Stoops’ final thoughts before Mississippi State

MARK STOOPS

All right, how’s everybody doing? Wrapped it up today with good preparation, Thursday practice, a little lighter. Normal Thursday. It was good. Guys were locked in, and we’re anxious to get going.”

DOES HE THINK MAXWELL SMITH WILL START AT QUARTERBACK? Yeah, he is.”

DOES HE THINK JALEN WHILTOW WILL BE ABLE TO GO? Yeah, he’ll be ready to go, yeah, if we need him. Again, I think Max got most of the reps last week and this week, but Jalen will be ready to go. We’ll use him if we need to.”

WAS WHITLOW LIMITED AT ALL ON ANKLE? I didn’t even pay attention to it today, to be honest with you. Moving on, getting ready for the game. He got his reps and looked fine.”

DOES THAT MEAN WHITLOW WILL PLAY ONLY “IF NEEDED”? I’m going to leave it at that. I mean, I’m giving you guys a lot right there, give me some credit. (Laughs). I said Max is starting and Jalen will be ready, and we’ll use him if needed. Does anything else need to be said really? We’ve got other players on this team, too.”

ARE THOSE GUYS INJURED, TOO? I think we’re feeling pretty good. I think we’re much healthier than we’ve been in some time. Mentally and physically we’re ready to go.”

WHAT PERCENTAGE OF HEALTH IS YOUR TEAM? “We’re fairly…We’re in fairly good shape. We’re good. I can’t think…You know, hopefully Bud will be 100 percent. We’ll see how he holds up. He’s been practicing and all that, but he’s not quite at 100 percent. That’s a big guy for us defensively.”

DO THEY DO ANY LAST-MINUTE FINE TUNING AFTER GETTING EXTRA TIME TO PREPARE FOR THIS GAME? “We went through our normal Thursday routine. We stay with the normal Thursday practice, which consists of the normal things. We start with a special teams period, and we go to a situational work, then we go to another special teams period and we come back in team, with moving the ball in a game-like situation. Offense does it a little bit different, but defensively we still break it down a little bit on Thursday.”

DID THEY FIND A GOOD AUDIO CLIP OF COWBELL NOISE? Nah. No, no. I’ll just be waiting for that on Thursday.”

DID THEY BLAST SOME CROWD NOISE: We had crowd noise. Yeah, we had it.”

HIS BIGGEST CONCERN ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE’S OFFENSE: Well, anytime you’ve got the quarterback involved in the run and they’re physical it makes you add numbers. So, we have to be very disciplined with all the different option game they do and all the quarterback run game. Then you’ve got to get them on the ground. Of course, when you commit numbers, you’ve got to play the play-action hard. So, that’s the big thing.”

ON HOW MSU IS AMONG THE WORST PUNT-RETURN TEAMS AND AMONG THE BEST IN KICKOFF RETURNS WITH THE SAME PERSONNEL: “You just never. With punts, a lot of it has to do with how well the other team’s punting it and all that. I think when we get off good punts with good hang time, with the way punts are now, the punt protection team, the way it’s set up with a lot of college football teams, it’s easy to get some good coverage if you get a good kick, so I think that’s a big part of it.”

ON WHICH QBS WILL TRAVEL TO MSU: “We’ll travel four.”

ON PHILLIPS AND TOWLES BEING THE OTHER TWO: “Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we’ve been bringing them all year.”

ON PART OF THAT JUST PREPARING THEM FOR FUTURE ROAD TRIPS: “Yeah, it is – and helping us with hand signals and just different things. Yeah, we’ve been bringing them. We have the room, so …”

ON THE SECONDARY’S PROGRESS: “I feel good. I feel like the guys have really worked hard. I feel like they pay attention to the details more. There’s a little bit more bounce in their step in practice. They’re preparing better, they’re playing better. I feel like we’re developing some depth; Marcus McWilson is coming along at nickel. Blake (McClain), you know he’s very versatile, can play several positions. And just overall, I’ve been pleased with their effort.”

ON WHETHER THEY’VE SOLVED THE LEFT GUARD ISSUE: “Uh, no. We’ll see where it goes.”

ON WHETHER THIS RECRUITING CLASS IS CLOSE TO FULL, HOW MANY MORE THEY’LL ADD: “We’ll continue to recruit pretty hard through February. Things change, as you know. We feel very good, feel like we’re solid with the guys we have, but you never know and we want to keep on recruiting. And we have a few spots to fill, so we’ll keep on going.”

ON A MAGIC NUMBER: “Well, the absolute most we can give out this year is 28, which is a high number, so if we need to, we can send out 28.”

ON PREFERRING TO MAX OUT: “We need 28 players, I promise you. So we’re going to try to get 28.”

ON POSITIONS OF NEED: “I think we’re constantly looking to improve at O-line and D-line, getting some more size, some big bodies in there.”

ON RUMORS OF NEW UNIFORMS COMING OUT THURSDAY: “No, absolutely no. No, no. I don’t know where these whispers come from. No. They’re not, I promise. No. One of the players even asked me. I said, ‘I don’t even know where the gray uniforms are. We don’t have gray uniforms. I haven’t seen them.’ So anyway.”

ON NO SURPRISE UNIFORMS THIS SEASON: “No. Not right now. Let’s stick to this game. I’m just worried about this game here right now. And, hey guys, this is a typical Thursday for me, so I get to go home; my son is playing a basketball game right now, so let’s get on it.”

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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