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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Mark Stoops previews Tennessee

MARK 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 seemed like they settled in on a quarterback who’s made a big difference. They’ve extremely explosive in the past game and three quarters since he’s taken over. Very well coached team, team that’s hungry, that 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.”

On if he decided to throw out the tape of the Georgia game: “No. We obviously 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. So, we’ll 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.”

On how much of Saturday’s game was Georgia being locked in and how much was their mistakes: “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 basically on everybody they’ve played. They played extremely well. They were just like you would expect any good team: 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, in that you look at some of the throws that they made and they were 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.”

On injury updates for Za’Darius Smith, Blake McClain, Steven Borden and Regie Meant: “Borden has been iffy, he’s tried to come back each week and just hasn’t been ready. Za’Darius, he’s hopeful, he thinks he’ll play. He’s got an ankle sprain. It’s a regular ankle. It’s not high or anything like that, so he should be back. Reggie and Blake 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.”

On what Regie Meant’s injury is: “He had a shoulder as well.”

On if Ryan Timmons demotion on the depth chart is performance related: “It is. 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 two and push him.”

On what he’s not getting out of Jojo Kemp lately: “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 and really I like Jojo personally. I think he has a positive effect on the team, and he has a role. So the other guys are‑‑ you know, we feel are giving us a better chance in the run game.”

On if in general the sophomores who had to play as true freshmen last year have made the jump he wanted from year one to year two: “It’s hard to just 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. You know, 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 up’s and down’s, certainly with a team like ours. We’re not nearly as consistent as I want to be or our fans want to be or our team wants to be. We’re just not a consistent team yet, so we’re going to have some up’s and down’s.”

On if he has to try to keep things in perspective considering five wins is a step up from recent seasons: “Yeah, I do. I do have to find myself sitting back and saying, OK, 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. 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 ‘em 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 just 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 them again: the fact of the matter is we’re 5-5. We’re a .500 football team and we have two big games left starting with our first rival. We’ve got two big rival games left and let’s put that together this week and go have a great week.”

On if not getting that sixth win would be a big disappointment: “I think you are. You know I’m quite disappointed whenever we lose, no matter who we are playing and what the situation it is. That’s the mentality our team has to have as well. I believe they do. We’re not perfect but we’re going to give it everything we have this week.”

On what concerns you most about Tennessee: “Since they’ve gone to 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 and his staff always offensively have been so creative. They’ve moved the football. Heck, look at the numbers, I want to say 600 and whatever, almost wanna say (650) 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.”

On tackling issues from Georgia game: “Yeah, always, tackling is a big part of how you play defensively and position on the ball.

It will be, you know, hard, because they do a nice job of getting the ball in space to some playmakers. You know, even with the running back there, the freshman running back, Hurd, they get him the ball in some space, he’s tough to tackle. They’re a good team and they put some pressure on you with what they’re doing.”

On struggles with tackling and if that’s a frustration: “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.”

On the mental makeup of the team after four losses: “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 really got to get that attitude right and have the a great week and put everything we can into this week and then he we get the bye — the off week — to heal up a little bit and get a little extra preparation time so we’ll see.”

On what tactic you try when challenging manhood didn’t work: “You have to be in the team meeting to see that, they’ll figure it out.”

On if we can or cannot hear it on the street this week: “That’s right, you won’t hear it on the street. But it didn’t ‑‑ 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 it’s 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 I think we’re still striving to get there and put it all together and play a complete game.”

On if he changes the road game preparation for this week: “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.”

On Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet and if they’ve healed up well: “Yeah, 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.”

On when he pondered bringing him back: “It was a few games back where it was getting close. 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 he thought it could help us win a game but I don’t think that’s the right thing to do for that young man.”

On Jeff Badet: “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 the other guys, I don’t know without all the reps.”

On what was concerning and not concerning when he looked at special teams: “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 having the attitude to do what you’re asked to do. And I’ve got a certain player out there that did not do that, and that’s a choice. And that’s aggravating. And that’s something that probably bothers me as much as anything, because shoot, man, you know what it comes down to: You’ve got a special teams coach that I’m breathing down his neck. You’ve got all y’all breathing down his neck and my neck and everything else. And everybody’s accountable. We all are, starting with me. It goes right down to the players. And there were some plays there that I thought were not acceptable, and it’s certain guys that I’ve rewarded with scholarships and done some things and put it out there to help him, and he’s making the decision not to help us by doing his own thing.”

On covering Tennessee’s big receivers: “It’s difficult. I think you know, you watch our games, we have some issues out there from time to time with matchups. There is no easy way. There’s teams that can run the ball and they have size outside and can throw it. There’s no way around it. We’ve got to win some one‑on‑ones, we can’t put two guys on all of ‘em. 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‑ones.”

On Jordan Swindle having nine illegal procedure penalties and if there’s a breaking point with that: “There was a breaking point. We pulled him out right after that. You know, 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.”

On if it’s going to take more than one or two recruiting classes to realistically compete with the kind of teams they’ve played the past four weeks: “Well, 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.”

On if some of the tackling issues stem from players playing a lot of downs against such good teams: “It hurts. It hurts. The depth hurts, but we’re trying to get a few more guys in, and we did. Ryan Flannigan played better and we need that.”

On how you handle the freelancer on special teams: “Can’t trust him, can’t play him.”

On why UK hasn’t been as competitive elsewhere on the road as it was in Gainesville: “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 and mentality. Talked about it all week, started on Monday, just 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 it’s back to the inconsistency of a complete team.”

On how Patrick Towles played Saturday: “I thought he did some good things. I think y’all saw that. He got a little antsy at times and got out of the pocket when he maybe didn’t need to. There were some throws in there if he just 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. 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.”

On what Boom Williams needs to do better: “Just 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 runs. 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. Sometimes we’re doing our own things right from the start and we can’t do that.”

On if the players are taking responsibility for the struggles: “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.”

On if he’s talking about J.D. Harmon on special teams: “Yes. You know that’s hard for me to do, too. I have a real 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.”

On if there’s motivation in both teams playing for bowl eligibility: “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 teams playin’ 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.”

On if he sees similarities between the two teams: “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, you know, a well‑coached team that plays hard.”

On how, as a second-year coach, he’s handling the struggle: “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. I mean, I’m – you know, Jen 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.”

On what now for J.D. Harmon: “We will continue to work with him. You know, at some point you either can’t or won’t.”

On if there’s anyone else on this team in the same boat as Harmon: “I don’t want to get – I don’t want to go there. 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? Yes. 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.”

On Dobbs for UT: “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 comeback 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.”

On what he thinks of Tennessee defensively: “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, (who) 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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Stoops: Special teams gaffes, player most disappointing

After a 63-31 drubbing by Georgia, there was plenty of blame to go around.

Mark Stoops was frustrated by tackling problems, by defensive inconsistencies, but the two touchdowns given up by the Kentucky special teams group was hardest to stomach.

“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 having the attitude to do what you’re asked to do,” Stoops said.

On the two touchdowns, Isaiah McKenzie’s opening kickoff return that went 90 yards and his 59-yard punt return for a score, Stoops was frustrated with one player.

Initially, Stoops said: “I’ve got a certain player out there that did not do that, and that’s a choice. And that’s aggravating. And that’s something that probably bothers me as much as anything, because shoot, man, you know what it comes down to: You’ve got a special teams coach that I’m breathing down his neck. You’ve got all y’all breathing down his neck and my neck and everything else. And everybody’s accountable. We all are, starting with me. It goes right down to the players.

“There were some plays there that I thought were not acceptable, and it’s certain guys that I’ve rewarded with scholarships and done some things and put it out there to help him, and he’s making the decision not to help us by doing his own thing.”

Stoops failed to name the player the first time it came up, but later, when pressed to offer clarity, he confirmed that it was cornerback J.D. Harmon.

“You know that’s hard for me to do, too,” Stoops said. “I have a real 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.”

Normally the first player to arrive when the ball does, Harmon is the last player chasing down McKenzie on the replays of both scores.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore cornerback, who has played in all 10 games this season and has 28 tackles, doesn’t make it all the way down the field on either play. Kentucky’s defensive players are not available for comments until Wednesday after practice.

When asked what the staff does with Harmon after that, he said, “Can’t trust him, can’t play him.”

Stoops added later: “We’ll continue to work with him. At some point you either can’t or won’t.”

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Stoops’ final thoughts before Georgia

MARK STOOPS
“Good week of practice. Good Thursday. So far so good. We’ll see if we can get out there and improve this week. I like the attitude of the team.”

On Blake McClain’s status: “Yeah, Blake will not play.”

On if McClain has a chance to play the rest of the season: “Yeah. Yeah. I hope that he’ll play next week.”

On how Kendall Randolph played in McClain’s spot last week: “Kendall’s doing some good things. He’ll play well. It hurts a little bit, because they both played in certain dime packages. (McClain’s) a good football player, he’s got some good experience. We’ll miss him, but Kendall will step in and play well.”

On Georgia struggling to stop the run against Florida: “If you watch the game, there was quite a few — much like you’ve heard me talk throughout this year — there was quite a few plays in there where Georgia played lights out. And then there’s some plays where (Florida) got out on them. Anytime you get out on the perimeter, Florida had great backs and a couple times they just got them sealed up downfield and added to some big runs. It’s not like Georgia just sat there and got pushed around, because they did not. I think Florida played very well. Their backs made some great runs. Florida is certainly capable of doing that. I don’t think we’re the same type of team as Florida. You know, to be able to be — they’ve got some very mature, physical backs and some strong guys up front. We’re built a little bit differently. But again, like I always say, we’re always looking for a little bit of balance.

On what his thoughts were when he saw a talent like Bud Dupree when he got here knowing he was inheriting a 2-10 team

Well, yeah we knew about Bud. Coach Eliot recruited him pretty actively at Florida State. So we knew about Bud. Of course, when we got here and started watching all the film we saw the talent in Bud. Obviously, that’s a pleasant surprise to have a player like that. He could play anywhere in the country. He’s been a good leader. It’s very important for him to go out and play well down the stretch. So, just proud of Bud and what he’s done, just like all these seniors. They’ve been a special group to coach.

“It was hard transition for them. They didn’t ask for a coaching change, but they’ve handled it very well. They’ve been very good leaders for us, and they’ve made a very big difference in this year’s team. So hopefully we can go out and play well with their last game here at home.”

On what redshirting players are shining over on the scout team: “Yeah, we like all that group. We’re redshirting, as you know, just about the entire O-line and D-line, which is very helpful. Thaddeus Snodgrass is redshirting; he looks great. He had a chance to play this year as well. So there’s quite a few guys that we’re excited about with that class.

“You know, along with that, we talked about Blake – Drew Barker got hurt as well, so I just wanted to inform you guys of that. He got hurt, was it Tuesday or Wednesday? Tuesday. But he is going to be OK. We were a little concerned with the knee, but it is nothing major. He will miss the next couple, two or three weeks, but he’ll be OK.”

On if Barker will need surgery: “No. We do not anticipate.”

On TE Steven Borden: “Yeah, he tried to come back and he was close and it just kind of reaggravated a little bit, so he won’t be available this week as well.”

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