Stoops Taking More Active Role with UK Defense

VIDEO INTERVIEWS: D.J. ELIOT | DERRICK BAITY | DENZIL WARE

Mark Stoops is a defensive coach by upbringing. 

With his Kentucky team looking to right itself after struggles in the first two weeks of the season, Stoops is going back to his roots.

“The question was asked and I think you’re asking the same thing, will you take a more active role,” Stops said on Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference, “and the answer to that is yes, I will take a more active role.”

The roles on the defensive staff remain the same, but Stoops is lending his expertise as the Wildcats (0-2) prepare for a matchup with New Mexico State (1-1) at 4 p.m. on Saturday.

“As far as the structure of our staff, that has not changed,” Stoops said. “Coach Eliot is the defensive coordinator. I’m assisting him but I’m much more involved this week and I will be until we get things turned.”

As for Eliot – who has spent the better part of his professional career coaching with Stoops – the defensive coordinator is thankful to have the head coach in the defensive meeting rooms more often.

“Well, as a head coach he’s got a lot of duties, but he’s always been involved in the defense,” Eliot said. “Now we’re together on a lot of things. He’s helping us and he’s doing everything he can as another coach on the defensive staff, which is really good. Anytime you can get a coach like Coach Stoops to coach with your players and be involved in the game plan, it’s a good thing.”

Stoops said on Wednesday he has been surprised by UK’s start to the season, especially after the way the first two quarters against Southern Miss went so well. He’s still ruing a play that turned that season opener on its head -- Blake McClain's dropped interception in the third quarter -- but more in a sense of the lesson it can teach.

“We’ve got to make plays,” Stoops said. “Once again, I could go back to game one and the first possession of the second half and the ball hits us right in the chest and we drop an interception. So, we have our opportunities. We’ve got to get back and focus on the things that we can do well, but that’s been the biggest surprise, how we didn’t handle adversity.”

To handle adversity, the Cats need to replace their bad habits with good ones. That’s been the task all week.

“I think that our emphasis has been that we gotta execute and we’ve gotta play fundamentally sound, so we’ve spent more time on that,” Eliot said. “We’ve harped on it and we’ve addressed it with the players, and I think these last couple days of practice we’ve seen improvements in that. We’ve got to take that into Saturday.”