Kentucky’s Mark Stoops, Neal Brown discuss Vandy

MARK STOOPS
“Got some good work in today. Guys are working hard, good energy. Players are bouncing around pretty good, so overall decent day and gotta continue to work through the week and have a good day tomorrow and get ready to go down there and have a great game. I feel good about the work ethic of the guys and what they’re doing and how we’re moving forward. I anticipate us going down there and playing well.”

DO YOU SEEK OUT VETERANS AND TALK ABOUT ISSUES: “Definitely. Definitely. Just working with them and talking with them, maybe not specifically about, ‘Hey, come out with a really good attitude,’ but just staying close to them and guys like Avery and patting them on the back and telling them to keep it going and keep the guys going and all that stuff. He’s been good and there’s a lot of guys that have been working hard. So I don’t anticipate any drop off from our seniors.”

IS ONE OF MESSAGES, THANKS FOR ‘TAKING THE LUMPS,’ LAYING FOUNDATION? “I haven’t specifically said that to him, but I appreciate the way he goes about his business and how much he cares and the passion and the energy he practices with.”

ON WHILTOW BECOMING A VOCAL LEADER: “Yeah. He’s not very vocal. He’s really not.”

CAN YOU DEVELOP THAT? “Yeah, hopefully you can keep developing him in all aspects of his game and his leadership and all of those things. Yeah, I think that comes with earning that as well. Guys that just go out there and talk for no reason, haven’t done anything, does no good as well. But we need him to continue to grow as a quarterback and as a leader.”

STARTED TO SEE THINGS WHERE IT CLICKS, DO WE HAVE A GUY WE CAN BUILD ON? “I think so. Just with — we talked last week — he showed some toughness. I think he grinded through some physical hits. He ran the ball when he needed to. Matter of fact, he even took it upon himself, and maybe it was a wrong read, but he was eager to keep the ball and run it when he needed to, to make a play for us. I think those are good signs. We need to continue to execute the offense. He’s not perfect with his run-pass decisions yet, but he’s getting better. And we need to continue to work with accuracy.”

ARE YOU BORN WITH LEADERSHIP THING? HAVE YOU HAD AN INSTANCE IN YOUR CAREER WHERE YOU’VE SEEN A GUY THAT LEARNED TO BE A LEADER? “I have to believe so, I can’t think of anybody right off the top of my head in that way, but certainly guys grow as their play improves, as they’ve been around and earned the respect of their coaches and teammates. You could bring some leadership out of guys, but I don’t disagree. Some of the great leaders that we all can see in sports, I think some of those guys are born with that quality, that’s for sure.”

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT OFFENSIVE SIDE OF THE BALL, CONSIDERING THAT YOU’RE A DEFENSIVE GUY? “Of course, any time you’re a defensive guy, you know when you watch film, it aggravates you when opponents are doing something that makes you maybe, you know you can’t do you’ll get penalized. I think that is something I constantly work with the offense that we can’t get away with that. I think our offensive guys have great ideas and I fully believe in what they’re doing, we just need to get better at what we’re doing. In the meantime, we’re always searching for ways to move the ball. I’ve talked about that over and over again. But yeah, from coaching defense all those years, you can’t help but notice good football plays from the offensive side of the ball.”

ON RYAN TIMMONS. HAS HE BEEN ABLE TO PRACTICE THIS WEEK? “Yeah. He has.”

ON WIDE RECEIVERS, FEELING BETTER ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE? “I hope Ryan’s at 100 percent. I wouldn’t say he’s been at 100 percent. He’s practiced the past two days, but he’s not at 100 percent. He’s going out there and he’s trying to get in there and play and we hope he’ll continue to improve through the week.”

OTHER GUYS COMING ALONG? “Other guys, yeah, it’s always been a work in progress this whole year and we’re a little thinner than normal right now, but the guys worked hard. They really had two good days; I thought they were moving around pretty good.”

THINGS YOU CAN DO OTHER THAN REPS, HELP A KID DEVELOP LEADERSHIP QUALITIES? “Oh, yeah, we do an awful lot. I’m not sure if anybody else in the country has one or not, but we have a person here we hired through the athletic department that is directly responsible in helping teach leadership. So we have a manual that we run through all summer that when we go through camp, we’re teaching leadership and developing that with a manual and what we do. And of course, we all know that some of that can’t come out of a book, but yes, we’re constantly trying to help and develop leaders.”

IS THERE A YOUNG GUY ON THIS TEAM WHO WAS BORN WITH LEADERSHIP QUALITIES? “Blake McClain stands out to me. He’s not afraid to speak his mind. He knows he’s not perfect, but it’s very important to him. He works extremely hard and he has a great competitive nature. I think that’s a guy who has spoken up in the locker room at times and during games at times and that’s great to see.”

DOES THAT CATCH YOU OFF GUARD, A FRESHMAN SHOWING STRONG LEADERSHIP? “It doesn’t catch me off guard. I really love seeing that and you could tell it’s not fake. It’s not just somebody shooting his mouth off, it’s coming from a good place. He has a lot of respect from his teammates.”

WHAT GAVE YOU LEADERSHIP GURU IDEA? “Actually, Mitch Barnhart brought it to me and asked if we’d be interested in doing that and we did it. We brought Jason Cummings in here full time and that’s a credit to Mitch Barnhart in trying to help us as an athletic department and we’ve been working very close with him here at football. He travels with us. He’s with us all the time. He talks with the team, addresses the team some. It’s a different person, a different message and given us some more ideas and some more resources to help these young men.”

DOES HE HELP COACHES WITH LEADERSHIP, TOO? “He helps all of us, absolutely.”

TAUGHT YOU ANYTHING? “We work with him and of course I listen to everybody who’s talking, whether it’s an assistant coach or him or anybody. Other coaches. I listen to a lot of things and we’re constantly trying to improve in this business and the minute you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’ve got a real problem.”

 

NEAL BROWN

ON QB JALEN WHITLOW LEARNING TO BE A LEADER: “I think he’s growing. Yeah, I think he’s growing. I think he gets better – as we go along, I think he gets better. Is he where I would like him to be? Probably not. But I don’t know if that’s the case for anybody. I think coaches, by nature, we always want more. But I think he’s getting better. And I always have to remind myself that he’s a young kid that hasn’t played quarterback a whole lot. So I think he’s getting better.”

ON WHETHER THERE’S ANYONE ELSE ON OFFENSE SHOWING LEADERSHIP: “Yeah, well, really I think our seniors have done a pretty decent job. I know our record doesn’t show that, but I think those guys have really competed hard. I think Jordan Aumiller has had a really successful senior season. I think he’s done a really good job from a leadership standpoint. I think Kevin Mitchell is playing through a lot of injuries. He’s done a good job just by toughness; not a real vocal guy but a good job. I tell you somebody that’s really growing, that I’m really encouraged by for the future is Jordan Swindle. He’s really playing well, at a high level. He competes hard, he plays hard, he’s tough. So he’s a guy that I think has a lot of potential to kind of take the reins in a leadership role as we go forward.”

ON WHETHER IT HELPS THAT SWINDLE SEEMS TO HAVE A LITTLE NASTY STREAK: “Yeah, no question. I think any really good football team that I’ve ever been on, the tone is always set up front. And I really believe that you have to have some nastiness. You’ve gotta play within the rules, don’t get me wrong, but you want a tough, physical presence up front. And when you have that, you have an opportunity to be good. Last year (at Texas Tech), arguably our best player was our left tackle. His name is LaAdrian Waddle. He’s starting for the Detroit Lions now, and he was a physical, nasty – and I mean that in a positive way – player, and he set the tone for everything we did on offense.”

ON WHETHER HE CONSIDERS SWAPPING SWINDLE AND LEFT TACKLE DARRIAN MILLER: “Not really because I’m really – I think there’s room for improvement, no question, but I think those two guys have played pretty well, really, at the edge. They’ve been challenged a lot. We’ve left them in some one-on-one situations to give some help to some inside guys. And overall, I’m pretty pleased with how those guys play, both Darrian and Jordan.”

ON WHITLOW SHOWING SOME THINGS HE THINKS UK CAN BUILD ON: “I think you see positive signs, no question. I thought he ran the ball extremely well in the third quarter (against Missouri). Now we’ve got to get him to do that all the time, but I thought he ran the ball really, really well in the third quarter. And hit a couple deep balls – the one that Ray fumbled, I thought that was a really nice pass. It’s the same exact play against Alabama State that he kind of bounced out there. So I think you see improvement. I think he can still play at a high level all the time. I think he is, like a lot of us on offense, inconsistent. But I do see things that lead me to believe that he can be a really good quarterback in this league.”

ON WHAT UK STILL NEEDS FROM WHITLOW PHYSICALLY: “I think he’s got to be consistently accurate with the football. I think that’s – and he knows that. He’s been inconsistent passing the ball. But there’s signs in every game that he’s played that he’s capable of doing that. We’ve just got to get him, from a fundamentals standpoint, to do that consistently.”

WHITLOW’S ABILITY TO MAKE DECISIONS: “I think it’s a work in progress. I think it’s significantly better than it was the Western Kentucky game. You know, we give him a lot of latitude. We don’t necessarily check a bunch of plays at the line of scrimmage, but in our offense we try to be as all-purpose as possible. Because we used to be an outfit that kind of checked at the line of scrimmage and maybe was a look-at-me a little bit more, where we all looked to the sideline, but defensive coordinators really caught onto that; when we check, they’re checking. So what we do is we try to have all-purpose plays where we’ve got maybe it’s a run/pass, a run/screen combination, and the quarterback makes the decision at the line of scrimmage either to run the ball or throw the ball. And those things, Jalen’s much improved, but he can still get better. What it does is it gives you easy yards. So if the numbers are in the box, he can throw it outside and we can get easier yards than trying to block all those people inside.”

ON HOW HE ACTUALLY SIGNALS PLAYS IN: “We do it a couple different ways. We signal most of them from the sideline. Yeah, we signal most of them from the sideline.”

ON HAVING MULTIPLE GUYS SIGNALING: “It’s top-secret stuff. It’s top-secret, man. That’s really top-secret stuff.”

ON WHETHER HE’S CONSIDERED, OREGON-STYLE, PUTTING A BUNCH OF FACES ON A BOARD REPRESENTING PLAYS: “We could do that. We could do that. Is that what you’d like? (laughing)”

ON HOW OFTEN NOW WHITLOW PICKS THE RIGHT ONE OF THE TWO OPTIONS ON THOSE EITHER/OR PLAYS: “Uh, it’s better. It’s better. It’s not – he can still show improvement. I don’t know as far as percentages. He left some yards out there last week. But it’s, like I said, much-improved from where it was at Western.”

ON WHITLOW’S MECHANICS IMPROVING: “Yeah, no question. And you all can tell, too, with the naked eye: when his feet are really close together, he’s not accurate. And he’s improving. At that technical issue, he is improving. He’s definitely improving.”

ON FB CODY JONES EARNING MORE TIME: “He’s just determined. He’s really – I should’ve talked about him from a leadership standpoint because he’s given us some backbone. He’s a tough, physical kid, from Kentucky, walked on here. It’s important to him. And his toughness shows. And he just won the job. He really just won the job. He competed. I think we had him at five or six knockdown blocks in the game. And he’s been a real pleasant surprise.”

ON WR RYAN TIMMONS (ANKLE): “He’s practiced a little bit, yesterday and today. He’s not 100 percent. I think he’s getting better. We’re being careful. He’s not doing a whole lot in practice, but he is out there. But I think we’ll have to see how it goes tomorrow and then what he looks like Friday before we make a determination whether he can play or not. If he does play, it probably will be in a limited role.”

ON WHETHER TIMMONS IS A BETTER RUNNING BACK OR RECEIVER AT THIS POINT: “I think he has potential to do both. I think he’s learning at wide receiver. The way he was used in high school is really kind of the same way we’re using him right now, in a sort of hybrid running back/receiver. He can improve his route-running a lot. You’re going to see a ton of growth between where he’s at now and when we kick off the season next year, where he’s at from a route-running potential. But I’m pleased with him. He’s given us quite a bit.”

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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