want to be the guy to step up and match it. We talk about each other, make fun out there but we also try and push each other for the best.”           

#2 Bud Dupree, DE

On how different the team’s performance was on the field compared to last year’s Spring Game…
What do you all think? We did a lot of hard work this offseason and spring. Everyone was on the same page and today we tried to show a little bit but not too much.”

On how much better the team is from a year ago today…
I think it’s really great. You know from last year to this year we made a big jump. The coaches made sure that we showed the fans as well as everyone in the country.”

On what he thinks the team has improved on as an overall team…
I think we have improved mentality-wise, we have the same team except a couple guys, so we have to have the same mentality to ‘want to’, to want to get better, to want to do it and to want to produce.”