Stoops, Brown preview Alabama matchup

MARK STOOPS
“Good work in today. Good situations. Worked on some third down. Overall good day. Pleased. Pleased with the week so far, and we’ll see if we can cap it off tomorrow with another good practice.”

ON IF THERE’S ANYTHING THEY CAN FOCUS ON TO GET OFF TO A BETTER START:  “I think it’s just coming out and executing. Last week we were on the road, this week at home, doesn’t matter. You got to go out there and execute and get off to a better start. We understand that. I think it’s really just about the things we’ve been preaching, and that’s getting off to one good play. Let’s have one good play and then try to stack another one on there and then another one. We can’t get behind the chains. We know that. We know we’re not very good behind the chains.”

IS THAT A CONFIDENCE THING? “I don’t know about that. I think it’s a lot to do with execution, honestly. It seems like we’ve settled down. I didn’t think the atmosphere was too big last week. At least I didn’t feel that. It just seemed like really it was execution. Both sides.”

HAVE THEY BEEN MORE CONSISTENT IN PRACTICE? “We are. I mean, at times. We’re far from perfect. Today I think offensively we did some good things on third down, third-down period and all that when we were really specializing and trying to (make it a) point of emphasis there. And then the day-to-day things weren’t as good as they need to be. Those are all the things we’re fighting.”

ON NICK SABAN TELLING QUARTERBACK A.J MCCARRON TO TAKE WHAT DEFENSE IS GIVING HIM: “Well, you know, you really look at them and they just move the ball however they need to. That’s what does jump out at you. It’s almost a pro attack on both sides of the ball. They are very efficient and very accurate with the ball, with all the short game stuff. And of course they can run the ball. So they can move the ball. They just, honestly, they’d just as soon do it with what they want to do. If they need to score a bunch of points, they’ll score a bunch of points. If they want to run the ball, they’ll run the ball. They’re very efficient with everything they do, really. That’s kind of been, if you really study their games, that’s kind of what they’ve done all year. When they’ve felt like they needed to score a bunch of points, they did. They just kind of do what they do, and they do it very efficiently.”

ONE WHERE THEY ARE WITH THE OFFENSIVE LINE: “I think we’re a work in progress. We’re still working on things. It’s no secret we’re trying to find the right recipe at left guard. I think the rest of the guys are getting better.”

DID THEY HAVE THIS MUCH INCONSISTENCY AT FLORDA STATE? “No, I think it’s definitely a big change. We didn’t walk in the door and we weren’t consistent right away, that’s for sure. We had a lot of work to do on both sides of the ball and on special teams, but I think we progressed rather quickly. So it’s a little bit different. And of course I’ve been there before, back in the days of Arizona, taking over that program, and the struggles there took a while.”

IS ZACH WEST STILL STRUGGLING WITH HIS INJURY OR IS IT JUST PERFORMANCE? “No, it’s just performance. Just need him to play better.”

HAS ALABAMA CHANGED WHAT IT’S DOING DEFENSIVELY SINCE THE TEXAS A&M GAME? “No, I think they’ve been very good defensively. That game, you got to give some credit to Texas A&M and Johnny Manziel and the whole operation there. You know, you’ve been watching Alabama for a long time. They don’t do that very often. I see the same old Alabama defense. It’s very good.”

HOW MUCH OF JALEN WHITLOW’S EARLY STRUGGLES WERE RELATED TO CONFIDENCE: “I think some of it was confidence. You could see he was a little bit uneasy, and he’s working his way through that. I think, like I’ve said many times, it has to do with a lot of players around him. You gotta have good players around him making plays. A lot of times, quarterbacks look good because of the other players around them, and I think we’re improving in that area as well.”

IS THERE ANYTHING TO THE IDEA THAT ALABAMA MIGHT BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO A RUNNING QUARTERBACK? “No. They have no weakness in their defense. They don’t have any weakness on their team, as you can imagine with the No. 1 team in the country.”

WHAT DO YOU TELL YOUR TEAM WHEN IT’S ABOUT TO PLAY A TEAM WITH ‘NO WEAKNESSES’: “Well, it’s just about us and our execution as well. We’re gonna go out there to compete and play. It’s about putting one good play out there and then another. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We can control the things we can control, and we can execute better than we have been. And that’s what we’re working on.”

ON SHUFFLING THE OFFENSIVE LINE IN SPRING AND IN CAMP AND IF THAT’S GIVEN THEM SOME VERSATILITY OUT THERE: “I think it is good. We have some guys that have moved around a little bit, and you need to do that and put out your best guys. It’s no different defensively as well. It’s just like Blake McClain has moved around quite a few places, some of our other guys. Cody’s played some nickel, some dime. So we move them around.”

IS DARYL COLLINS’ ABSENCE ABOUT INJURY OR PERFORMANCE? “Just consistency, just performance. He’s working. He’s trying to get better.”

ON RYAN TIMMONS: “He needs to get more consistent when the ball’s not in his hands. He needs to play hard all the time. We’ve been very demanding on him, and it’s very important to our team that he executes all the time, not just when the ball’s going to him.”

IS THAT A LESSON YOUNG RECEIVERS HAVE TO LEARN? “Yeah, it is. We’ll coach him hard. And again, I go back to Coach Mainord and Coach Brown’s offense, that’s what you admired about them with their teams is they always play hard and play very physical at that position, at wide receiver. So we’ll get it out of him. We just got to keep on working.”

IF TIMMONS ISN’T USED TO HAVING TO PLAY HARD ALL THE TIME: “No. No, he’s not.”

ON HIM HAVING A REPUTATION OF BEING UNSELFISH IN HIGH SCHOOL: “Oh, no, he’s a great kid. It’s not anything for character or anything like that. It’s just us and coaching, he’s just a young kid. And he’s got to play extremely hard, as you can imagine, in this league, and getting in that kind of shape to play hard every snap and all those things and the understanding of all of it. He’s a great young guy, and we love him, and he’s going to be a great player. We just got to get him to be consistent all the time. But hey, that’s no different than a lot of guys, right? That’s no different than the rest of the team.”

ON IF THEY CAN SHAVE ANY OF THE CAST OFF JASON HATCHER: “I’m going to definitely try to cut that thing down a little bit, yeah. For sure. Looks a little bulky right now. He’s doing OK.”

ON BUD DUPREE’S STATUS: “He hasn’t practiced. He has not. Has not practiced, so it doesn’t look good.”

ON BLAKE MCCLAIN WEARING A CAST: “He’s good to go. He’s been — since whatever game that was when he dislocated it and came back; the Florida game, we talked about it. I think it’s just been bothering him since then. But he’s been good.”

ON IF DUPREE CAN’T PLAY: “Well, we’re working on some things, but Hatcher will get a amped-up role. We’re moving some guys around and getting the best options.”

 

 

NEAL BROWN

“We had a really good day Monday and Tuesday. Today we had a nice third down period, lacked some execution on things. We threw a bunch at them today, though, as far as blitzes and stuff, so that may be part of it. We need to come out and build. We played well in the fourth quarter there against South Carolina and we need to build off that. Questions?

ANY CHANGE IN JALEN WHITLOW NOW THAT HE’S THE STARTER? “Um. No. I mean, he, I think he did a better job in preparation last week than he has. He’s learning. It’s an ongoing process. He’s learning how to prepare week in and week out. But as far as, I think his personality’s coming forward a little bit more maybe. That would be fair to say as far as speaking up. But those were the main things I’d say.”

DOES THAT COME WITH CONFIDENCE, FROM PLAYING WELL AGAINST SOUTH CAROLINA? “Yeah, well, I think anytime you look at leadership on your football team, for the most part it’s your best players. The first person that would jump out to me is Avery Williamson and he’s one of our best players. You know, Bud Dupree. He’s one of our best players. On offense, Darrian Miller, he’s one of our best players, you know what I mean? Raymond Sanders. I think the better you play, it’s easier for you to speak up because people respect guys that maybe aren’t playing much, but they’re not necessarily going to listen to people unless they’re out there getting it done.”

HOW UNDERRATED IS THAT PREPARATION PART? “At quarterback, it’s huge. It really is. It’s not only preparing for what your opponent is doing, buy also fixing the mistakes you make individually and it’s an ongoing process with Jalen and a lot of our young guys on our football team. We’re only allotted so much time and it’s really not. There’s 20 hours a week we get with them and a lot of that is in the weight room and on the practice field. So meeting wise, we don’t have a ton, so they have to do a great job, and Coach Stoops and our administration have given them a lot of tools — ipads and video technology and things like that — they’ve got to spend time away from here.”

SEE TIMMONS GIVE BETTER EFFORT WHEN PLAY’S NOT COMING TO HIM. IS THAT A MATURITY OR CONDITIONING THING? “It’s both. He’s gotta, he’s really good with the ball in his hands. No question about it. He’s gotta be able to play more snaps for us. That’s a conditioning level. And he’s gotta be able to play harder when the ball’s not in his hands. He’s gotta become a better blocker. You know, I would say that he’s below par right now, below average as a blocker and he’s gotta be a better route runner. You know, it’s part of the maturation process really. But he understands what we expect. There’s no gray area about what we expect during the games. And he doesn’t always give what’s expected.”

ON DESIGNED PLAYS EARLY TO SETTLE WHITLOW IN, GET HIM IN FLOW OF GAME: “Yeah. Yeah I think so. It’s what we’ve tried to do the last two games. He’s really started pretty well against Florida and against South Carolina and we did call some designed runs for him. Really he had a pretty good first drive going there until we got a ball batted down. It was like third-and-6 on that first drive and a ball got tipped. But it was a pretty good pass. I think what he’s done is he’s calmed down, first of all and he’s got more confidence going into games because of his preparation. Preparation gives you confidence. The more prepared you are, the more confidence you’re going to have in certain situations.”

WHEN HE’S PLAYING AGAINST HIS HOME STATE SCHOOL, DOES THAT CHANGE THINGS? “I didn’t even mention it.”

NO? “He swears, which I don’t know because I lived in Alabama for four years, so most people are either Alabama people or Auburn people and he says he was neither, so I don’t know.”

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE IMRPOVEMENT ON THIRD DOWN TO? “It’s execution. We’re getting a little better. We’re getting a little better. You know, I did some things on short yardage situations to help us. We spent a lot of time working on the sneak play the last two weeks and that attributed to it. We used some Wildcat and some short yardage, which we probably caught South Carolina a little off guard, that helped. And we threw the ball and caught the ball more consistently.”

STOOPS SAID THIS DEFENSE DOESN’T HAVE ANY WEAKNESSES. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU AS A COORDINATOR GAME PLANNING? I don’t know, man. It’s kind of the pattern we’re going. I think this is—John (Clay) is the stat man, but, is this three out of five that are in the top six, is that right, John?”

THAT SOUNDS RIGHT: I think this is three defenses in a row that are in the top six. They’re really good. I think they do a great job of preparation. I think that one of the key things that—and I watched them a lot this summer and then through their games the early part of this season—is anything that’s successful, it’s only successful once, you know what I mean? It’s not repeated. They do a great job not only in their game planning, but also during the game, of correcting things. I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys from a schematic standpoint. They play the game the right way. There’s not much that sticks out when you watch them as far as weaknesses go.”

ANY OF THEIR GUYS GRAB YOUR ATTENTION IN PARTICULAR? “Yeah, about 11 of them. I think in the back end, the (Vinnie) Sunseri kid is really playing well. He really gets around the ball. He’s got a lot of tackles, and he’s created some turnovers. I think he looks to me like their leader back there. He’s got a lot of energy. I think their linebacker tandem, especially (C.J.) Mosley, is as good as anybody’s in the country. They’re just deep. They’re really big up front. I think they’ve done a good job with their front four recruiting big, physical guys. And they play gap control. They do as good a job as anybody in the country of getting their hands on the O-line and really controlling the line of scrimmage.”

YOU USUALLY SCRIPT FIVE PLAYS. WILL YOU SCRIPT 75 SINCE YOU CAN’T REPEAT ANYTHING? We can’t execute 75. Probably around five that we’ll get really good at. No, I think what you’ve got to try to do is, you’ve got to really think ahead in the game, maybe even more so than you would when you call it and say, ‘OK, I’m going to do this and I have it in my mind their counter is going to be this, so I’ve got to do something else.’ Does that make sense, as far as trying to stay one step ahead and having a good idea of what their counter’s going to be when you hit them.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO HAVE CERTAIN THINGS SET UP THAT WORK SO YOU CAN SET UP THE NEXT THING? That’s exactly right. I think what we have to do, and this is really the key in the Alabama game, but really for us moving forward: We have to get off to good starts. As far as from a drive starter, and then on first down, we have to give ourselves a chance. Because when we’ve really struggled this year, it’s because we haven’t gotten off as a drive starter or on first down. We’re looking at second and long, and we have a hard time ever recovering from that.”

HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN SUCCESS ON FOURTH DOWN BUT NOT AS MUCH ON THIRD DOWN? Well, in all seriousness, some of that goes with knowing you have four downs, you know what I mean? Coach Stoops does a great job of communicating with me, ‘OK, you have four downs here.’ So then in my mind, I treat the third-down play like second. When you get two cracks at it, you’re going to be more successful that way. And really, from on the fourth down, we just have better execution. I would love to tell you there’s a magic formula to it, but we’ve just executed better in those fourth-down situations.”

ON WHITLOW’S REPS: We’re not there quite yet. Now Jalen’s gotten more. I think I told you last week he was around 65-70 percent of the snaps. I didn’t tell you who, but that’s who got about 65-70 percent of the snaps. This week, we’ve increased that a little bit. I think it’s still important that we’ve got to keep Maxwell sharp. He’s deserved that fight, and he’s still got to be ready to go.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL AS A COORDINATOR GOING AGAINST NICK SABAN AND KIRBY SMART? DOES IT GET YOUR JUICES GOING? Yeah, I think it does. I think anytime you’re going against Kirby or Coach Saban or (Will) Muschamp or any of those guys, if you’re going against—even though we didn’t match wits necessarily against each other — Coach Spurrier, I think you go against those types of guys, the guys that have reached the pinnacle in their profession, are really knowledgable and really recognized for what they do … I think that always, from a preparation standpoint, gets your juices flowing. I think the other thing you’ve got to do is, you know how well they’re preparing their kids, so you’ve got to make sure that you dot every ‘I’ and cross every ‘T’ to make sure they’re just as prepared or more so.”

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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