UK’s Stoops, Eliot chat after Tuesday practice

MARK STOOPS
“Worked on a lot of situations today. Got into third down a little bit earlier, see if we can improve in that area. Had some good work. We’re still in search of making some plays in some critical situations offensively. But overall, I thought it was a good, spirited practice. Their attitude is good, their work ethic is good and you always got a chance when they’re in the right frame of mind.”

DID ONE QUARTERBACK TAKE MORE SNAPS THAN THE OTHER? (Laughs) “Yeah. Yeah.”

WILL HE SAY WHICH ONE IT WAS? “Not right now. Let me see where that goes. If we can get any small advantage, maybe… try to help us a little bit.”

IF HE WATCHED LAST YEAR’S UK-SOUTH CAROLINA GAME: “Not much. We’re beyond that now. I know these guys pretty good and what we have on this team.”

ON THE ONE POWER RUNNING PLAY THAT THROTTLED UK LAST SEASON AND HIS SAYING YOU HAVE TO STOP THE POWER RUNNING GAME TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE SEC: “You really do. And why I say that is because when things go bad or some days it’s raining or whatever, you’re not connecting throwing the ball and all that, when you can line up and pound it, that’s pretty simple. And it opens up the passing game as well. I’ve said that — it’s no secret — that I always think that. As a defensive coordinator for many years, people have asked me forever about what’s hard to defend. Well anybody that’s balanced is hard to defend. And I think South Carolina is very balanced. I think the statistics show that. They’re physical when they want to be and of course they can throw the ball when they want to be. So any time you do that, it puts pressure on the defense. And when you can just line up and run the power, run the counter, run leads and pound it down somebody’s throat, it’s very demoralizing. And I believe that’s the core of defensive football. You have to be able to defend that.”

IS THAT STILL A STAPLE OF SOUTH CAROLINA OFFENSE: “When they need to. When they need to. Again, I think they’re very diverse in what they can do and what they want to feature.”

HOW NATE WILLIS PLAYED SATURDAY: “I really liked the way Nate played. I thought he had a lot of energy. I thought he had what we’re looking for, that great desire to get to the ball, to make plays. You saw that, and we need to see that all the time. Maybe not just because he’s from Florida and we’re playing Florida. We need to see that kind of energy all the time.”

WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN FOR TEAM TO HOLD UP AGAINST THE RUN IN THE SECOND HALF: “Well, there’s a variety of things. When maybe we think they’re taking shots and we still have to get in certain calls and try to protect our guys in the secondary a little bit, so you’re going to be a little bit more susceptible to getting hit in some run game. And then when we get in a loaded box, we need to be very strong. We need to be strong and we need to make good tackles and also good sits. Sometimes backers –we’re still learning at a few positions. Let’s put it that way.”

DOES HE WORRY ABOUT TEAM’S ATTITUDE DURING THIS STRETCH OF GAMES? “I do. I really like the way we’ve been the past two days. Like I said — I admit it — it’s very difficult waking up on Sunday after a loss and having to get in here and grind it out all day and get these kids back up and everything. It’s not fun. But I was very encouraged Monday, very encouraged today. I think their attitude’s right, and we truly just try to make it a one-week season again. Let’s come in Monday, let’s prepare the right way. Let’s go about our business the right way. Let’s have the right attitude. Let’s put a little bit more into it, do a little extra. Do whatever we have to do to give us a chance to win. And I do see that. Like I said, I’m not ever gonna try to mask any of that. If I was unhappy with their preparation, the way they’re trying to go about their business, I’d tell them and I’d tell you. I think we’re trying to do the right things. We need to make more plays. Like I said with the third-down period, we went into it a day early. Went good against good, trying to get the competition level high in some third-down situations. We need to make plays.

WHAT MAKES ZA’DARIUS SMITH GOOD: “I think he’s got good size. He’s what you want at defensive end. He’s big, he’s long, he’s powerful and he’s got some good instincts. He’s playing well.”

IS THERE A PLAYER OR PLAYERS HE TURNS TO TO GET THE PULSE OF THE TEAM, MAKE SURE EVERYONE’S STAYING UP? “Well, I think all of them. We talk a lot about the young guys, in particular offensively, making plays and touching the ball a lot, but freshmen have a tendency to take that little dip. And we can’t have that. We need all of our players to play well. And we need our older guys to continue to improve. I think you’re seeing very good leadership from some older guys defensively, and we need to continue to work on that with the offensive guys, with all of our team. Really, I just look at all of them. I don’t really point out individuals in that case, I just would like the pulse of the whole team positive and working hard, and like I said, I really do see that.”

ON JOSH FORREST: “Josh is doing some good things. He’s in there in certain packages, and then Jason Hatcher’s in there in another package. So it depends on what we’re doing and what we’re trying to feature with Josh being in there. But I think he’s improving. He’s got great size and great length, so that always helps. I mean, you could look at some of these teams we’re playing and you see that size and that length, and it’s important.”

DOES IT MATTER WHO PLAYS QUARTERBACK FOR SOUTH CAROLINA? “It really doesn’t. I think Shaw has obviously more experience and with that experience you’ve seen him ad lib more, and I really have a lot of respect for him, because I think he’s a very tough guy and love the way he runs and throws it and makes plays. But no, I don’t think it’ll affect them too much.”

IS THAT BASED ON SPURRIER’S SCHEME OR BECAUSE THEY’RE SIMILAR QUARTERBACKS? “I think it’s built into their offense. And if they choose to get under center and feature some more downhill running, it’s probably whatever they’re doing week to week. Like I said, I think their offense is very divers and they can do a lot of things and they’re far along with what they’re doing. You see some staples from Coach Spurrier that goes back a long, long time, but you also see new wrinkles. It’s gonna be a challenge no matter what they’re doing or who’s playing quarterback.”

 

D.J. ELIOT

WHEN YOU THINK STEVE SPURRIER, WHAT DO YOU THINK? “I think one of the legendary coaches, guys that win a lot of games in college football, has a been a face of college football for a long time. One of those guys who has his own unique personality and one of those guys that makes this game great.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES OF GOING UP AGAINST ONE OF HIS OFFENSES AND HOW MUCH DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THAT CHALLENGE? “I look forward to … you know, he’s put up a lot of points, a lot of numbers against a lot of people over the years, so you know he knows what he’s doing and he’s going to have his guys ready to play, so I look forward to that challenge.”

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WELL AGAINST THE RUN AND WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO BETTER? “I think the power run game, we’ve improved. That was Florida’s strength, and really our weakness in that game was some one-back runs more than anything, quarterback had a long run, a one-back run. The running back got to the edge in a one-back run, but the power run game is where I think we’ve improved.”

IS ZA’DARIUS SMITH UNDERRATED NATIONALLY? “I don’t know what the nation is saying about him, but I think that Za’Darius is a very good player. He’s been very productive for us. He’s got a great motor; he’s played extremely hard and he’s been productive at times.”

BETWEEN JADEVEON CLOWNEY AND ZA’DARIUS SMITH AND BUD DUPREE, ARE THERE GOING TO BE A COUPLE OF DEFENSIVE ENDS IN THIS GAME WHO WILL PLAY ON SUNDAYS? “Who are all of them again?”

CLOWNEY, DUPREE, ZA’DARIUS? “And they may all play on Sunday? I think they may. I think they may.”

IS STEVE SPURRIER DIFFERENT TO PREPARE FOR THAN OTHER OFFENSIVE COACHES? “Steve Spurrier, he’s very good at knowing how to attack you. He knows how to attack you, so you’ve got to make sure that you’re sound on defense because he’s going to get you if you’re not.”

WHAT THEY DID WELL AGAINST FLORIDA IN THE SECOND HALF, HOLDING GATORS TO THREE POINTS: “In the second half, we got off the field. Whether it was an interception, or it was over in downs, which forced the field goal or a missed field goal, I just think that the biggest thing was we got off the field. The first half, we had our opportunities. In everyone of those drives there’s plenty of third down opportunities to get off the field and we just didn’t execute, whereas in the second half we did a better job of that.”

WHAT HE SAW FROM KORY BROWN IN HIS RETURN: “Kory did some good things. He’s a multiple player: he can play linebacker, he can play our nickel DB for us. So, he looked like he was getting back in the shape of things, and I was proud to see that.”

ON HOW MANY SNAPS JOSH FORREST ACTUALLY GOT AGAINST UF: “Not very many, but he had one big one. I know that. I know he had one big one.”

ON WHETHER FORREST EARNS MORE CONFIDENCE MAKING THAT INTERCEPTION: “You know what? That goes a long ways, because we need more of that. That goes a long ways when you can make a big-time play like that when the lights are on, so he’s caught my eye with that play.”

ON SEEING AN IMPROVED DEFENSE EACH WEEK: “Yes, yes. We’re getting better. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re just emphasizing getting better. The great thing for us has been the game atmosphere and the game experience for these players. I think every week we get better because of that.”

ON SPECIFIC AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT HE’S SEEN: “I think we’re tackling better. I don’t know if you remember that last game, but we didn’t tackle very well at all in that first game. And I think that we’re tackling better now. We’re not always getting off blocks and we’re not always in the right spots, but when we are there, we’re making the play more often.”

ON IF USC’S POWER RUN GAME IS DIFFERENT THAN FLORIDA’S: “No, it’s different in some ways. It’s different in some ways. Florida, they have a lot of stuff that they do. They have a lot of stuff they do in the power run game. And South Carolina is more multiple; they’ve got power run game, got spread run game, they’ve got dynamic pass game. It’s just more multiple.”

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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