Stoops Previews SEC Opener vs. Florida at Weekly News Conference

Sept. 8, 2014

Kentucky Game Notes | Florida Game Notes

Head Coach Mark Stoops

COACH STOOPS:  Looking back to last week's game, I thought we did some good things.  I appreciate winning, our team does.  We haven't had enough of them lately so we'll take it. I thought we really started fast.  That was good to see.  I believe defensively we started with having them punt the first four possessions, offensively scoring two, it was a good start. Obviously we need to finish better.  We need to finish the games, finish the drives.  We can't be leaving points out there as we step up the competition here in the SEC. Looking forward to going down to Florida.  Good challenge.  Well coached, good football team.  We all know we're in for a higher level of competition, and we're excited about that.  The players and coaches will be excited.  We'll see where we're at this week.

Q.  Florida had a weird situation where they didn't get to play their first game.  Have you ever been a part of something like that and do you think that sets them back?
COACH STOOPS:  No.  I have been part of a situation where you go up there, all the hoopla leading up to the first game of the year, put the ball up, go for the kickoff, we get a weather delay.  That happened to me once at Arizona, which was very strange.  We went inside for about an hour, then started up.

Q.  What impresses you the most about Florida?
COACH STOOPS:  Just the typical Florida team:  physical with a bunch of athletes out there, very fast, very well coached.  They're very aggressive defensively.  They're much improved offensively.  They racked up a whole boatload of points and yards (in the opener).

Q.  (Question regarding Javess Blue/Braylon Heard)
COACH STOOPS:  We'll see.  Day to day right now.  I don't feel great about Blue.

Q.  You have Cole (Mosier) listed number one on the depth chart.  Is that because he started last game?
COACH STOOPS:  I'm worried about Zach (West).  Told you last week, it happened late in the week.  He's got a strange issue.  He's got some fluid.  You thought it might be he slept on it wrong or something that caused a little bit of nerve damage. He's bothered by that.  There's some fluid around it.  He will not be cleared to play until he gets full range and strength.  They have no idea when that will be.

Q.  Is it his neck?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah.  Could be a couple days, a week, a month.  I have no clue.

Q.  (Question regarding who Mosier’s backup is.)
COACH STOOPS:  We'll look at several options in there, mix some guys around this week.  We'll see.

Q.  How do you think the line played Saturday?
COACH STOOPS:  They did some good things.  Darrian (Miller) probably graded out the best.  Really was good to get him back.  He played well.  Couple of the young guys went in there and things were moving fast.  They (Ohio) were blitzing and changing things up.     Some of the younger guys, Kyle Meadows, in particular, struggled a little bit.  That's just from a lack of experience.  So we got to continue to work him in there more.

Q.  On the other side of the line, (UK did) good job of pressure on the quarterback.  Seemed to squirm away, didn't get the finish a lot of times.  Is that something that's tough to simulate in practice?
COACH STOOPS:  It is.  That's part of it.  We just need to be more disciplined as a whole defense because it was one person, then it would be a different person on a different blitz or different pressure. Guys had good intentions.  They wanted to retrace and not go too far past the quarterback, but he was always spinning out the same way.  We have to do a better job of communicating that to everybody, whoever was the contain rusher.

Q.  Looking at the film, any message for Patrick (Towles) of how many runs he should have hung in there and thrown it?
COACH STOOPS:  I don't think we really want to be in the business of going into The Swamp and running him 22 times.  I'm not sure that will be a good idea. Yeah, we'll talk to him a little bit about some of the reads and some of the design.  He can run and he will run.  But I don't think any of us are looking for that many every week.

Q.  The blitz pickup, was that offensive line issues, running back issues?
COACH STOOPS:  It's a combination of things.  One of the them was a screen.  Patrick has to get back and get rid of the football on one of them. They (Ohio) did a nice job.  We'll get it fixed.  There's a few breakdowns here and there.  Some of that's on Patrick.

Q.  Do you think he had a run first mentality throughout the game?
COACH STOOPS:  I thought he made some good decisions.  That helped us at times.  Then maybe he's got to learn to go through his progressions more as well.  He did come off his progressions a few times a little early, which he had not done.

Q.  You coached in that stadium.  What are your concerns about going down there?
COACH STOOPS:  Well, we have some inexperience, but it is what it is.  It will be a real challenge.  I think it's a great venue, obviously one of the best venues in college football.  You'll probably hear me say that every road game in the SEC (laughter). But it's a great place, a great atmosphere.  Very passionate fan base.  It will be a real challenge.  It's certainly not easy.  It will be really good for us to see where we're at.  I know the coaches are excited.  The players are anxious for this great challenge.  We'll see where we're at.

Q.  (Question regarding Austin MacGinnis two missed field goals.)
COACH STOOPS:  Like I said, one of them he rushed, and the other one he felt like he hit good.  He needs to take into consideration the wind.

Q.  No mechanical issues?
COACH STOOPS:  There was a mechanical on the first one from what I know of being an expert on coaching kicking (smiling).  He definitely rushed that, yeah. You have to be a head coach for 10 years to be an expert.  Automatically become an expert after a few years (laughter).

Q.  Do you know Will Muschamp?
COACH STOOPS:  I know Will well.  Have a lot of respect for Will.  Great defensive coach, great head coach.  They're going to have a good year, I know that.  Like I said, I just like him, like the way he coaches, have a lot of respect for him and the program.

Q.  What is a typical Will Muschamp team?
COACH STOOPS:  I think what you see is what you get.  He's a tough guy, defensive minded guy.  They're going to play with great passion.  How can you not love that and appreciate that? Like I said, I think they're much different offensively this year.  They got some weapons and they got some real speed outside, a great scheme.  You know, I think they're much improved offensively.

Q.  The series has not been very kind to you guys.  Do you use it as motivation for your team?
COACH STOOPS:  I really don't think we need that motivation.  If it does to some individual players, that's fine.  I'll let them read that.  But it's not something I want to put in front of them. We're pretty motivated to get out there and play well and try to get a win.

Q.  How different are they offensively?  What did they show scheme wise?
COACH STOOPS:  They're going to do what they do to some extent.  They're always going to implement new things each week, I'm sure add things as they go along. But you could see who they are, what their identity is.  They're very multiple.  You'll see some things schematically like last week in that they can go with four wide receiver looks and return the tight end, get into a two back or one back run game. They just put a lot of stress on you.  They spread the ball out.  They have very good athletes.  They can be very physical when they want to.  Their backs are very good.  Very deep and very good at running back.  That's the basics of it.  But they want to spread you out and then be physical when they want to be.

Q.  How much of last year's game tape will you look at?
COACH STOOPS:  From a defensive perspective, not too much.  Certainly our offense will look at them.  Defensively they are who they are.  There's decent carryover for what we do defensively to what they do. Our offense saw a good dose, at least a portion of that package, throughout camp and throughout the summer.

Q.  (Question regarding Jojo Kemp in the Wildcat formation.)
COACH STOOPS:  Just a way for us to try to improve some of our short yardage situations, just a little change up.  Jojo had some of his better runs out of that package the other day.  He was good and patient, hit it when he saw the opening.

Q.  What is your analysis of Za'Darius (Smith)?
COACH STOOPS:  He did some very good things Saturday, along with Bud.  Statistically Bud showed up on the radar, which everybody was wondering where he was at as well. Z is doing some very good things.  I think Z gets frustrated, wants to go out there and do a bunch of good things, cause sacks.  He plays hard.  Again, I think he gets a little over anxious at times with some contain and a few things this past week. But he's a good, physical guy.  He's playing well.  The (big) plays will come.

Q.  Do you notice a difference in his play between 3 4 and 4 3?
COACH STOOPS:  There will be some difference in there, sure, on the stat line.  It will be a little different.

Q.  What were the changes after the first two offensive drives?  What went wrong or went right?
COACH STOOPS:  Well, I want to say the first eight possessions of the game, when the game was in question, after the rain came, it was sloppy.  We were really trying to milk some clock, get the victory, get out of there.  The first eight possessions, we scored on the first two, the next two we punt, then we drive the next four there, we drive for points. We've got to get it cleaned up.  There's no mystery, you can't get first and goal on the two and get nothing.  That we've got to get fixed and we will.  We'll work on that.  We got to come away with some kind of points there. The other ones, we had some opportunities.  As I said at the beginning, we cannot leave those kind of points out there.  Certainly the missed field goals we got to get fixed.  The drop touchdown.  Then you have it first and goal at the two and get nothing. I thought we moved the ball very well.  I thought they did a nice job of putting together some long drives.  I want to say, I don't remember exactly, but at least four drives over 10 plays, which is good.

Q.  What do you like and dislike about the run game right now?
COACH STOOPS:  It's a little bit hit and miss as you can see.  Sometimes we're getting some very big plays, and sometimes we're getting too many negative yard plays.  We've got to continue to work.  I think when teams are moving on us, we got to do a better job, when they're pressuring us and things.

Q.  (Question regarding Dorian Baker’s block and his feelings on that.)
COACH STOOPS:  I love his aggressiveness.  I don't like his choice of words sometimes.  You really have to be careful.  My point to him is, don't get caught in a situation where they're going to get you a targeting foul right there.  That's something he could be out for a whole game. We don't want to go after somebody's head.  We have to be physical, but we have to be careful not to get a target (penalty) because that hurts his team.

Q.  (Question regarding Dorian Baker and Blake Bone bringing swagger to the offense.)
COACH STOOPS:  I love his attitude.  Dorian, he plays physical all day every day.  We're starting to get that mentality on the perimeter offensively of being nasty and being tough.  One of the hallmarks of Neal's offense, while he was at Tech, Tommy Mainord, the receiver coach, that's one of the reasons why he's here.  When you put on Texas Tech film, they were nasty.

Q.  Do you feel you need to have that from your receiver squad?
COACH STOOPS:  With what we do, yeah, absolutely, absolutely.  You know, they do play that way.  Blake, as he gets more physical, he'll be more confident.  But Dorian, whether he's catching, turning it up field or blocking, he loves to play physical and get after people.  I'm excited to see that as he grows.

Q.  Josh Forrest played better than you expected?
COACH STOOPS:  I've liked Josh all along.  I felt like he had the talent to be a good football player.  As I said during camp, the pass responsibilities come very natural to him.  He's long, rangy, he can run.  He's getting more and more physical.  That's helping him.

Q.  (Question regarding the defensive tackle position.)
COACH STOOPS:  I feel like they're doing some good things, I really do.  Mike (Douglas) really played well this last week.  Melvin (Lewis) has been doing some nice things.  Matt (Elam) is coming along.  Overall we're getting better and better.

Q.  No matter what anybody can say about the competition, it's the first time in 26 years a (UK) team has shut out (the opponent) in the first half two games in a row.  Says a lot.
COACH STOOPS:  We're happy about that because we're always trying to improve and trying to play well. Like I said, I thought in the first game, even though there were areas where we know we needed to improve, we still did some very good things we had to take away from that.  The same thing with this past game.  We were more consistent obviously in this last game and hardened up that run game, put them in some longer yardage situations.

Q.  (Question regarding third downs.)
COACH STOOPS:  The competition's going to get harder.  We need to continue to improve in that area, but we're better.  That's showing in that area.  Those are obviously very critical downs that we need to improve on. It has been nice to see offensively we're converting some longer yards, third downs as well, which is good to see.  I just think that's a credit to us, better at receiver, better at quarterback, the line is giving us some protection.  Overall just improving.

Q.  You've said all along throughout this rebuilding process that you're not going to measure success by wins or losses.  Do you feel this one is different?  Do you feel like success will be winning this game?
COACH STOOPS:  Well, I think it's no mystery that it's important to win some games and to compete at a high level in the SEC.  That's what we're trying to do.  We're not going to back away from that.  I've never said that it wasn't important to win.  We all know that ultimately I'll either be sitting here or I won't if you have enough wins down the road.  You got to eventually win some ballgames.

Q.  A couple players mentioned that you showed them the movie Secretariat.  What was the goal of that?
COACH STOOPS:  I think for one thing, to identify with Kentucky, to identify with the colors that we wear on our uniform, the fact that some of that was patterned after Secretariat.  I think the players really appreciated that.  They really enjoyed the movie.  It was just a break during camp.  One of those nights where you want to get them to decompress and relax a little bit.

Q.  (Question regarding UK having rushed the ball more than pass recently.)
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, there were some there this past week that they chose to go another direction.  But there are some options there that we'll eventually have to hit.

Q.  (Question regarding Florida QB Jeff Driskel.)
COACH STOOPS:  He's a good football player and he's got some good weapons with a good system.  He can run it and he can throw it.  They exploded in that first game.  They have some play makers.

Q.  You talked Saturday about the danger of a team like Ohio, don't let them hang around.  Kind of a reverse role this weekend?
COACH STOOPS:  I don't know if we ever really go into it taking that into effect.  I think it will be very challenging to jump out in front of them like we did the first two (games).  But that's what we're going to try to do.

Q.  How important is this game to see how far you have really come?
COACH STOOPS:  I'm anxious.  I want to have a great week of preparation by our coaches and our players.  I want us just as excited to go down there and play as we were in the first two games at home.  I think it will be interesting to see how our young players respond and how they go play. So, yeah, it's a measuring stick for us.

Q.  In general, how different is their offense?
COACH STOOPS:  They're different.  They're different.  I mean, however you want to say it.  Sometimes they may line up the same way, but scheme wise they're different.  There’s probably some plays that they still run that they ran a year ago.  Overall, when you put it all together, how they're calling plays, what they're doing, it's different.

Q.  Their defense was really good last year.  Is it just as good this year?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, very good.  Very good defensively.  Bunch of guys I'm familiar with, have watched come up through the high school ranks.  I know their mentality, how they play.  They're very tough, they're very aggressive.  Vernon Hargreaves on the corner is exceptional.  Dante Fowler, defensive end.  They've got some good guys and a good scheme.  They're well coached.

Q.  How do you balance a game plan when you have a power back like Matt Jones and speed on the outside with wide receivers?
COACH STOOPS:  That's always what stresses a defensive coordinator.  The best offenses are the ones that are balanced, that make you play with numbers, then hurt you outside.  That's what they do.

Q.  How much more or less does the relationship with you and D.J., how much more is he fully in charge?
COACH STOOPS:  Durkin or Eliot?  D.J. Durkin is from Youngstown, too. No, D.J. does a great job.  He's the defensive coordinator.  He day to day works out all the details.  Of course, I'm heavily involved.  I'm very much involved, but he's doing a very good job of organizing it all.

Q.  When you're watching practice, do you ever have to remind yourself, I'm the head coach, have more than just the defense to worry about?
COACH STOOPS:  No.  I just stay over there on defense (laughter).  I got my hands full over there.
You know, you got to go where you can help.  Neal (Brown) is great.  I do my best to let him do his job because I can get over there and start having my mentality and tweak things.  I don't want there to be any reason for failure. He understands me.  He knows when we need a rest on defense, need to slow things down, get some first downs.  He also understands when I get frustrated we'll get those things corrected. When we get the ball at first and goal on the two, we're going for darn sure try to run it in there.

Q.  Who is your backup quarterback?
COACH STOOPS:  Reese (Phillips) is.  Reese is.  Again, I said this a while ago, if something happened to where Patrick was going to be out for a long period of time, then we would address the situation.  If we can redshirt Drew, that's what we're going to do.

Q.  How is Drew (Barker) handling it?
COACH STOOPS:  Drew has been good.  He's still right in there with all the game planning.  He's been involved, engaged.  He still gets some reps.  It's been good.

Q.  (Question regarding who the scout team QB is.)
COACH STOOPS:  He'll (Barker) come over there a little bit once in a while and do that for us, just so he can throw more footballs, as well.

Q.  The fact that he wears a jersey on game days, does it mean he officially is not going to redshirt?
COACH STOOPS:  Like I said, I don't know what the future holds as far as injuries and things like that.  If we can redshirt him, we will.

Q.  (Question regarding the Florida natives on the team getting pumped about the game.)
COACH STOOPS:  I haven't heard much yet from them, but I'm sure I will throughout this week, especially Jojo.  I'm sure I'll hear him when he walks in the door (laughter). No, they'll be excited to play.  Javess is just frustrated.  He wants to be healthy.  He wants to be out there.

Q.  You said in the past you'd rather try to calm people down than ramp them up before a game.  A lot of young guys, older guys will be really ramped up.
COACH STOOPS:  I would assume so.  I hope so.  I hope they're excited to play.  I imagine they will be.  That's been our identity all year.  But I'm probably more interested in how we approach the week than how we are right before the game.

Q.  Update on (Alexander) Montgomery?  Do you expect him back?
COACH STOOPS:  I do expect him back this year.  Not this week.

Q.  (Question regarding Jeff Badet’s status, was wearing sunglasses during the game Saturday.)
COACH STOOPS:  He had to get clearance from me to wear sunglasses on the sideline.  But he's got the eye issue.  Really there's some things that we're still working out with the leg, as well.

Q.  Being a defensive coach, talk about the state of your mindset evaluating quarterbacks, developing quarterbacks?  With relation to Patrick, what things have you looked at where you can see the process and feel like he's becoming more confident?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, in the games, you love to see the quarterback sit in that pocket, go through his progressions, distribute the football.  You also like to see how he handles adversity. He's been on point.  He's been a good leader.  He's made good decisions.  When he's made a bad decision, he has bounced right back.  He has not let it affect him. I think overall he's doing a very good job of handling that.

Q.  Back to your relationship with Neal.  You talked about how he knows what you want.  You didn't know each other before.  Did the process fit better than what you expected or about what you expected?
COACH STOOPS:  It's about what I expected.  I obviously did my homework on him, how he's handled things.  We sat down and had a long talk before we decided to work together. Yeah, it's been very good.  I mean, a year ago it was what it was.  I look at everything.  From a defensive point of view, I look at what he's calling, what they're doing, looking at dead plays, what I call dead plays, like don't run that, there's nothing there.  So I always watch that to make sure. But he does a great job of calling plays, setting things up.  He has a lot of experience so I have a lot of confidence in him. Then when it comes to managing the game, again, any good offensive coordinator sometimes, you know what I mean, they want to go.  But he does a nice job of looking at the whole picture and understanding.  Of course, that's when I'm on the headset and things like that when I know we may need a longer drive, we may need to get a rest.  Sometimes punting's not bad.  You get a couple first downs, use up some clock, punt it, change field position. So just overall I think it's been good.  I think he does a nice job of respecting what's going on in the game and not just focusing on just one thing.

Q.  From a practice standpoint, have you had to bend any?
COACH STOOPS:  We both will give and take on some things.  Sometimes we're a good scout team to them, sometimes they're a good scout team to us.  That's just how it is.  It's been good.  That's what you have to do because I like the style or I never would have hired him.  I like the style.  I like what we do.  Sometimes you may need to get a little more physical, see different things.  And they can do all those things.  They may not just feature it from under center or different ways.  They can give us just about anything we need to see.

Q.  (Question regarding Khalid Henderson and Ryan Flannigan.)
COACH STOOPS:  Khalid really played a good game this past week.  I was pleased with Khalid.  He's being pushed because he has a very good player behind him.  With Ryan, he's a very good athlete, very explosive.  In these games, when offenses are adjusting, doing different things, maybe something we weren't able a zero in on in practice, you got to apply rules, the game is ever changing.  All the motion shifts, all the different things you see.  Sometimes it's going a little fast for him right now, but he was better this last week.

Q.  Done a good job of taking care of the ball so far.  How hard is that going to be Saturday?
COACH STOOPS:  It's probably the most critical statistic to us because of where we're at.  Like I said before, we're not good enough to win a game on any one side.  We have to play well on all sides to have a chance to win.  We're not dominant enough on offense or dominant enough on defense.  When we put it all together, we're good enough to play with anybody, we just have to play well.
                        
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