Kentucky’s Stoops, Eliot discuss Alabama prep

MARK STOOPS
“I was pleased with our work today. Guys had a good practice, both sides of the ball. Good energy. Overall good practice. It was good. We’re gonna need to have another one tomorrow and Thursday, obviously, to prepare for this team.”

IF HE SEES A DIFFERENCE IN JALEN WHITLOW NOW THAT HE’S THE GUY: “Seemed like he had a good day. He really did. He seemed comfortable back there, yeah. He really did. Hopefully we’ll keep gaining some confidence in him.”

DOES TEAM SEEM EXCITED TO PLAY NO. 1? “They do. They do. It’s no secret. I’ve told you guys over and over again that I thought overall this team really has a good attitude and comes every day and they’re fun to coach. I felt that on Monday and I felt that again today.”

ON HOW JASON HATCHER’S DOING IN HIS CAST: “He got a little bigger cast on there today, so I didn’t like the look of that. We got to try to see if we can scale that thing down as the week goes on. He’s got a hand and he’s got a knuckle, so he’s a little bit beat up. But he’ll be all right.”

ON WHAT HATCHER DOES WELL, NEEDS TO DO BETTER: “I think what he does well is he always plays hard. He lacks some experience and with the different things we’re doing and the different positions we have him at, it’s just a matter of playing and getting some experience. But he’s a tough, hard-nosed guy and he’s going to be a very good football player. He just needs to get some plays under his belt.”

ON ERIC DIXON’S MISSED TACKLE ON LATE THIRD DOWN VS. SOUTH CAROLINA AND HOW DIXON IS PLAYING OVERALL: “Eric has been playing — he has been playing good football. He really has.

He’s a guy that’s very conscientious. He cares a great deal about what we’re doing. He really tries to prepare every week and he’s been playing good football.  He missed a tackle. There’s a lot of guys that – we all looked at ourselves and we all could have done things better in that game to change the outcome. That was just one of many plays.”

ON HOW ENJOYABLE IT WAS TO WATCH FILM OF SECOND HALF: “It’s always enjoyable to see us making strides and improving. It really is. It’s those little victories. It’s one play on top of another doing things right that we like to see. Like I said, it’s still frustrating that we left some plays out there, that we could do better. I’m OK if we line up and play and somebody beats us – and they did, don’t get me wrong. We can do better is all I’m saying. We need to improve. We need to play the best we can. We need to coach the best we can, and I think there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”

ON TEVEN EATMON-NARED PLAYING: “He did come in. We’re looking for a guy at that position. We’ve been bouncing guys around at left guard and he did come in and do a few good things.”

ON HOW MANY PLAY HE PLAYED: “I’m not exactly sure. We rotated three guys in there.”

ON IF HE’S PLAYED AGAINST A NO. 1: “Somebody asked me that earlier. I’m sure I did. I believe back in the day, USC had to be 1 when we played them during my time at Arizona. They were dominant at that time, especially early during my years at Arizona. So I would assume they would have been 1 at least several of the years we played. And of course I was on the No. 1 team quite a few times. But it had to be USC, I would think. I don’t know. I didn’t do any research on that.”

ON WHAT ZACK WEST IS STRUGGLING WITH: “We’re just search. We’re not consistent up there. We’re not as physical as we need to be and we’re not as athletic as we need to be on pulls. Just a lot of things we need to improve on.”

DID TEAM GO BACK TO OLD HABITS AGAINST SOUTH CAROLINA EARLY? “I don’t think it was a matter of old, bad habits. I really don’t. I think it was a matter of South Carolina being very good and making plays when they needed to, and I think it was a matter of us not being experienced enough and not coaching them well enough to put them in a position when we needed to.”

IF SOUTH CAROLINA IS A MORAL VICTORY: “We don’t ever classify anything as a moral victory, really. That’s been asked to me. I am proud of progress. I am. I think our team has made strides throughout the year, but we’re after victories. But I think we are improving in certain areas, and that’s a good thing.”

IS ALABAMA MORE CONVENTIONAL OF A DEFENSE THAN FLORIDA? “They are. They’re, as I said earlier on Monday in the press conference, I think they’re just so well-coached. They execute so well. They can be as multiple as they want to be on both sides of the ball and they can just line up and use great technique and play good football, the way – old-fashioned football. They’re a very good team and they can be as multiple as they want to be on offense, defense or special teams.”

ON ALABAMA’S SPECIAL TEAMS: “They got a big-time playmaker. He does a phenomenal job with the punt returns. He’s on kickoff, catching balls on offense. He’s lighting it up. Very good players and they’re well-coached and they play hard.”

ON WHEN HE BECAME AWARE OF SABAN AND IF HE’S A GUY STOOPS HAS STUDIED: “Yes. Yeah. I’ve obviously known about Coach Saban for a long time. When I say I don’t know him, I don’t know him personally, but of course when you run into somebody in recruiting and different things, just for a long time, I’ve had a lot of respect for him and just would talk to him occasionally here and there. And of course at the SEC meetings and things like that, I just really appreciate the way he coaches and how successful he’s been and how consistent his teams have been. He’s definitely somebody that I look up to. I guess I’ve known about him a long time. I’m not sure how many years, but certainly been watching his defenses for a long time.”

ON WHO TAKES BUD DUPREE’S SPOT IF HE CAN’T PLAY: “We’re gonna work on it and see how things go this week and we’ll see where we go. We’re mixing it up. We got to see how Jason is as well in all of our different packages and who we put in there. We’ll see.”

 

D.J. ELIOT

HOW WAS PRACTICE TODAY? “Practice is going well. We’re getting better every day just like coach always talks about, concentrating on us more than anything, making sure we’re doing the little things right. We keep harping on that, keep pushing the kids to do that.”

HOW ESSENTIAL IS IT TO BE PRACTICING DIFFERENT PACKAGES SINCE YOU MIGHT BE MISSING SOME PERSONNEL IN GAME? “It’s just part of football, you know. It’s like that everywhere I’ve been, so we just practice with what we’ve got and make sure we’ve got somebody prepared for the game and then just let her rip.”

HOW DID YOU THINK YOU PLAYED OVERALL AGAINST SOUTH CAROLINA? “I think we did some good things in the second half, the kids fought back, never quit. There was plenty we could’ve done better. There were some spots, especially early in the game, that if we had done some things correctly, if we had played the plays properly, we really could have done some better things on defense.”

ON THE MOST DIFFICULT THING TO STOP ABOUT ALABAMA’S OFFENSE: “Just their physicality. They’re so big and so physical. They can run it right down your throat. They’ve got big linemen, they’ve got big backs. You’ve got to matchup to that, and that’s the toughest thing about the game.”

WHAT MAKES A.J. MCCARRON SPECIAL AND IF HE THINKS MCCARRON IS UNDERRATED: “I think that he is a very, very good quarterback. The reason that he’s good is because he makes great decisions. He understands his offense, he plays within his offense, he has great patience. He doesn’t panic. Therefore he’s tough to stop.”

HOW JASON HATCHER’S CAST WILL AFFECT HIM SATURDAY: “Make his hand bigger…No. (Laughs) Just like anybody in a cast, they won’t be able to grab as well. For the most part, as long as you stay on your feet and still wrap up and tackle, you’re in good shape.”

ON IF HE WORRIED AT ALL ABOUT LOSING PLAYERS’ CONFIDENCE DOWN 21-0 AT SOUTH CAROLINA: “No. I just kept coaching, and they just kept playing. That’s one good thing about our team right now: whatever situation we face, we just go out and fight. We’re going to continue to do that.”

ON ERIC DIXON, HOW HE’S PLAYED THIS SEASON AND WHAT YOU SAY TO A GUY LIKE THAT AFTER HE MISSES A CRITICAL PLAY (THE TACKLE ON THE THIRD-AND-3 AT THE END VS. USC): “Well, he has done some good things, and we just made the correction on why he missed the play. He should’ve kept his feet, should’ve seen what he hit, wrapped up and run his feet. But Eric Dixon has done some good things for us this year, and he’s going to be a guy we need to count on the rest of the season.”

ON WHETHER HE’S SENSED ANY CHANGE IN QB JALEN WHITLOW LATELY IN PRACTICE: “You know, I’ve always thought Jalen was a confident player, and he’s continued to play that way.”

ON WHETHER GUYS ARE STILL ‘LOOKING FOR A ROCK TO HIDE UNDER’ AFTER GAINING SOME CONFIDENCE AGAINST USC, HEADING INTO BAMA: “I don’t know. We’ll see. We’re just going to take it one practice at a time and push them to the limit every single day and every single rep, and hopefully they’ll respond the right way.”

ON WHETHER HE GOT WHAT HE WANTED TODAY: “Yeah, we had a good practice today. We had a good practice today. We weren’t perfect today; there were some things we need to do better. But overall, we had a good practice.”

DOES THE COACHING STAFF GET FIRED UP GOING AGAINST THE NO. 1 TEAM? “Well, we try to take the approach that the most important game is the next game. So, we continue to take that approach. We get fired up for every opponent we play.”

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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