Neal Brown previews Louisville

NEAL BROWN
“Excited. First of all, happy Thanksgiving to everybody. I’m thankful for another opportunity. We’re glad we’re not going to end it on the last game. So excited about rivalry week, been educating the guys all week on the rivalry. It’s time for us to hold up our end of the bargain. Obviously Louisville is very, very talented on defense. They’re well coached. They play hard. That’s the thing that struck me last year preparing for them — and I know it’s a different coaching staff, but it’s a lot of the same kids — they really get after it. They rise up every week. And they play good, solid defense, as good as anybody they’ve played. You talk about their personnel. Some of the guys, obviously Mauldin, d-end/outside linebacker, really disruptive, can rush the passer. In the secondary (Gerod) Holliman. What’s he sitting at 13? What’s he got 13 interceptions? What’s he need, one more to get the record, or tie it? Hopefully he can get it in the bowl game and not against us. But they’re playing really good team defense. They run really well. If you look at their stats, obviously high up in sacks and tackles for loss, but a huge challenge for us. The bye was good for us. We needed it. I think we were getting worn down there. We used last week to kind of re-engergize, coaches and players. We had a good, spirited workout today, do that tomorrow and then kind of wind down and get ready for Saturday at noon.”

On QBs not wearing red jerseys: “I did notice that. We’re not allowed to wear red around our house either. (Points to daughter) She tries to wear red to her school all the time. I’m always like, ‘What about the navy or the blue?’”

On educating guys on rivalry: “We’ve got some highlight stuff we’ve shown. We educated them today about the Governor’s Cup, what it means. Some of the coaches talk about their personal memories. Some of the in-state guys are going to talk tomorrow. We’re just taking a little bit of our offensive meeting and trying to educate them, especially for some young guys from out of state, educating them, teaching them what a rivalry is and a little about Kentucky-Louisville.”

On offense being hungry or desperate: “Yeah, I hope we’re hungry. That’s what I want to see. It’s good that you brought that up. That’s the first thing when I addressed the offense with, I said, ‘Listen, I want a hungry outfit. I want a hungry group that’s practicing today.’ I likened it to an elimination game. You win, you’re in. You’re in the bowl count. You lose, you go home for the holidays. Win you’re in; lose you go home.”
On if he doesn’t like word ‘desperate:’ “I don’t know. It is a desperation game I guess, yeah, I choose hungry. Sounds less, I don’t know. Desperate seems a little dark.”

On what he wants from Towles: “I think he’s done a good job competing. He really has competed hard. Now, has he played error free, has he played as well week in or week out as he can? Probably not. He’s been like a lot of first-time starters, he’s been inconsistent. But I do think he’s competed. I do think he’s done a good job leading. He practiced today. He’s going to be fine. I’ve been impressed the last two days that he’s been out there. No real signs of injury at all.”

On Holliman’s interceptions: “I think some of that is schematic. You have to give some of the credit to their defensive staff. He’s a free player quite a bit. But the thing about it is he breaks on the ball really well and he’s got good ball skills. All the — several of those picks — have been really good plays. I think he had one at Syracuse, if my memory is right, that was an incredible catch over on Louisville’s sideline.”

On if Louisville simplified defense: “I think what Coach Stoops, I think he said that yesterday, I think they’ve simplified some of the things they were doing at Georgia last year. They’ve been really consistent. They’ve played, Louisville’s played at a high level defensively all year and other than their third down packages, they do a good job of mixing up their third-down packages week in and week out. But they’ve played good, fundamental football. They haven’t shown as many looks as they’ve shown at Georgia last year.”

On getting parts of offense on same page at same time: “I’m gonna (pauses) not on the same page. Everybody’s on the same page, we just haven’t played well at the same time. That’s kind of what I meant. I don’t know. There’s not a magic pill. I wish there was. Goes back to preparation. I think it helps that we’re almost going to be, other than Dorian (Baker), I think we’ll be close to full speed. I think we’ll have our energy back. We’ve had two weeks to prepare. I fully expect us to play well on all phases on offense.”

On trying to run versus Louisville: “it’s tough. There’s not been a whole lot of people who’ve had success. National champions had some success in the second half. But I think you have to. They’ve rushed the passer so well you’ve got to keep them honest. But I think that’s important. We’ve got to do a good job, not only at the offensive line position, but our tight ends, fullbacks have to be involved in the game plan and we’ve gotta, our running backs have got to run. Run downhill, run angry like they did against Georgia. I thought they did a nice job against Georgia.”

On run blitz on first down: “They mix it up pretty well, yeah they do that. They do a good job. They don’t let you get in a rhythm. Any team that creates that many tackles for a loss, a lot of times, they do it through run pressures for sure.”

On health of offensive line: “I think last week was big. We weren’t in great shape in our last game against Tennessee. Obviously you know Darrian (Miller) got banged up, Kyle Meadows got banged up, Zach West was in and out. So the week was really good. We didn’t bang them a whole lot last week at all, very little to be honest. So I feel good. All hands will be on deck.”

On if Meadows will, too: “I think so. He’s got a chance. He’s got a chance. I wouldn’t count him out just yet.”

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Mark Stoops preview Louisville

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to getting back out to the action this week. Team had a good bye week. Rested up, got some good work. Looking forward to a big rivalry game this week with Louisville. They’re certainly playing some good football, coming off a big win this past week at ND. So we’re excited and rested and ready to get to this challenge here this week.”

On Dorian Baker not being on depth chart: “Yeah, he got hurt last week, so he’s done for the year. He’s going to need surgery.”

On what was hurt: “Knee.”

On if Baker would be an option for a bowl game: “Yeah. Unfortunate accident. We were practicing against each other doing some good‑on‑good, but really it was no‑contact. He just planted awkward and hurt his knee.”

On what team benefited from most when going back to basics this week: “It was good just to get out. After a couple days’ rest, get out and do some good, competitive work. Get back to some fundamentals. Do some things that we do through camp where we go good against good, do some one‑on‑ones. We do some half lines where we just technique‑wise need to get better sometimes throughout the season. You get so enamored with the X’s and O’s and assignments that you drift from some of the basics. We obviously try not to. We constantly have individual in certain things, but it was good to spend more time with that last week.”

On if they break down every play, position groupings on defensive side the way offense does: “Yeah, we’ll go back‑‑ when you have time like that, we go back and look at all the things we’ve done well, things we’ve done poorly. Whether it be technique, somebody just getting beat, scheme, whatever it might be and try to zero in on things that they’ll be looking at and things that they’ll want to exploit. So we spent a good dose of time looking at ourselves trying to get better, and obviously getting ahead of Louisville.”

On if that showed him anything: “Well, I think you’re always learning. As I say, just speak in general terms here, I think you’re always looking at things and seeing things you could do better. Again, whether it be fundamentals or scheme.”

On if he feels a little fresher mentally after week off: “Yeah, you can’t help but feel better. Yeah, it gets to be a lot when you’ve got, I think it was eight straight weeks, so it was nice to have one day off.”

On which day that was for him: “Saturday.”

On if he still watched football that day: “I did. I did, yeah. I couldn’t get away from it too far. I didn’t watch as much as I normally do though, actually. I got out of the house. Took my boys out of the house for a while.”

On if he watched Louisville game: “Most of it. Uh‑huh. Most of it. I caught a good portion of it. Obviously very impressive win for them. Their coach is doing a great job. They haven’t missed a beat to what they’ve been doing. They win a bunch of football games, they play extremely hard. They’re very well‑coached, and that’s an impressive win. They’re playing good football.”

On impressions of Louisville QB Reggie Bonnafon: “I’ve been impressed. Very cool. He’s been just very poised back there, making good decisions. I think it also speaks a lot to Coach Petrino and what he does and how he calls plays and protects them. He’s got a very good football team around them that are physical, they can run the ball. They do a nice job of mixing it up, keeping you off balance. You’ve heard me talk about that all year. That’s why you need balance. They have very good balance. They’re physical. Can hurt you in the run game, and then they have the play actions off of it.

I think Reggie has played some very good football, along with their whole offense. Certainly them having DeVante back outside is a real weapon. He is a fantastic football player and a guy you’ve constantly got to have your eye on and know where he’s at.”

On what this rivalry is built on: “Well, we’re trying to create it to be a bigger and better rivalry. I think that comes from us having to play better football and winning more games and putting ourselves in a position where we can get this game on a more national scale. But it’s important. It’s important to the people in this state. It’s important to our fans and our players and coaches. So, you know, I think it’s just like most of these games. It’s important to a lot of people, and you feel that, and you want to go play well.”

On if he likes this as the last game of the year: “I really don’t put any thought into that anymore. It is what it is. So we’re excited and ready for this opportunity.”

On how Louisville compares to SEC teams: “I think there is no question they’re a nationally ranked, top‑20 team and deserve to be. They’re a very good football team that’s physical and they’re balanced. So it’s hard to say. I don’t know. I mean, you’d have to make your own decision on that where they stack up with the rest of the SEC, you know?”

On Louisville running game: “I think they do a very good job. I don’t think it’s any secret that Coach Petrino does a nice job of setting up his run game and scheming the run game, not so much just like some teams just are gonna line up and pound you with certain run games. They scheme their run game really well. They have some really good boots and play actions off of everything, and they keep you off balance. I think that is the key to any good play‑caller is keeping you off balance.”

On the Louisville secondary and if you throw away from Gerod Holliman: “Yeah, Holliman, I remember him coming out of high school. Very good player there from Florida. I remember the other safety, No. 2, just as good. He doesn’t have the numbers, but they’re good football players, both of them.”

On how Louisville schemes to run the ball: “They do some. They do some. They mix it up, but he likes certain run plays versus four downs, certain versus three down: Certain guys are going to pull. Once again, just a variety of things. I think it’s a credit to them sometimes when you look at their whole body of work, they do quite a bit and execute it very well. So what and how they want to feature each week is something you’ve got to keep an eye on. But he likes certain plays versus four down, certain versus three. And again, I think they execute them. The key to them and their success is they execute them very well.”

On players getting too caught up in moment playing for bowl against a rival: “I hope not. I don’t think we’ll be tight. We shouldn’t be. We’ve got a lot to play for. Guys are excited and energized. Like I said, it’s been a good, tough stretch against some quality teams down the stretch here. We’ve got time for a bye, and we’re playing our rival on the road for an opportunity to go to a bowl game. So it is what it is.

We’ll prepare and be excited to go play. But there is no reason to be tense or to go play tight. I don’t anticipate that. I’d like to see us play with that great passion and energy that we did for most of the season.”

On if getting the win would be extra special against rival: “I really don’t care who we get it against. It really doesn’t. No, I think, no, I’d just love to get it.”

On Bonnafon being cool and collected: “Yeah, I think I’m just impressed with him. I think you can see that he comes from a great high school program. You can see that he’s won a lot of football games. I think, again, it’s a credit to their coaching staff and the positions that they put him in. I think that’s the nice thing when you have balance in your offense. So they don’t have to necessarily just put it all on him to win a game. They have good players around him and a good scheme.”

On if Patrick Towles has had any lingering effects from the ankle injury: “We’ll see how he is today. Hopefully he’ll be out there at full strength today. So we’ll see.”

On what Stoops would like to see from Towles this week: “I’d just like to see him go back to really playing a quality game. He’s had some ups and downs; we’ve all seen that. He’s done some very good things at times. So I’d like to see him really put it all on the line this last week and go out and just play and be the great leader that he’s shown at times this year and really just lay it on the line and play a quality football game for us.”

On what he learned playing Bobby Petrino last season: “I think I need more time to study him. We’re different right now. He’s different in some ways, but some things are a staple that you can go back a long time with him. But just the opportunity to really study him some more and just see what he likes in certain situations and what he likes in the run game to certain people. But he’s a very good football coach and has a lot of answers. Again, he mixes things up very well.”

On if he tried to build defense back up during bye week: “Yeah, we did. And a lot of it was putting guys in competitive situations and making competitive plays. I think you look at those games and we weren’t making our fair share of competitive plays. It gets down to making plays and being a good football player at times. Fundamentally getting guys in the right spots. So we worked on everything, yeah.”

On Louisville’s defensive front: “Well, they play extremely hard. They play very hard. I think if you look at Coach Grantham and what they’ve done defensively, I think in certain ways may be simplified maybe in certain ways. Their guys are playing very hard. I think that’s the thing I’ve noticed the last two years playing Louisville. To their credit, I think they play very hard. And their guys, their front gets after it, and plays, like I said, plays relentless, as does their whole defense. They’ve played really well.”

On if this season is successful whether you win or lose Louisville game: “I’ll let you decide on whether it’s been successful or not. I really haven’t put any thought into that, to be honest with you. I know we’re a better football team. I felt like that coming into the year that we’d be better. I think we are better. Are we where I want to be? No, and probably not where a lot of people want to be. So we’re going to keep on working, and keep on getting better. I am proud of this team. I felt like they’ve been a fun group to coach. They mean well, they work hard, and they have a great attitude. We’re just not quite as good as we’d like to be.”

On what a win this weekend would mean: “I think a win this weekend would do an awful lot for these players. I think they deserve it. That’s what I’ve told them. They put in the work. They’ve put in the time and they care and they deserve to win and have that taste of success and that taste of a bowl game. I’d like to see that for them.”

On starting 5-1 and then potentially losing six in a row to end season and if it hurts momentum: “I think it’s important. You really try not to ever think about this streak or that streak or whatever. You put your head down and go one at a time. Obviously, anytime, I’ve made no bones about that. Every win is a huge win for us when you’re trying to build a program. That’s what’s difficult when you play the stretch that we have. When you’re trying to build a football program in the SEC, there is no easy one out there. It really can take its toll on you when you’re not as physical as you’d like to be. That’s where it’s pretty evident that we have to go back to recruiting like we talked about, and really work on our players in physically developing them to get bigger and stronger.”

On the recruiting side, have the losses hurt: “No, not at all. I feel very good about where we’re at and where we’re going recruiting.”

On DeVante Parker and what corners need to do to contain them: “Well, I think we’ve got to compete certainly better than we’ve been the past couple of weeks. We’ve got to compete at a much higher level. We’ve got to be conscientious of where he’s at. We’ve got to have guys underneath. If it’s zoned coverages or different things, getting to their spots, getting under him, so we can affect him a little bit. And, again, I think that’s where any offense that has the balance and can run and pass and put you in that situation where they can put him in some one‑on‑ones because they can run the ball. So once again, once we read the play action or boots and certain things, trying to get people under him to help.”

On if the UK corners are back healthy: “Yeah, we were banged up pretty good. We’re in good shape now. We’ll be better. We’ll see what this weekend did for them. They should be out there this week ready to go.”

On if Stoops is fired up for rivalry game: “I think the whole staff and everybody’s excited about it. We’ve talked about that right after the last game. It’s a beautiful thing, as we have this opportunity in front of us to get the sixth victory against a big rival. A lot of people would believe in this state that it’s the most important game of the year. So it’s important and it’s exciting.”

On if he believes game is important: “I think every game is important. I really do.”

On if he puts any more importance of this game: “No, I don’t. No. Like I just said, I think all of them are important. We all know how difficult they are to come by. So I think each one is very important to us. Just winning, when you win, it obviously builds that confidence within your team. That is what’s difficult when you’re playing the schedule that we play. The players need to feel that success. I think that’s why it was great to get off to that start that we did. But anytime you’ve lost a certain number of games in a row, that doubt is obviously going to creep up into your mind, and that’s what we have to get out of there. That’s why we had to have a great week of preparation, and go play with that great excitement and enthusiasm that we did in certain games.”

On if he worries about losing recruits: “No, I don’t worry about that one bit. We have a good group of players that enjoy playing here and have really worked hard and done the right things. I think you could ask them, I think they have full trust in what we’re doing. So I don’t worry about that at all on the recruiting front.”

On a winorgohome opportunity and if it changes the message: “To some extent, I guess. Just a simple change in the message. I think they all know what we’re playing for. They know that. There’s no point in hiding from it. But it’s not the only message, right? The message is to do what we constantly preach, and that is put the time and effort and focus into our preparation. It’s not just turning it on on game day. We’ve got to have a great week.”

On anyone else’s injuries being of concern: “I think Kyle Meadows will probably be a long shot to play.”

On Denzil Ware tweeting about an injury over weekend: “He’s fine. He’s fine. He did Tweet that? I didn’t hear that. Freshmen.”

On if he has any Twitter guidelines: “Yeah, I tell them to not Tweet about injuries (laughter), amongst other things, amongst a lot of things. We bring in professionals with a full seminar on what to do and what not to do. It doesn’t always work, no. You need that seminar about once a week.”

On the play of offensive line: “Yeah, I think we’re developing some depth inside. I think we’ve done some good things. Once again, I know it’s a broken record, but we’re not where we want to be. I think they’ve battled hard. They’re trying. We’re inexperienced at certain positions inside that we’re trying to gain some depth. I thought the tackles have played extremely hard. Swindle is a great leader and a great player for us. We know he’s made some mental mistakes. Again, it’s not for lack of effort with him, that’s for sure. I thought Darrian’s (Miller) really done some good things and played through some injury, and really left it all on the field this year. He’s played really hard. I’m very proud of Darrian and the way he’s tried to battle and help this team.”

On how Matt Elam has progressed: “Yeah, he’s about where we thought he would be. He really is. He’s done some very good things and once again, he’s still a work in progress. But Matt’s going to be a very good football player. He’s got the right attitude. He works hard and he’s getting better and better.”

On if that’s just technique: “Well, it’s technique and understanding the urgency that you have to play at this level. Just it takes some time.”

On what has this season brought out of you as a coach in terms of keeping the players motivated and focused: “That part of it, you know, I’d say it’s not going to be hard, but I don’t know. It’s always a challenge. Anytime you go through a long season, we’re no different than anybody. Win or lose, it’s a challenge getting guys ready each week. I think you’re dealing with college kids that sometimes are very, very young and haven’t been through this thing before. I think it’s consistency in what we’re doing as a coaching staff, and what we’re teaching them and how we’re going about our business. We’ll keep on doing that and keep on pushing them, and keep on being consistent and the players will obviously keep on getting that message, and keep on getting better.”

On if UK fans getting into Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium would help: “I think it would be very important. That doesn’t surprise me that they’d find their way into this stadium and see a lot of blue, and I look forward to seeing that on Saturday.”

On other teams playing with a lot of freshmen: “I really would have no idea. I’d be throwing a dart out there to speak on their behalf, so I don’t really know. Of course, LSU, I know them because I’ve played them in everything. You know, I think if you ask them, they’d probably say that, but again, no coach wants to sit up here and make excuses. It is what it is. We all know we’re a better football team with experience. We all know the teams that are winning a whole bunch of games out there have some very good older guys on their team. That’s what we’re all striving to do, is have that experience, that leadership and that depth. But it’s not always the case. There are cases where you could also look around the country, and I’m sure there are some freshmen making some big impacts on some top‑10 teams as well. It happens. When you’re counting on quite a few of them, it’s hard to count on a whole bunch of freshmen to go in and win a bunch of SEC football games.”

On the SEC potentially getting 13 bowl eligible teams: “I think you’re starting to see that depth top to bottom that we all want. I think it’s pretty evident. It gets talked a lot about certainly in the preseason what the SEC, with conferences and all that stuff. But I think it’s pretty evident that all 14 schools in this league are doing everything they can to build a quality football team. Obviously, it’s difficult because, once again, there is nobody really going backwards. Everybody’s going forward.”

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Baker out for season with knee injury

Freshman wide receiver Dorian Baker is out for the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury in practice during the bye week, Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops said on Monday.

Baker, who has started two games with 19 catches for 199 yards and one touchdown, hurt his knee when he planted awkwardly. It was not a contact injury, Stoops said.

After the news came out, the freshman wide out tweeted: “Mad about this knee injury but surgery gonna go good and I’ll be back before y’all know it,” Baker said.

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Stoops, Brown, Eliot on bye week

MARK STOOPS
“Good start to the week. Good for our guys to get a little rest on Sunday and Monday. Had good work yesterday and very good work today. Guys seem to have a little more energy, a little more pop in their step. Got a chance to go back and do some things, just camp drills as far as competing and doing some things good against good and fundamentally getting better. So it’s been a great time for a bye week for us, and I think, like I said, it’s been helpful so far, both with rest, healing up some guys and fundamentally getting better. Looking forward to finishing up this week, guys getting a little rest this weekend and having another great week next week.”

On if there’s anybody he’s worried about not having for Louisville: “I think we have a chance to be really close to 100 percent. I think Kyle Meadows would be one guy that I’m concerned about that would not be ready for next week, but we’re gonna give it a shot, and he’ll get a lot of treatment and see if he can get ready for next week. The rest of the guys, I think we have a very good chance to be close to everybody participating at whatever strength they are. But I think everybody will be out there giving it a shot.”

On if he can get a look this week at guys who haven’t played: “Yeah, you can. Gives you an opportunity to watch some guys and still get an opportunity to work with some of the guys that have redshirted and just, like I said, fundamentally going back to doing some good against good, just certain drills, and working with them. So yeah, it helps.”

On if he’s seeing the same improvement this year he saw last year from guys who are redshirting: “Yeah. I think it’s a really good group. All the o-linemen redshirting, all the d-linemen with the exception of Matt have really worked hard and lifted hard and gained some weight and look better. I’m excited about those guys. That’s why it’s important — there’s no denying that it’s real important — to get that sixth victory so you get out and start working with them more during the practice time for a bowl game if we can get this sixth win. So it’s important to keep on working with those guys and developing the guys in your program.”

On what ways they can get those guys more involved if they have bowl practices: “Just simply put, basically it’s like another spring practice, or at least part of one. So early on when you come back — you got to hit the recruiting trail, but then during the dead period you come back and have practices and you really take a good portion of those practices and work with the young guys. So it’s just a great opportunity to fundamentally get better and keep on working on things. In-season, you get going with so many different things in preparation and assignments that — it’s not that you forget, but you have to go back and fundamentally become a better football team. And I think it’s not hard for any of you to see that and for us to see that, that down the stretch here fundamentally we haven’t been as good as we need to be. So we need to coach it and we need to put them in a postion to get better. That’s what we’re here for, to develop our players, and so that gives us a lot of opportunities.”

On his positive vibe after Tennessee and if that changed at all after watching the tape: “No. We know our shortcomings. We know we all need to do better. But I see a team that’s fun to coach, that care, that want to win, that are putting a lot into it. And sometimes when you don’t get anything back it gets frustrating on all of us. But the guys worked hard. It gets frustrating when there are plays to be made and we don’t make them. That’s frustrating on everybody.”

On if the staff has done any self-evaluating: “Of course. We always do. We always meet and look at what we’re doing. We’re always very critical of ourselves after every game. With a bye week, of course there’s just a little more time to sit and take it in and look at things and see what we have done good and what we’ve done poorly and try to put them in a position to be successful. It’s our job to put them in a place that they can succeed. Obviously that’s a challenge sometimes for everybody, for all coaches. You’re trying to do the best you can with putting them in a position with things they can do. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”

On if, in this time, he’s identified any coaching things they could have done better: “Oh, of course. Like I said, that’s every week. Every week we’re the most critical of ourselves. We go in Sunday. We watch it Saturday on the way home, we watch it on the bus and get in Sunday and watch it again. Watch it three or four times and constantly look at things that we can do better. There’s always things we could all do better. There’s calls we could do better. There’s schemes we could do better. Sometimes it’s scheme, sometimes it’s non-execution, sometimes it’s guys not making plays. I think you’ve seen all of the above in some of these losses.”

On if it’s good as coaches to have a moment to catch your breath without another game bearing down on you: “Most definitely. What was it, eight straight weeks? And seven of the eight SEC. It is what it is. You get back in there, like I said, Saturday afternoon or Saturday night when you’re done, and Sunday certainly, and it’s on. It’s on to the next opponent, and it’s a full grind. That gets taxing on everybody. The players, they have to come in here Monday and we have to address the issues from the previous game and then on to the next opponent immediately. That’s something that we have to be able to do and push through, and sometimes it’s more challenging than others, but we’re no different. That’s why college football is the way it is and that’s why you see a lot of upsets and you see ups and downs and all that. We just have to be better and more consistent. But a bye certainly helps, even if it’s Sunday and Monday alone for the players not even to worry about an opponent. Just let them decompress for a minute. I think it’s very important.”

On if the contracts he talked about for assistants when he signed his extension are ongoing: “Yeah. They’re in place. They’re there for us to work on after the season. So that hasn’t changed.”

On if they have any plans to watch the Louisville game: “I’m sure we will. I’m not even sure what time they play or anything.”

On Drew Barker’s knee injury: “He’s getting better. He’ll be fine. I’m not sure the timeline on that. Certainly he won’t be ready to practice this week or next, but soon after that he’ll be close. A couple weeks here.”

On how frustrated he’s gotten this season: “It is. It’s part of the job. It goes with the territory. It’s frustrating at times, but I’m not discouraged. It’s an ongoing building situation and I’m pleased with some things and frustrated with others. That’s fair to say. No coach in any situation — even though you know the obstacles, you know what you’re up against — nobody likes losing. We practice and play to win and prepare to win, and you want to see progress, and I think we’ve seen progress at times, and then you’ve seen us not play as well as we could at times. And no matter what the opponent is or whether it’s an uphill climb or not, you just want to do the very best you can. And that’s what frustrates a coach sometimes, I think. Win or lose, if we play our very best you can accept that. And I think there’s certainly things we could do better.”

On how many times this year he thinks they’ve played their best: “It’s hard to say. I haven’t thought about it like that. But I think we haven’t been consistent, like you’ve heard me talk about over and over again. For us to win games against quality opponents, we have to play our best on all sides on that given Saturday, and we haven’t done that enough. That’s for sure.”

NEAL BROWN
Opening statement: “I thought we’d talk a little basketball in here today. Let’s stay on the upbeat today. We got back to work today. It was good energy. Focused on a lot of fundamental things that we’ve got to do to get better and started a little bit of Louisville.”

On scout team standouts: “I’ll talk about the guys that I see on an every day basis because of the guys we go against. I’ve been really impressed with Denzil Ware. I think he’s got what it takes to be an edge rusher in this league, especially in the three-down front stuff that we’re doing. I like his demeanor. He’s got a good burst. He’s getting better going against our two tackles. Adrian Middleton is a kid that I think is showing signs. He’s strong, really technically sound. Nico (Firios), he flies around. He breaks up a lot of our stuff. I like his demeanor. I like how he attacks every day. He takes advantage. You’ve got some guys that feel sorry for themselves for being on scout team. Maybe a little bit moody. He gets it, man. He sees the light at the end of the tunnel, and he uses this to get better every day. Then Jared Tucker. We always make Jared Tucker be the guy that’s the other team’s best corner. I like his — he’s got good ability. He’s got good ball skills. As far as the guys with us that are on the scout team over there, I think Bunchy Stallings is a guy that Coach Brumbaugh and Coach Stoops and Coach Eliot, those guys, are talking a lot about. I’m excited about him because he’s versatile. Really quick. Trying to think if there’s anybody else. I’m excited about that group of redshirt freshmen o-linemen: Nick Richardson, Josh Krok, (Jarrett) LaRubbio. I’m excited about that group as a whole.”

On how important bowl practices would be for young offensive players: “It would be huge. It really would. I think — we went good against good a lot today in some of our passing stuff. Just to watch — our young receivers, they’re getting better. Now sometimes the results don’t show it, but they are. They’re getting better. Like every day we go out — and the guys that are redshirting too. Jeff Badet out there today made a really good play. So the 15 practices that you get in that bowl would be a really huge benefit for us. No. 1 — we talk about losing Darrian (Miller) — it would get us a step ahead at filling that other tackle spot. Then we’ve got to get more consistent play inside and give those redshirt guys an opportunity to go in there and compete, show us what they can do in spring ball. The same thing at wideout. We’re going to have a lot of competition there in the spring, and I think it would be a great benefit to us if we could start that in December also.”

On benefit of a week off for coaches to catch their breath, regroup and self-evaluate: “It is. Nah, it is. It’s a benefit. There’s no doubt. It gives you an opportunity to catch your breath. We do a lot of evaluation. Like over the last couple of days I’ve watched every play that we’ve had. Kind of broke it down to every play by different formations and personnel groupings then kind of identifying some problems that have been consistent and going about fixing some things. But I think it’s huge for coaches. I don’t know, I haven’t looked it up, but that’s got to be up there. That’s a long run. Eight straight games. Seven of those SEC games, and I think we caught at least two teams, maybe a third team, coming off a bye week. So, it’s a tough stretch, but it is what it is.”

On how revelatory the breakdown of every play was: “We’ve been inconsistent on offense, but it’s not consistently the same thing. Does that make sense? It’s been different things at different times. In the passing game for instance, we may not protect well up front, the receiver may be open and we can’t get him the ball. We may protect well with the running backs and o-line and we get beat in man coverage. We may do both of those and then miss the throw. So it’s not one thing that we’re consistently doing poorly. It’s just we’re not functioning as a unit as well as we should.”

D.J. ELIOT
Opening statement: “We had a good practice today; a good bye week to go back to fundamentals. That’s what we harped on, that’s what we’re harping on this week. We were able to get some good work in today, which we needed, so we’re excited about practice tomorrow and getting better tomorrow, too.”

On how valuable bye week is for coaches: “Bye weeks are always good, a chance to freshen up and look at different things and harp on fundamentals in practice and that’s what’s good about this week as well.”

On playing eight games in a row: “Yep. Playing eight in a row is challenging and it’s good to have this bye week before the last game.”
On any red-shirt standouts he sees on scout team: “Um, we have a number of guys who have done some good things over there on the scout team and to point just a couple out, that wouldn’t be something I could do right now. Different days different guys have done different things. And we’re excited about that young group.”

On how much more they can focus on fundamentals during a bye week: “Well, when you’re practicing for a regular week, a lot of time is spent on assignment because the game is closing in on you on Saturday and when you don’t have a game on Saturday, then you can focus more on fundamentals and that’s why bye weeks are good in that aspect.”

On how much of week is Louisville and how much is just focusing on individual players: “A lot of it is just them; a lot of it is just them, but we’re working on that as well, on Louisville, just concentrating on getting them better.”

On Dorian Hendrix and Nico Firios: “Nico and Dorian are good, young players. It’s good to redshirt sometimes because you can get into college football at your own pace. That’s what’s been good for these guys. They’ve been able to make incremental gains throughout the season in certain aspects of their play and I’m excited about the future with them.”

On if guys were beaten up and beaten down: “We did. We had some guys that were beat up. We had some guys that were warn down at time, but that’s part of the league, you know. That’s the SEC. We all deal with that and that’s why it’s good to get the bye week this week.”

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Stoops’ comments after Tennessee loss

MARK STOOPS
“Tough, tough loss there. Give Tennessee credit. They beat us. They outcoached us, outplayed us. They were very prepared, very energetic. They had two weeks to prepare and did a heck of a job. We obviously got off to a good start, moving the football, got the three points and just had our difficulties there through the first half, obviously. Didn’t sustain any drives, didn’t get a lot of stops. Again, give them credit. They took care of business. As I told you last week, much the same — we’re a 5-6 football team. We need this bye right now. Our team needs to heal up. I have no problem with our team’s attitude and their effort. And some people may have a hard time understanding that when you get beat 50 to — what was it 50-13? Fifty to 16. But I really do. I think our guys really want to play well. I thought they really prepared well, really tried to come in with a good mindset, and really I thought gave good effort.

“We were exploited at certain positions. As I said going into this game, they stress you because of what they’re doing offensively, and they had some very good playmakers that made us miss. They made some very big plays and we didn’t. We had opportunities for stops and just different things throughout the game. You all saw it. It was difficult. When you have sacks and instead you don’t get a sack, they get a 30-yard gain, it’s hard to overcome those things. So again, give them credit. I think Butch and their staff is doing a heck of a job. And I thought — and I said it all the time, coming into this game — It thought they were a very hungry bunch. I thought they were a hungry group, and you could see that tonight. They had a lot of energy coming off that bye, playing at home, and they really played well. Give them credit for taking care of business.

On having a defensive mindset as a coach and giving up 113 points and more than 1,000 yards the past two games: “Well, it’s tough. It’s very difficult. As I said, we had opportunities, and we got guys that we need to coach better, and we need to play better.”

On Patrick Towles’ injury: “It was his ankle. He twisted his ankle, went into the locker room. I think they cut off the tape and re-taped him and he came back out. I think he was questioning whether he could play or not and he came in and got moving around and gave a good effort for us.”

On how much of a blow it was to have to insert Reese Phillips after a strong first drive: “It doesn’t help. Doesn’t help.”

On how he knows he hasn’t lost the team: “I know. I really do. I really am — I’m proud of this team, and that’s hard to say. Y’all will point out all the negatives, and that’s your job, I understand that, believe me. I’m a big boy and that goes with the territory. But I really am, I’m proud of them. They did some good things. We’re 5-6 and we’re in the middle of a tough stretch right now. I don’t think — and I would never say this before the game, and I’m never gonna give an out for any of us — we didn’t have a lot in our tank. And we physically — even them, it was a physical game. They got some injuries. We’ve got some injuries today. Our guys are banged up. They need a couple days to decompress here a little bit and get a little energy back in their step. Physically and mentally just recharge a little bit. But I don’t worry about that at all. I know they need a couple days off, and we’ll come back and prepare. They really prepared well this week. I just didn’t know how much we had in the tank.”

On how they fix tackling issues: “We need to be more physical. We need to recruit and develop. I don’t even want to go there. It’s hard. Things don’t happen overnight. We need to continue to pound the weight room. We need to continue to recruit and get our players better and bigger. One thing I’m noticing in this stretch, and I think y’all can see it, too — we need to be more physical. We need bigger. We need to be bigger and stronger. And that’s what we got to do.”

On how much the SEC is about catching teams at the right and wrong time: “It is what it is. Generally speaking, I think it’s fair to say that in this conference it’s quite obvious where you catch teams at the right time or the wrong time. I think anybody will tell you that that coaches. But we’ll never give our team an out. It’s just a fact. It’s a very demanding conference, and you have to be physical. You wonder why I say offensively you have to run the ball. You have to, because games like this where you can’t throw it, you have to be able to move the chains and give your defense a break and change field position a little bit. And you have to find ways to find some balance. And you have to be physical or you’re never gonna sustain success in this league.”

On what told him they didn’t have much in the tank going in: “I just knew what our players had been through and (how) they’re practicing and all that. And I was concerned about it, I should say. I just wondered how much we had, because I thought we had good practices, we stayed with our plan, we stayed with the traditional week and the guys were good. They were really focused and practiced well. I think their attitude and their mind is right, we just — we got to all do things better.”

On how hard it is to not get caught up in the losses and look at this objectively: “It’s not easy. Nobody likes to lose. Our fans don’t. You reporters don’t that cover me every day. Nobody likes it. It’s not fun. And it’s difficult, but it is what it is. We all accept our responsibility. I appreciate our players’ effort. I think our coaches worked hard. We all can do things better and will do things better. This is not easy, and anybody that thought it was needs their head examined. As I said over and over, I know what we’re in for and I’m proud of the work that our players have done. We got a bye and we’ve got a big game left with our archrival, and we got two weeks to prepare. So I expect us to give everything for that last game.”

On Forrest having 20 tackles and Dupree 15 and what that says about their effort: “I thought we played with good effort. I really did. That’s kind of my point earlier where people might think I’m nuts, but I really do. I like our players’ effort. I thougth they were prepared to win the game and I thought we played hard. Not perfect. We didn’t coach well enough, and they made some individual plays that we need to get better and make, and we’ll get back to work.”

On what it’ll take to win at Louisville: “We got to get back and refocus. Like I said, I think a little bit of healing up will help us. They need a little bit of time to decompress. It’s always such a quick turnaround, certainly for coaches and players, from week to week. In the middle of a tough stretch, you got no time to dwell on any loss or anything. It’s difficult for those players, too, each week getting right back in there on Monday and us pushing them. I think they need a little time mentally and physically to heal up a little bit, then we’ll get right back to work. But we’re excited. That’s the good news. We’re excited. The team will be excited. We have an opportunity to win the last game, to be 6-6 and to go to a bowl game. So that’s good news.”

On J.D. Harmon: “We got real banged-up at corner again, so he went back to work. He’s a good kid and he’s gonna work hard and work to get better like all of us. It’s not any one guy ever.”

On if any of the injuries from today are significant: “I have no idea. Darrian is out and Kyle got hurt. Kyle looks like he got a pretty good ankle sprain. I have no idea how bad or whether it’s high or mid. I don’t know. Towles, from what I’m told, is a regular ankle sprain, not a high.”

On Darrian Miller’s injury: “Darrian  — I don’t know, let me think. It was a muscle. Muscle pull.”

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Stoops’ final thoughts before Tennessee

MARK STOOPS
“Good walk-through, good week. It really has been. It’s been a good week of practice. I thought Tuesday and Wednesday was very good. Today was our walk day and tomorrow we’ll go back outside and run through and hopefully have another good day. But it’s been a solid week. I think guys are focused and energetic and we’ll see if we can go on the road and play a complete game.”

On Blake Bone: “He’s practiced all week. He hasn’t hit anybody, but he’s practiced and been out there, so hopefully he can last through the game.”

On Za’Darius Smith: “Z hasn’t practiced much. He was out there today; it was just a walk, but he’ll run through tomorrow and we anticipate him playing. We’ll see how effective he is and how much he can go.”

On whether Smith can be fine with less practice: “Definitely, with the way we do it now, he can at least walk through on Thursday and get out there on Friday and get another day. He knows what to do as far as assignments and things like that. So we could sure use him if he can get out and play.”

On whether the team has bounced back emotionally: “I’ve seen good habits. Good energy, good work ethic. I see no lingering effects of a bad game and a few games here in a row. The guys seem prepared and excited, so like I said, we’ll see.”

On the ability to move on: “I think just in general you have to be that way. A lot of college kids are that way. As coaches, we live and die with this stuff, it’s our life. We’re completely consumed with it. But them, they have a lot of things going on, and they have school, friends and social life and all that good stuff, so I guess that’s good for them to be resilient. Coaches, it takes a little bit longer for us to get over things.”

On whether that means he has no friends or no social life: “After you lose a few games, you absolutely don’t.” (Laughs)

On Boom Williams wearing a red jersey when he got off the bus from practice: “That’s just precautionary. He certainly didn’t need to wear red today for a walkthrough. (Laughs). But he’ll be fine.”

On what makes Jalen Hurd a good back: “He’s just a complete running back. Just physically if you look at him, he reminds me of Adrian Peterson a little bit. Just that big tall, good-looking running back. Very dynamic player. He’s going to be a heck of a player. They do a nice job of trying to get him the ball in space in a lot of different ways. He looks like he has very good top-end speed and he has that way with some big backs to just be very elusive. Maybe doesn’t look as flashy as the little guys sometimes, but he’s always running away from people, running through people. He’s a very good player.”

On changing some things to get off to better starts: “I don’t know if there’s any magic formula other than us executing and playing well, making sure we have good play calls and having a good strong mindset. We always try to start fast. I think that’s a big part of some of the teams that we play; they always have good schemes and good game plans to get some first downs. So we need to try to do the same thing.”

On his overriding message to the team this week: “Well, you know, we just need to play a complete game. We haven’t played a complete football game. We need to do everything in our power throughout the week to have our preparation right. Guys need to get some sleep tonight and get in bed and come out tomorrow with a good run-through, and just have a strong mindset. We have to play a clean game and we’ve got to execute and we’ve got to play with great energy. You don’t go on the road and win in this conference with a weak mindset. So we need to be very united when we get on that bus and very energetic and play a solid game.”

On whether he can tell them to leave nothing in the tank with a bye week to recover after this: “We always do, but yeah, I think they feel that. I don’t point that out; I think they know that they have a bye week. So we’ve got a rivalry game on the road, big SEC game, so it’s a big football game for us.  We talked and pushed them all week, but I hope you don’t have to prod them too much. I hope they’re excited and ready to go.”

On mobile QBs like Joshua Dobbs presenting problems for defenses: “I was gonna say — you were gonna single us out — I was gonna say, ‘Well, look around.’ They cause problems for a lot of people. They just do. They put a lot of stress on you. I’ve said it. You’ve heard the quote from me many times that they stress a defense because, No. 1, there’s a variety of runs and misdirection plays, and then when you can throw it off of it, you get a lot of one-on-one matchups to very talented wide receivers. And then sometimes you think you have things covered and then they pull the ball down and run and scramble and get that third down or create, move the chains, and that’s putting pressure on you as well. Therefore you got to be careful with your rushes.”

On whether Dobbs is any different because he’s not as proven as a passer as a Dak Prescott: “I mean, if you really just watch him in the last game and a half, he’s thrown the ball really well. He really has. I think you look at styles, and we all try to adapt and get to something that we can execute. They’ve certainly found something with the way they’re calling plays, with the style that they’re calling them, and it suits him. It fits him. So he’s running it and throwing it very well. The proof’s in the pudding. The proof’s in the numbers here the last game and three quarters. So I don’t buy that. I think it’s different when you’re a drop-back quarterback team, when maybe early in the season it’s just a different style, what they’re doing right now.”

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D.J. Eliot previews Tennessee

D.J. ELIOT
“We had a good Wednesday practice. Guys were flying around and staying warm, for the most part, so that’s a good thing, and were into it. We’re harping on fundamentals, and for the most part we were able to do that today.”

On if Blake McClain practiced: “Yes. Blake’s practicing, and things are going good. We got a big week this week getting ready for Tennessee, and we got to have all hands on deck.”

On Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs: “Anytime you play an athletic quarterback, you got that threat of the Q run game, which is tough to defend, and then on top of that, containing him on pass plays. So he is a talented athlete that can hit you on both those areas.”

On if Za’Darius Smith practiced: “Yes. Yep. We had him out there. We got to make sure that everybody’s ready to go, and we’ve concentrated on fundamentals, and that’s what we’re harping on this week.”

On what the defense’s mood was like after Saturday: “Everybody was disappointed and frustrated from the loss. But you got no other options in this league. You got to get on to next week, so that was our approach.”

On players like Jabari Johnson and Khalid Henderson being demoted: “Week to week we evaluate our players and we — some guys can win jobs at practice, which is what I think you’re referring to — and Flannigan has started for us and he’s earned that starting job and he’s going to continue to get better and doing some good things.”

On if lack of interceptions has been about coverage lapses or something else: “We haven’t had that many lapses in coverage; we’ve had some one-on-ones that we haven’t necessarily won all the time. If we’d won some of those, they would’ve been converted into interceptions.”

On if he’s surprised by tackling struggles vs. Georgia: “Fundamentally we’ve struggled that week on winning one on ones, tackling being one of those, but we’ve put an emphasis on that to get better at.”

On if teams are trying to attack UK on the ground: “I anticipate people will try to attack us in the run game. That’s something we’re harping on getting better every week.”

On if there are specific things you can do vs. run quarterbacks: “There are. You have to be very sound in your pass rush lanes on pass plays. And then on your run plays, you always have to be aware of where he is and be able to get off blocks. Sometimes when the quarterback is involved in the run game, you don’t have enough numbers to stop him, so somebody has to get off a block and make a play.”

On if Dobbs would be similar to Mizzou QB Maty Mauk: “Uh, yes, he’s an athletic quarterback in the pass game. Yep, he is. He’s an athletic quarterback in the pass game that you gotta contain.”

On anyone else from UT jump out: “Well, they’ve got a good amount of players that we’re gonna have to defend, and they’re talented at running back; they’re talented at wide receiver. It’s not just one guy that we’re gonna have to stop.”

On whether Dobbs is dramatically different from last year against UK: “I think that he’s more mature. I think that he feels – or looks like he’s more comfortable. There are some things that he did similar to last year, but he’s grown as a player, too. So there’s a lot of things that he does different, too.”

On if it’s tougher to prepare for a QB who has only really played the last two weeks: “Can be. Can be. You just do what you have and you prepare and then you anticipate things, and you prepare for those, too.”

On UT’s tailback Jalen Hurd: “Like a lot of backs in this league, he has size that goes with speed, goes with change of direction. Those type of running backs, the ones that not only can make you miss or hit you on the long ball but can also run you over, they’re tough to defend.”

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Mark Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“It’s been a good start to the week for us as we’re looking to continue to improve. Looking forward to another great challenge this week as we go on the road and play a Tennessee team this week that I think is a lot like us: working extremely hard to improve. Doing some good things at times and being inconsistent at times. I’m sure it’s frustrating on both of us, but I see a team that is very hungry and plays extremely hard, is a very well coached team. We’ll have our hands full; they’re coming off a bye, so see if we can get down there and improve.”

On play of Patrick Towles: “Like much of our team, a little bit inconsistent. I think he’s done some very good things and some things where he’s a work in progress. So I think inconsistent is what jumps out at you. But overall, if you just look at his whole body of work through the first 10 games, I think he’s done a very good job, just a little bit inconsistent, I’d say. He’s had his moments where he’s looked extremely sharp.”

On if recent games are indicative of injuries, better competition, being tired: “I think it’s a combination of all the things you just touched on. I think it’s the competition level of those teams and what they’re doing offensively. They’re very difficult to stop. I think some of it is matchup issues with us. You know everybody’s banged up. We’re not as deep as we’d like to be. We play guys a lot of snaps throughout the year, sometimes that catches up with you. We’ve got to continue to do a good job of developing our young players and getting more depth in our program, but it is what it is. No excuse there. We need to do some things better and I think some of these teams have a lot to do with it. I think you have to compliment Georgia, offensively last week they really played at an extremely high level and (it) presents some problems. Anytime you can be as physical as they want to be with the talented running backs and the physical front and then throw the ball, and win some one-on-one matchups outside, it’s a bad matchup. That’s part of it. If you look at some of the — Mississippi State and LSU — some of the teams and what they’re doing, a lot of that was about on their average, about what they (average). Obviously, we haven’t played as good as we can or need to, but I think they’re pretty darn good as well.”

On how Demarco Robinson is better this year than last: “He’s a much better player. He’s been much more consistent. He’s one of the guys as we talk about — you hear me talk a lot, you being a local here and around — you hear me talk about the inconsistencies of our team. He is one of the guys on offense (who) you can really count on. You know what you’re getting out of Demarco, and I think that’s the big difference between this year and last year. Last year he was the same way, a little up and a little down. You didn’t know what you were gonna get. With Demarco right now, we what we’re getting out of him, and that I can’t say for a lot of our team. But with him, you know you’re gonna get the effort and the execution, so I’ve been pleased with him and what he’s done.”

On if he’s more proud of Robinson on the field or how he’s grown up off the field: “It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? It correlates the same way. That’s how it works. When you grow up and you mature and you take care of your business of the field, generally you’re more productive on the field. And that’s certainly the case with Demarco, and so I’m very proud of him in both ways, off the field and on. But I guess if you were to ask me, yeah, I’m more proud of what he’s done off the field, because that’s what we’re here for, to help them grow. And he’s really come a long way and really changed his life.”

On if he puts Bud Dupree in a class with some of the best defensive ends he’s coached: “Yeah, I just left Florida State and we had quite a few guys there, Bjorn (Werner) and Tank (Carradine) and Brandon Jenkins and a lot of good players, and of course going back to even some guys at Arizona we had and way back to Miami, I put Bud up there with some of the best I’ve been around and ever had the pleasure to coach or be on their team. I think he is just — if we were just doing what we did at Florida State and he was just putting his hand in the dirt and rushing every snap, his numbers would be through the roof. We are doing an awful lot with him right now because he is versatile. He drops about half the time. He rushes about half the time. So his production as far as sacks and tackles for loss aren’t as high as they would be if we were just playing four down all the time. And I think that will help him at the next level. I think he’s very versatile. I think he’ll be and outside backer. Really, he can do whatever they want him to do at the next level. I really believe that. I think that’s why he’ll be a high pick. And, just very proud of Bud. He’s a pleasure to work with, he always works hard, he has a great attitude, he’s talented and he picks things up very well. So, I wish I had a bunch more like him.”

On his impressions of Hutson Mason: “Yeah, I was just impressed. I think he’s a very good player. I don’t know, just a very good leader, it seems like and just very efficient. So, we had our hands full, that’s for sure.”

On if Georgia’s success was a matchup issue: “I just think they’ve very good. They really are. They won a lot of one-on-ones, and threw the ball well, caught it well, ran it well, did a lot of things well. I was just a little bit disappointed. I think we didn’t make any competitive plays. I want to say we made one, one competitive play. So, again, I think they have a lot to do with that. They played very well. They had a very strong attitude and just executed and played well.”

On if Lorenzo Carter had shown up in scouting Georgia before his big game: “No. Didn’t jump out at me, but I mean, shoot, they got a lot of good guys. It’s hard to keep track of all of them. Didn’t change their scheme much, so.”

On saying his approach last week didn’t work in firing up the team, so what was his approach yesterday when meeting with them: “Well, you know, and the thing is, maybe that’s a little bit out of context. I know what it got to, or who it gets to and who it doesn’t. You know, the bottom line is you gotta get to the whole team. So if you’ve watched us, which I know you have, we come out and we play lights out on one side of the ball or the other. Two weeks ago, everybody was talking about how good the defense played and how poor the offense played, right? At Missouri, right? You know, and played a very good special-teams game against a very good special-teams unit at Missouri. And then we played bad offensively. Then we come back the next week and we play terrible defensively and play pretty efficient offensively and poor on special teams.

“So, you know, if we had the magic formula – if I could wave that magic wand and get to every (one of the) 100 guys, then we’d be ginning. You know what I mean? It’s just – it’s a mystery. It’s frustrating because we’re inconsistent. To beat good football teams, you have to play good – or at least as good as you can – in all phases. We haven’t done that lately, and that’s what gets frustrating. I’m tired of going back and forth where the offense plays well and then the defense and vice versa and all that. We need to be a complete football team, and we haven’t done that. So you’re always reaching for that magic formula. So we’ll see.”

On if he’s using a sixth win and bowl berth as motivation for this team now: “Yeah, I think it’s important. Our team knows it. They know. Our team, they understand that it’s important to get that sixth win. It’s a little bit different this week, because we’re playing a rival. We’re playing Tennessee, we’re on the road, and then we have a bye. So it’s kind of odd to have that bye before your last game of the year, but it is what it is. So I think it’s OK to talk about that. Whatever, by any means necessary, to get our team motivated to go out and play a good game this week, we’ll try it all. Our team knows. They want a sixth win. It’s important. We do discuss it a little bit, but that shouldn’t be your primary motivation. We should be motivated to go out and play because it’s a rival and it’s a big SEC opponent on the road.”

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Neal Brown previews Tennessee

NEAL BROWN
“Happy Veteran’s Day to everybody. Want to thank all veterans there. This goes out to all of John Clay’s followers. No, I want to — In all seriousness, Veteran’s Day, sometimes I think this gets overlooked, but I want to give my appreciation for all the veterans. We talked about it with our players today. Something that definitely in this building we don’t take lightly, so appreciate those who served.

“Wrap up Georgia, some things we did. In the second quarter against Georgia we played as good as we have all year. I thought we did some really good things. We’ve got to figure out a way to get started faster. We kind of had a dull there, a lull there at the first of the game and a lull in the third quarter. I was proud of the kids for fighting at the end. We did finish. Sometimes we have not finished those type games very well, but we did. It’s a sign that we are growing. Obviously we’re inconsistent, not playing as consistent as we would like, but there were some real positives out of that game. Like I said, I thought we did play as good in the (second) quarter as we played all year. The main positive was we were able to run the ball against a team until the Florida game that had played really good against the other opponents running the ball — tripped over myself there. But, I think we ran the ball for 214 yards, which was a positive, something we really felt like we need to do to give us a chance week in and week out. So we ran the ball better. Our o-line played much improved. I think we got credited with three sacks, but two of them were on the tight end so our o-line only had one sack. I was proud of how they protected. Probably as good — and Georgia did a lot of things with their blitzes and all that type stuff — probably as good running back and o-line as we’ve protected in the two years.

“So there were some positives. Sometimes you look at the score and you get lost in what it was, but there were some positives for us. I thought we played improved from where we were at at Missouri. Obviously not pleased with the result at all, but we did make a step last week.

“Tennessee, excited about it, rivalry game. It is. That’s not something we’re trying to hide from. It is a rivalry game. I think it’s up to us to withhold our end of the rivalry. Kentucky has not always done that. But it’s an important game for us. I think Mark talked about it yesterday: we’re 5-5 and the next one we’ve got is Tennessee and then we finish up with another rivalry game against Louisville.

“You look at Tennessee, I think the No. 1 thing that jumps out to me is they’re playing really really hard. I think that’s a credit to their coaching staff. They are. They’re playing hard, and they play aggressive. I think it all starts for them with A.J. Johnson, if not the best player in our conference on defense he’s in the conversation. A guy that will be a high draft pick, and he’s playing with a lot of passion. He not only tackles you, he tries to hurt you. He’s aggressive. He’s been playing — seems like he’s been playing forever. I was hoping he was going to leave and go to the draft last year, but he ended up coming back. But it all starts with him. The other linebacker, No. 34, he’s playing at a really high level also. Interior wise, they’re playing a lot of young guys. No. 9, Derek Barnett, his sack totals are really high. The thing when you’re looking at it as a total on defense, they’ve got a lot of sacks and a lot of tackles for loss. They’re really active up front, and they’ve got a corner, No. 23, that has a lot of length. Some of those long guys have given us issues earlier in the year. So with that, questions.”

On needing to start faster even considering as good as they played offensively vs. Georgia and how nice it would be not to have to play from behind: “I didn’t say good now. I didn’t say good. Better. Better (Laughter). That’s not all defense. That’s us too. We had a chance. We got the ball at 7-0, we had a chance to get back in the game. And that’s been the case. At the start of the year we got off to some really good starts and scored points, got up on people early, and then in the last few weeks we have not started well at the beginning of the game. So we’ve got to figure out — we’ll change some things, how we go about calling the game early and I think that will help.”

On how much of a different it would have made to have a healthy Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet this season: “Well, I mean there’s no question. If we had Alex and Jeff it would have been helpful for sure. You know, and I think you look at the maturation of Demarco (Robinson) in the second year of the offense and how much better he’s gotten, I think you would have seen a similar — you know, I don’t know because Demarco is older, being a senior and all that — but I think you would have seen a similar jump from year one to year two. I’ve been watching our Tennessee game last year, and Jeff Badet played at a high level. I was sitting there watching it last night and I texted him and said, ‘Man, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you. I’m excited about your play. This is your last game last year and you played at a high level.’ So I know this redshirt year will pay off for him. So no doubt it would’ve provided us some depth and we would’ve been able to play some more guys and things like that. In the long run, it will be beneficial to those guys, to get a redshirt. Anytime you can redshirt, it’s a benefit. So when Alex and Jeff get back — hopefully in bowl prep — we’ll see some improvement from those guys.”

On if it was tempting to add Montgomery a couple of weeks ago: “It was. It was and he would have. He would’ve answered the bell, no question. At the end of the day, we just didn’t think it was fair to him. There’d been so many games passed by and he hadn’t gone live, anything live at that point and he still hasn’t. So he’s running around and he’s running full-speed routes and he looks good, but at the same time, it’s a little bit different when people are diving at your legs and stuff. I think it was a smart move to wait until the spring.”

On success with two fullbacks and if he’ll use that in the future: “Yeah, I think so. Jeff Witthuhn came in and did a really good job. He played 19 snaps and graded out really high and we’ll continue to use him. Since Borden’s been out, we’ve been looking for somebody to step up and Jeff did that and gave us some quality snaps. And those two guys, D.J. Warren and Jeff Witthuhn, they cleared some space for those some of those runs, a lot of those runs, actually, especially in the bone set there.”

On Timmons dropping to second team on depth chart: “I think Mark talked about it yesterday. It’s performance based. He can play better. He does some things really well. He does some things really well. When the ball’s in his hands, he’s probably our most elusive guy, he and Boom (Williams) are probably our most elusive guys with the ball in his hands. He’s just got to be consistent. He’s got to catch the ball. He’s had some big drops. I’ve got 100 percent faith in him. He’s lost a little bit of confidence, he can’t do it. He’s got the ability to be a great player. He’s just got to be consistent. He understands that; he understands that. And I think when he gets opportunities this week, he’ll make the most of them.”

On if there’s anything Timmons still needs to figure out: “He can be more detail oriented in his route running. He can. And he’s got to catch the ball more consistently. Those are the two things. He is a lot better player. You can click on the video from last year. I’ve been watching the Tennessee game and he’s a lot better player than he was a year ago. There’s some things he can still do better. He’s playing harder than he was earlier in the year, so that’s coming along. It’s a process. For any great player in high school, they’re only asked to — what we’re asking them to do is totally different than what they’re asked to do in high school — for Ryan and a lot of different people.”

On Joey Herrick: “He plays the game the right way. He plays hard, plays physical, does exactly what he’s coached to do repeatedly and when he’s got opportunities — like the other day, he made a big third-down catch — got straight up the field, got 6 yards after the catch and that’s it. He blocks. He aligns correctly every time. He gives us some stability there.”

On dealing with young players and being able to point to a consistent player: “It’s huge. It’s huge because he’s somebody we can point to and say hey listen, ‘Here’s a guy, he’s a walkon right now. He’s walked on here.’ Look, he plays disciplined. People always wonder what does discipline mean. It means doing what you’re coached to do repeatedly. That’s what it means. He does that. That’s why he’s played a lot of meaningful snaps.”

On if he’s followed what Jalen Whitlow and Dy’Shawn Mobley have done at their new places: “No. No. I wish those guys the best, but no I haven’t really followed them. I know Eastern’s having a good year, that’s about it.”

On Towles staying in pocket: “Yeah, there were three or four times where — two third downs in particular where he jetted out of there — he’s got to trust the protection and it’s got to be blind trust. We’ve had our protection issues at points this year without question, but Saturday wasn’t one of those. We protect the ball, we protected him really well and he got a little antsy and he caught himself looking at the rush and that’s one of the Cardinal sins at quarterback is you can’t look at the rush. And two times, for sure, he glanced down at the rush and got out. And I think it’s a fine line. You don’t want to take that liberty away from him, because a lot of the big plays he’s made are him scrambling around – kind of those, ‘Oh, what are you doing? What are you doing? OK, good, first down. Let’s go.’ So I think you gotta – you want to harness it a little bit, but you also don’t want to take his playmaking ability away. So I think we just point out: ‘Hey, you gotta have trust in the offensive line; you gotta have trust in the running backs. Take your drop, go through your progression; if nothing’s there, then go escape.’ ”

On if this team has the fortitude to come back from four straight losses: “I hope so. I think the question’s there until we do it. I mean, I have faith in them. I like the kids we have. I think we got good kids. I think we got quality individuals in our room. But I think that’s a quality question until we do it. If we bounce back, then yeah, we know the answer to it. If we go out and have a lackluster performance, then the question’s still up in the air. So I want to say yes. I want to believe in my heart yes. But until we do it, I think it’s still a question.”

On what T.V. Williams has to do to play more: “Yeah, there’s just some guys in front of him right now.”

On Jojo Kemp and if the other guys are just playing better: “Yeah, that’s it. And I think Mark talked about that yesterday, too. There’s some guys – Jojo did some really good things in the Wildcat, was playing a lot better at the Wildcat than he was at the natural running back position. And then people have done some things to negate the Wildcat plays that we’ve had. We didn’t use it last week. The two games prior to that, we didn’t have a whole lot of success with it. But no, I’m a fan of Jojo. Right now, (Braylon) Heard and Stanley (Williams) in particular are playing at a little bit higher level.”

On if Kemp is exclusively his Wildcat guy then: “Well, I think it’s a week-to-week (thing). It’s like I said last week: Those running backs are kind of judged each week. I think we were trying to play too many guys early in the year, and I don’t think you can get anybody in a rhythm. So that’s one thing I thought we did a good job of on Saturday; Stanley and Braylon got in a rhythm there. And you’ve gotta feed running backs, and you can’t play four. So that deal is evaluated each week.”

On if he’s had to find roles for the fullbacks or been forced to use them because of tight end struggles: “Well, I think it’s a multitude. We talked about Joey Herrick. Well, D.J. Warren is a kid that’s dependable and he’s accountable and I know exactly what I’m getting. I think I sat in here the other day and talked about, ‘I know what I’m getting from Darrian Miller. I know what I’m getting from Jordan Swindle. I know what I’m getting from D.J. Warren. Joey Herrick’s a guy I know what I’m getting out of. And D.J.’s been consistent. We’ve found ways for him – truthfully, early last year it was because of what our wideout situation was, so we were in a lot more 21 personnel, playing tight ends – Jordan Aumiller and Tyler Robinson and those guys – and a fullback probably more so than I ever had, just because of where we were at with our wide receiver numbers.

“And then D.J. did some really good things. So did Cody Jones, who played a lot last year. And then D.J. had a really good spring, really good fall, and now I’m looking for ways to get him in the game. He’s averaging anywhere from 20 to 30 snaps a game, and that’s probably a good number for him, and he’s been really effective. He’s played physical. He’s got good hands. We tried to leak him out the other day on third-and-1. They covered him. But he’s a guy that I do now – to answer your question – I do, I like for ways to get him in the game. In the Bone set, where we put the fullback, tight end or two fullbacks and the running back, has been one of our better sets.”

On how much UK has missed a reliable tight end this season: “Yeah, well, we need one. We need one. I thought Borden was doing some good things, and then Shields was being effective as the second-team guy getting in there and playing. But we need more productivity out of there. There are some things – I think that’s a priority in recruiting. I think hopefully we’ve addressed that. Darryl Long is a guy that, hopefully we can win this game and get in bowl prep where we can get him (work). That’s huge. That’s the thing that doesn’t get talked about a lot. When you get bowl eligible and you get those guaranteed practices in December, it really helps your program, because all those guys that are redshirting now get a lot – that’s like a whole other spring practice.”

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Third down for what?

There are loads of similarities between the rebuilding effort going on at Tennessee and the one at Kentucky, but another sort of fun similarity in the past few days is that both teams have attracted musical guests.

For UK, it was Kevin Richardson of Backstreet Boys fame singing the national anthem before the Georgia game. For Tennessee, it’s a relationship with rapper Lil Jon.

The Vols’ marketing team took his rap song “Turn Down for What?” and turned it into a “Third Down for What” remake that fills up the stadium on opponents’ third-down plays.

It’s seemingly worked out well for Tennessee, which is holding opponents to 34.8 percent in that stat, 25th in the nation. The hidden stat in that, though, is that the Vols are way better on the road on third down, allowing opponents to convert on 30.9 percent (13th nationally) versus at Neyland Stadium, where opponents are converting on 37.5 percent of their tries on that down, which is 68th in the country.

The rapper visited practice recently, UT Coach Butch Jones said.

“I know our players enjoyed that,” he said. “That’s the power of Tennessee. He was in town and wanted to come over and be a part of practice and all of that. It was great to see.”

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