Mark Stoops, Neal Brown after Wednesday practice

MARK STOOPS
“It was a more spirited practice today. I thought we got some good work in. Guys enjoyed themselves. I thought we got better. Overall, it was pretty good.”

ON IF THEY DIALED IT BACK PHYSICALLY: “We did. They were ready to go. We posted it, and I walked into the team meeting and they were ready to go. Had full pads on, ready to go. But, no, we ended up taking them off. Went lighter.”

ON THE PLAYERS GETTING READY FOR A FULL PRACTICE: “They were ready to go today, but no. We went lighter. We did.”

ON IF THE RAINY PRACTICE HELPED THE ENERGY, FUN: “It worked out pretty good today, really, because when we first went out there, there was nothing and then it was very light, then during our last 20 minutes it started coming down pretty heavy. But that was pretty good for us to work in the rain and work a wet ball and all that. We still got the looks we needed. It was good.”

ON HOW THEY LOOKED IN THE RAIN: “Looked fine. Looked good. Didn’t seem to slow ‘em up too much.”

ON HOW THEY’RE DIVIDING QUARTERBACK SNAPS: “Maxwell’s getting the majority of them right now.”

ON WHO’S GETTING THE OTHERS: “Let us look at it for another day or so and I’ll probably tell you here prior to the game where we’re at as far as who would be the backup. It’s gonna be determined by how hurt Jalen is for the backup. If it’s gonna be one game, we don’t want either of those backup quarterbacks to play, because we’d like to redshirt both of them. But Patrick sacrificed a little more in that he’s the sophomore and he wanted to take that redshirt, so I think we got to be conscious of that as well. We’re just looking at the best option. And either of the guys would do whatever we needed them to do. They’ve been very unselfish.”

ON IF HOW DEEP THEY ARE INTO THE SEASON FACTORS IN: “No. I think we would first go with the best option to win. And then it may be determined what time of the game it happened. If it was the fourth quarter, if it was one where the game was determined. You’re gonna take a redshirt off somebody if Jalen was maybe ready the next week, that would be hard to do as well. So there’s some factors that play into it, like I said, because we’d like to redshirt both of the backup quarterbacks.”

IF THEY HAVE A ONE-GAME CONTINGENCY PLAN WITH A WILDCAT PLAYER OR ANOTHER GUY: “No, we’ll go with one of those guys. And they’ll be ready to go, and they’re willing to do it.”

IF HE SAYS THEY’LL BE CONSCIOUS OF TOWLES BECAUSE HE WANTED TO REDSHIRT: “Well, of course. Yeah. Once we told him where he was at, then of course he wanted to redshirt and get that year back from last year. And him being one year older, you’ve got to be a little bit conscious of where he’s at and what he’d like to do. But on the same hand, if he’s going to get an opportunity to truly be the starting quarterback and play, he’s ready to go. Like I said, both of them are very unselfish. If we called them and said, ‘You’re in for four snaps’ and blew their redshirt year, they’d do it.”

ON BEING THE MOST INJURIES HE’S HAD ON A TEAM THAT’S BEEN ASSOCIATED WITH: “Did I say that? I don’t remember saying that. But I did say — probably you caught a clip the other day — I did say there was quite a few guys on the injury report. Now, some of that’s very minor and they’re just on there getting treated because they’re beat up, and some of them are injured. We’re getting better. We are.”

ON IF PULLING A REDSHIRT IN SEASON IS A MENTAL ADJUSTMENT FOR A PLAYER: “Yeah, I believe it does. I believe it does. Patrick’s been, prior to this week, he’s been down there on the scout team helping us. That helps him get good looks and throw the ball and stay active, and it helps us. So yes, it does change it a little bit mentally.”

ARE THERE PLAYERS BESIDES THE QUARTERBACKS WHO ARE SCOUT TEAM/REDSHIRTING WHO HE FEELS LIKE HE CAN HELP DOWN THE ROAD: “Yeah, I do. I feel good about that nucleus of guys. I really do. They’ve got a great work ethic. They’re getting extra lifting, so they’re on a different lifting plan than the guys that are playing. They’re hitting the weights much harder, and I think that’s really gonna pay off.”

ON IF HE’S SEEN PLAYERS STEP UP WHO ARE GETTING EXTRA REPS IN PLACE OF INJURED GUYS: “I have, yeah. I see guys getting better, and that’s where that fine line comes in. Like today, I wanted to very long, very hard practice. I backed off a little bit just to continue to develop our team. We’ll have another good, long, physical practice tomorrow and develop everybody. We need to get better, we said that in the off week, to heal up a little bit mentally, physically, prepare for Mississippi State and also just get better as a football team.”

ON WHAT FLIPPED THE SWITCH FROM EMOTIONALLY DOWN YESTERDAY TO BEING READY TO GO TODAY: “There was nothing drastic yesterday. It was just like you would expect. They were off Sunday and Monday. Tough stretch. They needed a little gas in the tank. They were just a little down. We got work done, and it wasn’t a bad attitude or anything like that. It was just, emotionally we were a little down and we were 11 days away or nine days away or whatever we were at that time (from the next game). So I think today they just came out with a good attitude, a little bit refreshed, and got some good work in.”

DID HE SEE ANY PLAYERS WHO WERE LEADING CHARGE TO GET EMOTION BACK UP? “No, I didn’t. I came down to the team meeting and they had some real good loud music going on, and it was nice and loud, and everybody was excited. So that put me in a good mood.”

DID HE DANCE? “No, no, no. No good clips of that.”

ON WHAT THEY STILL NEED AT LEFT GUARD: “Just consistency, physical play. There’s a combination of things. You know how it is in this league. It takes a lot of talent, and the bigger and the more physical you are and the more athletic you are, generally you have a better chance against some of these teams. So we’ll continue to work.”

ON IF THEY’RE PLAYING THAT POSITION SITUATIONALLY: “Teven (Eatmon-Nared) played better than he had last week. So that was a good sign. We’re working a lot of options. Best available.”

ON HOW NATE WILLIS GOT ON THEIR RADAR: “Just junior college lists. We were just watching a bunch of junior college corners, and liked what we had to see and just started recruiting him from there.”

HAVE THEY RE-EVALUATED WHETHER THEY WANT TO ADD MORE JUNIOR COLLEGE GUYS TO HELP NEXT YEAR? “I think there’s always a place for junior college players to fill some holes. As I said — you guys could go back and look at it, but whatever I said in the first introductory media conference — I think you need junior college players. We will recruit junior college players. I don’t think it’s necessarily a great thing to go recruit eight or nine, because the turnover is so quick. By the time you get them ready in your system, playing how you want to play, then they’re gone. They’ve been very good for us, and we’ve had great success, whether it be at my previous stops and here, they’re working out good, and I like having them. That number, I hate to put a figure on that. Some years it may be more than others. But after that long-winded question, we do need some junior college players. I don’t know why you got me talking today. We do. We need some help at certain positions.”

HIM SAYING THEY MIGHT HAVE SEVEN, EIGHT OR NINE GUYS GRADUATE EARLY AND POSSIBLY BEING ABLE TO BRING IN MORE PLAYERS: “We’re gonna have no problem filling those gaps. You know I’m not allowed to talk about specific people, but whether it be high school midyear guys or junior college midyear guys, we should have the opportunity to fill some spots there.”

ON IF THEY CAN FILL SEVEN TO NINE OF THOSE SPOTS: “Possibly, depending on how our kids do academically — which is a good thing — we could get up to 11.”

 

NEAL BROWN

“I’m good. I’m good if y’all don’t want to ask about last week’s game, I’m good.”

AT HALFWAY POINT IN SEASON, WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST SURPRISE AND BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: “The biggest disappointment probably is our not making plays in crucial situations probably. That’s been my biggest disappointment. We’ve had some opportunities to make plays and extend drives and we haven’t made them. During that difficult stretch, we probably made them in the fourth quarter against Louisville and the second half versus South Carolina. And biggest surprise? I think, I don’t know if it’s a surprise, but I’ve been pleased with — our rushing numbers haven’t always shown it because we’ve had some negative yardage plays — but we’ve been able to run the football effectively against some really good defenses. Our yards per carry when you take the sacks out, which is really how we go about calculating it has been pretty good against some really, really good run defenses.”

ON RUNNING BACK RAYMOND SANDERS’ STATUS, BANGED UP? “He’ll be fine. He’ll practice this weekend. He played really well on Saturday, really well. I mean, he ran the ball effectively, had his pads down, got yards after contact and we’re just being precautionary, just taking care of him.”

YOUNG OFFENSE’S ATTITUDE LIKE AFTER NOT HAVING SUCCESS IN FIRST HALF OF SEASON? “They’re probably more resilient than me a lot of times. But they’ve done well. They bounce back. They understand, and I just told them, ‘Here. Here’s who we’ve played on defense the last four weeks,’ and I think, what, total defense, three of them are in the top six and maybe three of the top four scoring defenses. And everybody but Miami of Ohio that we’ve played is in the top 30 in total defense. So I’ve said, ‘Hey, we’ve played some really good people. Now, our production’s not what it should be. We should still be able to move the ball against whoever we’re playing.’ But they’re upbeat. They understand. They believe in the system. They believe in what we’re doing. They understand we’ve got to get better, but they’ve been good. Attitude’s been really good.”

ON HOW MUCH THE GAME PLAN HAS CHANGED VS. ALABAMA WHEN WHITLOW GOT HURT? “Yeah. The passing deal’s not as big a deal, but we were really probably more so than we have been all year — well, probably South Carolina we were pretty heavy — we were really going to be quarterback driven run game in the Alabama game. Then obviously when he got hurt, we had to scrap that and go to plan B. So we scrambled a little bit. We were able to come back in the second half and run the ball pretty effectively. We just never … Couldn’t get open, and we weren’t very accurate with the football either.”

ON WHERE PATRICK TOWLES AND REESE PHILLIPS ARE AT IN TERMS OF DEVELOPMENT SINCE THE FALL: “Yeah, they’re better. They’re better. You know it’s a good opportunity. Both of them would like that opportunity. Obviously Reese is a true freshman, first time going through this deal. It’s a little bit unlucky for Patrick just cause it’s his second year going through this, second opportunity where he could potentially be redshirted. But both of them have a good attitude. We’re getting both of them a lot of work this week, and we’ll make a decision sometime later in the week.”

IF THEY’RE MORE HESITANT TO TAKE TOWLES’ REDSHIRT OFF SINCE HE’S ALREADY BEEN THROUGH THIS ONCE: Yeah, well I think that we’ve got to be cognizant of that. Obviously, we’re going to make the best decision for the football team, but I think we’ve got to be cognizant of that, no question.”

ON WHAT TOWLES HAS SAID: No, he’s been good. He’s good. No, he’s Kentucky through and through, team guy. He bleeds blue, he’s going to do whatever news to be done to help the team.”

ON IF MAXWELL SMITH STILL HAS THE VELOCITY HE USED TO HAVE BECAUSE SOMETIMES IT LOOKS LIKE HE’S LOST SOMETHING: Yeah it does. I think that’s fair. Here’s the deal. Is his arm where it was three or four years ago, maybe pre-surgery? Probably not, but I don’t know if anybody in this room is as good as they were three or four years ago either — you know what I mean — at certain things that involves your body. But he’s got to adapt. He’s got plenty enough arm strength to still get it done. The key to him — and it’s actually a good question because we spent a lot of our meeting time talking about this today — he’s got to use his lower body. It’s his lower body. He’s not using his lower body, which causes him to lose velocity on those maybe hash to sideline throws. When he uses his lower body, he’s got no issues whatsoever, he’s got plenty of arm strength.”

ON UK HAVING AN OFF WEEK IN 2006 AFTER A 49-0 LOSS TO LSU, THEN DICKY LYONS SHOT OFF HIS MOUTH AND THE TEAM RALLIED AND WON 5 OF 6 AND WHETHER ANYBODY ON THIS TEAM CAN BE THAT GUY: “I don’t know. I’d like to have Dicky Lyons and Jacob (Tamme) and who else? Keenan (Burton) and Stevie Johnson, Rafael Little, Andre’ Woodson. I might spout my mouth off if I had those guys. But no, Coach Brooks actually talked to the football team about that yesterday. I thought that was a good message. We’re probably in a little bit different situation, as far as where we at with the youth of our team and things like that, but I think obviously we got handily beaten just like they did and we’ve got an opportunity to bounce back and go down to Starkville and have a chance to turn our season around.”

WHETHER HE WORRIES ABOUT MAX SMITH’S CONFIDENCE: “We talked about it on Monday. We went back and I showed him a lot of throws over the last three seasons when he’s played and been successful – and told him when he’s not had success this season why. I think a lot of it has to do with using his lower body. A lot of it has to do with he’s gotta trust these young guys he’s throwing to. He’s gotta have some blind trust. So we talked about that on Monday. I don’t think when we play next Thursday confidence will be an issue.”

DOES THAT ALTER HOW HE CALLS A GAME, THAT SMITH MIGHT NOT HAVE THE SAME ARM OR CONFIDENCE HE CAN CHUCK IT DOWN THE FIELD: “His confidence is fine. He believes he can make any throw – and to be honest, he can make any throw; he’s just gotta use his lower body to do so. And when he’s made some really good throws this year, he’s done that. But no, it won’t. The things we’re going to carry into the game, he’ll be able to do effectively.”

IS HE CROSSING HIS FINGERS WHITLOW IS BACK SOON SO THEY DON’T EVEN HAVE TO MAKE THE CALL ON THE BACKUP GUYS: “Yeah, well, I think he’s one of our better players and he adds a dimension to our offense that we need, because he makes teams defend us in a totally different way that gives us an opportunity for our young receiving corps to get open in one-on-one situations. They don’t have to worry – we see a lot more one-safety (looks) when Jalen’s in the game, just because they gotta get another hat in the box. But, yeah, the sooner he can get back, the better. It’ll be better for us.”

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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