Stoops Talks Tennessee at Monday News Conference

Nov. 10, 2014

Head Coach Mark Stoops



COACH STOOPS:  Looking forward to another great challenge this week.  Heading to Knoxville to play Tennessee, a team that is improving each and every week.  Really seem like they settled in on a quarterback who's made a big difference, extremely explosive in the past game and three quarters since he's taken over.  Very well coached team, team that's hungry, plays very hard, had a week off so they will be rested and well prepared.  So we'll have our hands full, looking forward to the great challenge this week.

Q.  (Question regarding if he is going to throw away UK’s game vs. Georgia and move forward.)
COACH STOOPS:  No, as coaches we can never do that.  We have to look at the things we do good and the things we did bad and move forward and push to improve. We will continue to look at those things and our players will look at pieces of it.  The accountability piece has to be there.  We'll watch some of it but we'll move on pretty quick.

Q.  When you look at the game on tape Saturday how much of it was Georgia executing well?  How much of it was you not doing what you need to do?
COACH STOOPS:  It was a difficult matchup, I said that after the game and it's no different after watching the tape.  It was a difficult matchup for us, they've moved the ball effectively on basically everybody they've played.  They played extremely well and just like you would expect any good team to do, they came back off a defeat and they were not    they were, I'm sure, very mature and good in their approach and came out and played extremely well. I think it is fair to say that a good portion of it was them, you look at the throws that they made and some incredible throws to talented wide receivers. I didn't like our competitive nature.  We didn't make very many competitive plays.  When you play a team like that, that are operating the way they are, they're going to make theirs, we have to make some of ours and that's what I was disappointed in but you have to give them credit for a vast majority of the plays because they made some incredible plays with some great throws and catches and they're always physical and their backs are extremely talented.

Q.  (Question regarding updates on injuries.)
COACH STOOPS:  (Steven) Borden has been iffy, he's tried to come back each week and just hasn't been ready.
Za'Darius (Smith), he's hopeful he thinks he'll play, it's not high (ankle sprain), so he should be back.  Regie (Meant) and Blake (McClain) are hopeful.  They will be out there today.  We don't do much contact on Monday but they will be out there moving around a little bit.

Q.  What was Regie's injury?
COACH STOOPS:  He had a shoulder as well.

Q.  (Question regarding Ryan Timmons’ position on the depth chart.)
COACH STOOPS:  It's performance related.  Ryan does some things extremely well and some things that were a work in progress so we will continue to work and push him.

Q.  What are you not getting or not seeing out of Jojo Kemp?
COACH STOOPS:  The other guys have run the ball better in practice and in games and Jojo    you've heard me talk about him quite a bit.  You know I really have great feelings for Jojo.  I think he's a team guy at heart and works hard and has a great attitude. I really like Jojo personally and I think he has a positive effect on the team and he has a role.  So the other guys are    we feel are giving us a better chance in the run game.

Q.  In general have those sophomores who had to play last year as true freshmen have they made the jump you wanted going from year one into year two?
COACH STOOPS:  It's hard to make a general statement about all of them.  I think some of them definitely have and some of them are still a work in progress.  That's our job as a coaching staff and that's what we've got to make sure, we're moving forward as a program and making sure that we will be better this week and we will be better the week after and so on.  Gotta keep on pushing forward. We can't stay the same or take a step back, that's for sure, and I know at times it appears that way and it is.  But I think if you look across the board in college football there is always going to be some ups and downs, certainly with a team like ours we're not nearly as consistent as I want to be or our fans want to be or as our team wants to be, so we're going to have some ups and downs.

Q.  I know you are disappointed in the results the last couple of weeks, but five wins for you guys, in the last couple of years that would have been great and is it because expectations are raised   
COACH STOOPS:  I do have to find myself sitting back and saying, okay, let's reevaluate.  You guys know the approach I took last week, obviously it didn't work so that's my problem as a head coach and you can't continue to do the same thing over and over again and get the same results, that's for sure. Maybe we're not to the point where we can I better be careful of my words -- not to the point where you can push them through that wall.  We've got to do the very best we can and find the right mental approach, put them in the right position with coaching and continue to push and move forward but you're right, that's what I've told the team, I told you that after in my postgame, and I'll tell you again, we're a .500 football team and we have two big games left starting with our first big rival.  We have two big rival games left and let's put that together this week and go have a great week.

Q.  With that in mind, not getting that sixth win would that be a big disappointment to the players because of the way things are?
COACH STOOPS:  You know I'm quite disappointed whenever we lose, no matter who we are playing and that's the situation it is.  That's the mentality our team has to have as well.  They're not perfect but we're going to give it everything we have this week.

Q.  What concerns you most about Tennessee?  What problems do you see from them?
COACH STOOPS:  Since they've gone to (Joshua) Dobbs as quarterback, they're putting a lot of pressure on you with the creativity of their run game and he's thrown it extremely well.  They have talented wide receivers as we know.  So they're just doing a nice job, Butch (Jones) and his staff always offensively have been so creative.  They've moved the football.  Look at the numbers, I want to say 600 and whatever (yards), almost wanna say 6 and a half versus South Carolina, and they moved the ball quite well against Alabama when he went in the game.  So they're being very creative with the run game and you've heard me talk about it over and over again, anytime the quarterback is involved in run game you've got problems.  It's a numbers thing and he can run it and he can throw it and they're talented outside so they put up big numbers and created explosive plays.

Q.  When you have them go back and look at the Georgia tape is tackling going to be one of the big things?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, always, tackling is a big part of how you play defensively and position on the ball. It will be hard, because they do a nice job of getting the ball in space to some playmakers.  Even with the running back there, the freshman running back, (Jalen) Hurd, they get him in space he's tough to tackle.  They're a good team and they put pressure on you with what they're doing.

Q.  Mark, you talked about taking pride in teaching guys to play football better.  Have you been disappointed in some of that when you see a guy try to arm tackle   
COACH STOOPS:  Sure, yeah.  Absolutely.  Again, it's not across the board.  Just like we talked about there, you can't dismiss the improvements that a lot of guys have made, the passion and the energy that some guys are making.  We're not there.  We're not where I want to be or you want to be or anybody else.  We're not a complete football team yet.  We're trying to get there.  That is disappointing when you see some plays, whether it's physical or mental because certain things we can control.

Q.  What do you feel like the mental make up of the team is right now?
COACH STOOPS:  It's a fair question.  I don't know.  We'll see.  We address them today and get with them, we'll see how we respond this week.  It will be a challenge, but, heck, just like I said, if you look at it that way, we're 5 5 and with two great opportunities left, again, starting with this one. You know me I never talk about two or three or four or five but this week you have the one game and then you have the bye so it's a little different with two games left in the three weeks of the season. We've got to get that attitude right and have the a great week and put everything we can into this week and then we get the bye to heal up a little bit and get a little extra preparation time (before the Louisville game), so we'll see.

Q.  Think you said this challenged their manhood last week, your challenge didn't work?  What are you trying to   
COACH STOOPS:  You have to be in the team meeting to see that, they'll figure it out.

Q.  (Follow-up question to him challenging the team.)
COACH STOOPS:  That's right, you won't hear it on the street.  I think maybe it did with certain people, maybe it didn't with others.  That's always the million dollar question, how to get to your team, get to your players.  I've always felt very comfortable dealing with half of the team, now the whole team, it's a little different.  We've been inconsistent that way, it's been the offense playing well and the defense playing well and trading off.  We have not put it all together.  Of course we're not a complete team yet, but we're still striving to get there and put it all together and play a complete game.

Q.  Another one of those intimidating road environments this week, do you change anything up at all with the road preparation?
COACH STOOPS:  No, no, we really don't.  Again, the record isn't good.  I would like to play with the same mentality we did at the Florida game, just like to see our guys compete at that level across the board.  We could all live with the results if we play the very best we can.  So that's what we're striving to do.

Q.  Haven't asked about  (Alex) Montgomery in a while, is he at a point where you feel he's healed up?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, I contemplated bringing Alex out and playing him but it probably isn't the right thing to do for him.  So    just took him a while to get to that point where he could come out and make a difference.  He certainly is a guy we're missing a great deal.

Q.  When did he get to the point when you started thinking about bringing him?
COACH STOOPS:  It was a few games back where it was getting close and I asked him and to his credit he was ready to go, whether it's three games, four games, if I asked him right now I believe he would come play, if we thought it could help us win a game but I don't think that's the right thing to do for that young man.

Q.  (Question regarding Jeff Badet.)
COACH STOOPS:  He isn't quite as close.  He is back there practicing, but to the point where he can make a difference or play better than other guys. I don't know without all the reps.

Q.  When you looked at special teams what were the things that you saw that were concerning or not concerning?
COACH STOOPS:  That is probably most disappointing to me, because that was the thing that I was talking about, the past couple weeks you've heard me talk about having the toughness and the attitude to do what you're asked to do.  I've got a certain player out there that did not do that.  That's a choice.  That's aggravating.  That's something that's    probably bothers me as much as anything because you know what it comes down to.  You got a special teams coach that I'm breathing down his neck, you got y'all breathing down his neck and my neck and everything else and everybody is accountable, we all are, starting with me and it goes right down to the players, and there were some plays there that I thought were not acceptable. It's certain guys that I have rewarded with scholarships and done some things and put it out there to help him and he's making a decision not to help us by doing his own thing.

Q.  The size of the receivers, how do you guys combat that?
COACH STOOPS:  It's difficult.  I think you know, you watch our games, we have some issues out there from time to time with match ups.  There is no easy way.  There are teams that can run the ball and they have size outside and can throw it, there is no way around it.  We've got to win some one on one's, we can't put two guys on all of them, they'll run it up and down the field until they hit their head on the goalpost so you've got to do what you got to do.  You've got to win some one on one's.

Q.  You have a guy that has committed nine illegal procedure penalties, is there a breaking point?
COACH STOOPS:  There was a breaking point, we pulled him out right after that.  Thing about that is there is a point.  We pulled him out of the game and everything and he let one play affect the next.  He had a bad play, the play before, and it was in his mind and it affected him the next play.  We just can't have it.

Q.  You played four really good football teams in the last four games.  To be able to compete consistently with those types of teams is it a situation where it's going to take more than one or two recruiting classes?
COACH STOOPS:  I'll let y'all decide that.  I ain't ever going to make an excuse.  It is what it is.  We can certainly do things better, starting with me, and that's the approach we're always going to take, never going to cave to that.  I know this, those teams have been doing good things for a long time.  They're no dummies.  They recruit at a very high level.

Q.  (Question regarding if some of the tackling issues come from lack of depth.)  
COACH STOOPS:  It hurts, the depth hurts and we're trying to get a few more guys in, and Ryan Flannigan played better and we need that.

Q.  Mark, what do you do with your freelancer on special teams?
COACH STOOPS:  Can't trust him, can't play him.

Q.  Coach, why do you think your team hasn't played at the level they did in Gainesville?
COACH STOOPS:  I can't put a finger on that, back to the road again, going back to the last road trip there with Missouri and the approach we took, mentality, talked about it all week, started on Monday, talked about we're going to have a tough mentality, we're going to create our own energy, we're going to be prepared and ready to go.  We were on two sides of the team there and the third wasn't.  So that's where we're    it's back to the inconsistency of a complete team.

Q.  How do you think Patrick (Towles) played Saturday?
COACH STOOPS:  I thought he did some good things.  I think y'all saw that.  He got antsy and got out of the pocket when he maybe didn't need to.  There were some throws there and if he hangs in there and goes through his progression he's going to make some big plays and I think that's where he needs to improve and will.  You know we've got to continue to teach him and show him those things and just stay in that pocket.  Once you get hit a few times, he gets antsy and starts getting out of there and there were some more plays in there for him.

Q.  What you do you need Boom (Williams) to improve on?
COACH STOOPS:  Consistency with Boom and the mentality with him.  He's a true freshman and he's got to continue to grow and mature and be disciplined all the time and be disciplined in his run.  We all know he's talented and can make some things happen, but he's got to go through his progressions also and makes sure he starts where he needs to start and then let his God given ability take off, you know sometimes we're doing our own things right from the start and we can't do that.

Q.  Sounds like you and the coaching staff are being accountable for the mistakes on the field, do you get the same feeling in the locker room that the players are taking accountability?
COACH STOOPS:  I think some of them are and I think that's where we want to push to get everybody.  That's where the frustration comes in and that's where you got to keep things in perspective.  You gotta grab those guys and those coaches and we gotta get some things fixed, but a lot of guys really are trying to do the right thing, we're just maybe not complete in certain spots.  They're trying to do some good things.  I thought overall offensively they responded well, weren't perfect, but I thought we battled in general against a quality team and moved the ball and gave ourselves a chance.  We responded well.  Now we just got to get everybody on the same page.  So to answer your question, I think some guys are, it's just that we're inconsistent again.

Q.  You narrowed it down but I don't want to misidentify, we're talking about J.D. Harmon here on special teams?
COACH STOOPS:  Yes.

Q.  (Follow-up question to previous question regarding J.D. Harmon.)
COACH STOOPS:  You know, that's hard for me to do.  I have a hard time singling guys out but when guys are not doing what we ask them to do consistently and people's jobs are on the line that's not acceptable.

Q.  (Question regarding if he uses Tennessee fighting to become bowl eligible as motivation for his squad to prevent that.)  
COACH STOOPS:  Not about their end, you know what I mean?  It has nothing to do with their end, it has to do with our end, not so much to keep them out but more to put us in.  So yes, I think if we could use it as motivation ourselves, yeah, I think it should.  Again, from our own perspective of winning this game to get six is big for us.  What it does to Tennessee I'm not even really concerned about.  I know they're    I can see improvement in their team though, the way they recruit and the way they coach, and their team’s playing hungry, they're also a good football team even though if you just strictly look at the record you may not understand that but definitely you can see the great improvement in that team, the way they're coached and the way they play, great energy.

Q.  Do you see similarities between your two teams?
COACH STOOPS:  I do.  I do.  I think we've shown that as well, very energetic, fun to watch team, team flying around, and then we've been inconsistent.  I think if you ask them they would probably say the same thing, I don't know.  But, I see a team that's very, very good, and, again, any compliment to a coach, I see a team that plays hard, a well coached team that plays hard.

Q.  Mark, obviously you have had a frustrating stretch.  Being a second year head coach how has that stretch been for you?  Obviously you know you're going to go through stretches, where maybe they're not playing like you want them to be.
COACH STOOPS:  How has it been on me?  It's always a one week season.  Anytime we lose, you probably sense some frustration.  That's just the competitive nature of all coaches.  It's very hard to swallow, I don't care who you're playing and nobody likes defeat.  I know our fans don't.  So it's difficult, but it doesn't get you down.  Jen (Smith) says I walked in here in a good mood today, I'm like, "Yeah, I am."  I'm excited and ready to go and sometimes, I don't know, you're not perfect, I was grumpy three, four days last week, I don't know.  It's hard to swallow but you can't do that, you gotta rebound, get back at it.  I'm excited and optimistic and I hope our team is the same way.  We've got to go put it all together and have a good week.

Q.  Now that we've singled out J.D. Harmon, he's a guy that brings height (at cornerback) against that Tennessee offense.  Is he a guy you straighten out or how do you deal with him?
COACH STOOPS:  We will continue to work with him.  You know, at some point you either can't or won't.

Q.  Is there anybody else on this team   
COACH STOOPS:  I don't want to get    I don't want to go there.  No, I do like the attitude of our team.  Are we perfect, no.  Are we going through a tough stretch?  Are we going to start finger pointing and blaming people or are we going to come together and play well?  We have choices.  That's what aggravates any coach is when we do have choices.  Choices in discipline, choices in how they go about their business.  If you're beat you're beat, but when you're doing things and you have mental mistakes and you just choose to be undisciplined, that's very frustrating.

Q.  (Question regarding Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs.)
COACH STOOPS:  He's just playing very well.  Number one, he gives you a great athlete.  The run game, the "Q" run game is obvious, but he's also throwing the ball exceptionally well.  When he led the come back versus South Carolina, threw some incredible balls in there at the right time and put it in some tight windows and executed very well. I'm sure they're getting more and more confident with him and I'm sure he's more confident because he's played exceptionally well.

Q.  What about Tennessee defensively?
COACH STOOPS:  They play hard.  They're a good, tough, football team and they just really play hard and it all starts with A.J. (Johnson),  their linebacker in the middle, is a war daddy.  He's been around a long time and he's a very good football player.  Love the way he's played.  Talented, plays hard, makes big plays when they need him, physical.  Curt Maggitt, known him since high school, recruited him out of high school to go to Florida State, really like Curt, he's been around for a while.
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