Stoops on weekly SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to the Florida game this weekend, a team that I have great respect for, having played them the last three years from Florida State. Very good, well-coached team, very physical team. Doesn’t take long to turn on the film and see just how physical they are, so looking forward to it.”

ON THE LOSING STREAK TO FLORIDA: “I addressed it with the players, I did. I talked about it and, listen, our message has been to our team since I’ve been here: control what we can control. Control today, this upcoming day. We’re trying to get better one day at a time, really one play at a time. I think since we’ve really been concentrating on that as the season has progressed, I thought we’ve gotten better. So we’re really worried about ourselves, this team and this week. We really don’t worry too much about that streak, but like I told the team: If they want to use it as motivation, go right ahead, but let’s not sight of the fact that we need to get better, control today and get better today. So that’s the approach that we’re using.

ON WHETHER IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE A STREAK COULD GO THAT LONG: “Yeah, I guess so. I really haven’t put a lot of thought into it, but yeah, it’s certainly not a streak you like to be on the wrong end of, that’s for sure.”

“My kids enjoy being a part of our Cat Walk, so they kind of walk with me as we’re entering the stadium and going through the crowd there, so while they’re with me, we just kind of walk through there, and before we go into the locker room, we just walk out on the field there and just kind of throw the ball around a little bit, spend a little time with them, and just kind of getting them exposed to the stadium and to the big games. Just to be a part of it and spend a little time with them on game day while I have a few minutes before I go in there and get changed is just a little time to spend as a family. That’s all.”

ON THROWING A FOOTBALL WITH HIS SON ON THE FIELD BEFORE THE LOUISVILLE GAME, WHETHER HE MAKES SURE TO DO THINGS LIKE THAT: “My kids enjoy being a part of our Cat Walk, so they kind of walk with me as we’re entering the stadium and going through the crowd there, so while they’re with me, we just kind of walk through there, and before we go into the locker room, we just walk out on the field there and just kind of throw the ball around a little bit, spend a little time with them, and just kind of getting them exposed to the stadium and to the big games. Just to be a part of it and spend a little time with them on game day while I have a few minutes before I go in there and get changed is just a little time to spend as a family. That’s all.”

DO YOU ENCOURAGE OTHER STAFF TO BRING KIDS ALONG AS WELL: “Well, we certainly do. Like many coaches in college football, we have a night when our families come up and join us and have dinner with us after practice and we have quite a few little kids on our staff, so those folks are out running around our practice field and all that. We have dinner basically right off our practice field right after Tuesday practices. So, yeah, I definitely encourage the coaches to spend time with their kids when they can and they have them around here as much as possible.”

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO PREPARE PLAYERS AND GAMEPLAN FOR THAT FLORIDA DEFENSE? “I tell you, that defense is very impressive. I’ve talked about them quite often this week, but they deserve it. It’s an impressive group. I love the energy that they play with and the passion they play with and you know they’re well coached with Will Muschamp and of course (defensive coordinator) D.J. Durkin, he’s a Youngstown (Ohio) guy, so I wouldn’t expect nothing less from a guy from Youngstown to coach them up that way. So I just … They’re very impressive. I think they’re very disruptive up front. They’re extremely talented on the second level at linebacker and very physical. And their secondary is extremely impressive. They really cover well and they’re experienced at certain positions in the secondary. I know not all of them, but it’s nice to have some of those guys with some good experience and I know quite a few of them having recruited them and watched them on film and all of those things coming from Florid State. Very familiar with those guys and have a lot of respect for them.”

ON CORNERBACK NATE WILLIS, WHO SOUNDS LIKE A HIDDEN GEM. WHAT’S HIS BACK STORY AND HOW HAS HE DONE FOR YOUR SO FAR? “He’s done a really nice job. He’s coming along. You know, he took most of the summer to become eligible, so he had to take some classes throughout the summer, so he was a late arrival here. He’s really just getting his feet on the ground right now and you’re starting to see that. You’re starting to see him play more confidently, get in better shape, getting his legs up underneath him. We were in dire need for some junior college players in the secondary and we were able to go out and find him and I’ve been impressed with Nate. I think he’s going to be a very good player.”

ON THE “ALL PLAYERS UNITED PROTEST AND IF ANY OF HIS PLAYERS WILL DO THAT: “We are going to talk about that. That was on my notes to talk about here before this game, and we will address it and we will talk about it as a team. Right now, I’m going to basically take the stance that I’m going to address it with our unity council, with our people and the leaders or our team, and if they’re all in favor of it 100 percent, then maybe we’ll do something. If not, then I prefer not to, not to let individual players express that. I’d rather do it as a team.”

ON 6-FOOT-11 OFFENSIVE LINEMAN GRUENSCHLAGER AND HOW CHALLENGING LEVERAGE AND PAD LEVELS ARE FOR A GUY THAT SIZE: “Jack’s had an ankle injury toward the end of camp that was a pretty good ankle injury that put him behind, basically toward the end of camp and the beginning of the season here. So he’s been a little behind the eight ball getting caught up with that. And as you can imagine, the things you just talked about, being that tall and having an ankle injury definitely doesn’t help him. So he needs to be completely healthy to have a chance to play with the talented defensive linemen that we play against all the time. He’s a big body, he does some very good things, he helps us in certain areas. But he’s been a backup on the O-line right now.”

ON THE DEFENSIVE TARGETING RULER AND WHERE STOOPS THINKS THAT’S HEADED: “You know, I said in the preseason that it was going to have a…that you were going to see some dramatic calls. It’s going to affect some games, and so fortunately for us it hasn’t affected too much of our games. We haven’t been called for it yet, and I don’t think to my knowledge an opponent, anybody we’ve played against, has been called for it either. But, again, I think you’ve just got to do your best to work with the system that’s in place right now and the rules that are in place right now. We have to do our best as a coaching staff to teach our players to hit in the target area. Obviously, that’s to stay away from their head. I don’t believe in teaching guys to go very low because I think your asking for injuries both to the offensive player and to the defensive guy, with neck injuries and things like that that I’m very cautious of. So, I think we’re trying our best to hit them in that chest area with their head up and just teach a perfect tackle. That’s the best we can do. We all know in football there’s going to be a lot of plays that happen very, very quickly. That’s just a reaction. I think I’ve been pleased that it hasn’t been called more because that’s what I was worried about. Because when balls are thrown late over the middle and things like that, it’s a bang-bang play, the defender turns back, there’s going to be some head-to-head contact, and I don’t believe that’s supposed to be called unless it was intentional, unless you’re leading with the head and all that. There’s going to be some head-to-head contact. We all know that’s going to happen in football. It just seems like they haven’t been getting too carried away with calling it, I guess. Anyway, that’s the best I can answer it. It’s a hard topic as you know.”

DOES HE THINK THE RULE HAVE AN AFFECT ON HOW GUYS PLAY WHEN THEY’RE ON THE FIELD? “I do. I do think it can have an effect. We don’t want it to, and we can talk about it not having an effect, but I do think it can have an effect. Because, again, I think guys are conscious of going to the head and certainly we don’t want them launching towards the head, but I think I’m not in favor of a guy just dropping and going low. Like I said, I think you’re going to ask for a serious injury there, you know, one way or the other. But yeah, I think it can have an effect.”

ON NATE WILLIS NOT PLAYING MUCH FOOTBALL IN HIGH SCHOOL: Yeah, he was a basketball guy. Yeah. Being a basketball guy, he had some athleticism. His brother played in the NFL, so he had a lot of athleticism in his family. Being a hoopster, like I said, he had some athletic ability. Really, just looked at the junior college tape and was pleased with what he’s done there and thought he had some upside. You can see that since he’s been here. He’s helped us already, and he’s going to continue to progress. Matter of fact, I was getting on him yesterday on the practice field pretty good because he’s one of those guys he cannot take a rep off. He’s constantly got to work because he has a lot of ability and he just needs to keep on developing.”

About Jennifer Smith

Jen Smith has been a sports writer at the Herald-Leader since 2000, covering everything from high school sports to auto racing to various University of Kentucky sports. A native of Louisville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky (much to the dismay of her Louisville graduate mother and Indiana graduate father), Jen now resides in downtown Lexington with her husband and two young sons. You can follow her on Twitter @jenheraldleader or send her an email at jsmith3@herald-leader.com.
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One Response to Stoops on weekly SEC teleconference

  1. Pingback: Yes, Florida has its own Youngstown connection | John Clay's Sidelines

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