Stoops, Brown talk about future, offense

MARK STOOPS
“Moving forward with the week. Got some good work in today, and I thought our energy was good, thought the guys were practicing hard and doing as best we can. So, moving forward, looking forward to getting on with the preparation for Georgia.”

ON IF FULLBACK CODY JONES BEING A PLEASANT SURPRISE: “Yeah, he was. He really was. He’s physical. He’s a strong guy. He’s been playing fairly physical for us, so we’ve been pleased with that, yeah.”

SET NUMBER OF ‘EXPLOSIVE PLAYS’ AND HOW HE DEFINES THEM: “Yeah. We actually prefer to get more explosive plays than the opponent. That’s generally what we’re aiming for — to get some explosive plays and limit theirs. Sometimes we do that, sometimes we don’t.”

HOW THEY DEFINE THEM: “Yeah. Defensively, we don’t want any run over 15 yards. So for our offense, anything over 10 or 15 is an explosive (running) play and then anything over about 18 is a good pass play.”

ON THROWING DOWNFIELD: “Again, going back to what it seems like every day or the previous press conference and even after the game — we had our opportunities. We just missed them. We had guys open and we had our shots, and we missed it. We’re not the type of team that’s built just to drop back and do that five to 10 times a game and think we’re going to hit a high percentage. But on first, second down when we have it set up off of play action, where we have it protected, we have a guy open and we miss it, we just can’t afford to do that. So I guess what I’m saying is, we are taking our shots. We’re just not completing a whole bunch of them.”

SENIORS BESIDE AVERY WILLIAMSON WHO HAVE STOOD OUT: “Donte’s done a heck of a job. I thought he’s really stepped up the past couple weeks. Mister Cobble’s playing decent. Kevin Mitchell has been solid all year and really has had a good attitude.”

ON IF SENIORS ON DEFENSE APPRECIATE THE GROWTH IN THEIR GAME: “I think so. I hope so. I hope they feel a little bit of pride. I mean, we all want to win. They want to win. It hurts them. Like I said, it should hurt them. I think it hurts them more and more because we’re investing more. They’re investing more. But I think they do see themselves playing better, and they should take some pride in that, because we need to change the culture here and we need to change the atmosphere in the locker room and what’s acceptable and what’s not. And I believe they see that and are starting to change.”

ON WEIGHT TRAINING FOR RED-SHIRT PLAYERS: “They do more than our travel team. They guys that are redshirting and not paying are lifting much heavier and of course, when we’re traveling and things like that, they get in some extra lifts over the weekend. So they are gaining some weight and getting some strength.”

ON REGIE MEANT: “He’s gained probably 20, 30 pounds. He’s probably 290 right now. And Kyle Meadows is another guy that’s doing a very good job. Jacob Hyde has changed his body. He really works hard. I’m really proud of Jacob. I think he’s been a big, strong guy, but he’s actually leaned up a little bit and getting more flexibility and working hard.”

ON WILLIAMSON’S TWEET ABOUT PLAYING ANOTHER YEAR: “Well, I’d love to have him another year. I think he’s — like we just talked about, I think his leadership, he’s taken pride and starting to play — our team’s starting to play better. And defensively, we’re showing signs, and I think he takes great pride in what he’s doing. So we’ll petition that. Hopefully he’ll be playing in the NFL, right?”

HAS HE CHANGED HIS THINKING ABOUT OFFSEASON CONDITIONING: “We have talked about it already, and we’ve talked about getting right into it because of no bowl game and because of having a couple weeks prior to them breaking for their holiday. The nice thing is, our holiday’s still long. It’s three weeks, but it’s not — at least if we give them a program and get them going over the holiday, hopefully they’ll come back in better shape than when they left. But certain guys — the big guys, O-line and D-line — we need to get on that right away with nutrition, weight training and doing some things over the break. WE need to have a serious offseason. So we’ve talked about it and we’ll adjust a few things, but yeah, I think strength is a big deal. Size and strength we need to go to work on.”

HAVE GUYS MAINTAINED THEIR WEIGHT WHILE PLAYING: “Yeah, we’ve done a decent job with that. I think Darrian Miller’s held his weight. We need more. Swindle needs more. But they’ve played pretty good at times. We need more size and strength on those guys. Kyle Meadows I just talked about. Guys like that, we need to get on that right away. There’s no time to waste, and we’ve got to have a good offseason.”

IS EXTRA PRACTICE YOU GET WITH A BOWL UNDERRATED? “No, it’s important. It’s very important. We tried to take some of these guys this week, last week and really start working with them and just seeing where we’re at, at least. Obviously we’re preparing to win the games, but guys need breaks here and there too. And with that, (we’re) starting to even work with some of the redshirt guys and just see where we’re at as we get into recruiting, finalize recruiting and all that, see where we’re at and try to get a jump start for spring, just with where we think guys could play and where our needs are and all those sort of things.

IS THAT WHAT THEY’D DO WITH YOUNG GUYS IF THEY HAD BOWL PRACTICES? “Exactly, yeah. Trying to incorporate and get them some extra practice. After practice, working with the young guys, the redshirt guys, and then also getting them in some team reps to see how comfortable they are and what they can handle.”

CAN HE SEE SOME OF THOSE REDSHIRTS THIS YEAR STARTING NEXT YEAR? “Oh yeah. Yeah, definitely. Some of the linemen. Ramsey’s a guy that jumps out, Ramsey Meyers, right away. He’s got good size to him. I want to say he’s in the 330 range right now. And again, he plays very hard. He’s nasty and athletic. He’s a guy that can help us inside definitely. Kyle Meadows. I like Kyle and all those guys, really.”

HOW MUCH INPUT HE’S HAD ON COMMONWEALTH RENOVATION PLANS AND HIS EXCITEMENT LEVEL FOR MONDAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT: “Yeah. I’m very excited about it. They’ve showed me all the drawings and all those things, and I was involved in one meeting a while ago before the season started. The stadium, I’ve got too much on my plate to get involved with all that now. Hopefully we can do some other additions as we move forward that I’ll be very involved with.”

DOES HE MEAN PRACTICE FACILITY? “Yeah. Or whatever we try to get going for improving our football facilities. But the stadium project, no, I don’t have a lot of say in that. But I can tell you that I’m very excited from what I’ve seen.”

IS HE SATISFIED THAT THE TEAM KNOWS WHAT KIND OF COMMITMENT HE EXPECTS FROM THEM IN THE OFF-SEASON? ” I think they’re beginning to understand that, and I think we’re growing in that area. You know, we’ve talked about all these things we need to do from Day One, but we can talk about those things. Those things don’t happen. We’ve got to create good habits, break bad habits and continue to do the things we need to do every day. And as you’ve heard me say before, the people we’re playing against and the team we want to be, they’ve done things right for a long, long time. And that’s what we want to be, to be a consistent football team and a good football team built on the right foundation. We need to just go about our business and do the little things right every day, and I think we are starting to understand that. I’ve said all along, their attitude’s good and everything. They just don’t always know how to do things right and all the little things – the attention to detail and the work ethic and the intensity (with) which you need to do things. And I think they care a great deal right now and they’re starting to understand that. I think that’s why we’re getting closer in certain games.”

IS IT LIKE STUDENTS WHO THINK THEY KNOW HOW TO STUDY BUT REALLY DON’T? “It is. And again, I think it’s real important to understand what it takes to win at this level. It’s our job to show them, but we’ve got to continue to do that for a long period of time. I can tell you I think — I’m excited about, and we talked about it, last week I thought we played with great intensity. I want to carry that throughout this season, and I want to keep that momentum going straight forward with a great offseason and really working hard and getting into that offseason with some great intensity.”

 

NEAL BROWN

DOES THE OFFENSE HAVE A SET NUMBER OF EXPLOSIVE PLAYS AND WHAT ARE THE NUMBERS THAT YOU USE TO DEFINE THEM? “We want to have one more than the other team. The reason is, I think if you look, there’s two really key factors if you look back. There’s a bunch of things we track, and I think we talked about those earlier in the year: explosive plays and winning the turnover battle. If you can win the number of explosive plays, and you can win the turnover, all right? You’re going to win most of those games. I think we only lost one of those at (Texas) Tech in three years where we did both of those. We just need to have more. We go in, that’s one thing from a game-planning perspective we really try to game plan is we try to hit some big plays. I think we had eight last week. The way we look at them is, anything plus-16 on a pass, plus-12 on a run or screen.”

IF REESE PHILLIPS HAS SHOWN ENOUGH TO BE A FACTOR IN THE QUARTERBACK BATTLE IN SPRING: “Yeah. He’ll definitely be a factor. He’s going to have a chance without question.”

WHAT DO YOU LIKE THAT YOU’VE SEEN IN HIM LATELY? Here’s what I like. I like his demeanor. He’s never rattled. He’s got a confident kind of aura about him. In live situations, he’s made good decisions, and he gets the ball out of his hand fast, and he’s accurate with the football.”

ON THE GOAL BEING TO STRING TOGETHER EXPLOSIVE PLAYS: “I think so. Here’s what I think, and I think those guys are right. I think when people start—there’s two types of explosive plays. There’s ones that I can create through a game plan and maybe schematically, and then there’s ones that the guys create by making people miss in space. Those two guys both have the ability to do that, and I think those are the type that other people feed off of. If you can get into the secondary and make a safety miss, it gives us energy, it’s momentum on our side, plus it makes those guys second-guess themselves. So the next time they’re in that one-on-one situation, that safety’s a little less confident.”

WHAT SENIORS HAVE KEPT MORALE UP? “I don’t know from a spirit, but I think they’ve done a good job of showing guys how to persevere. I think Jordan Aumiller comes to my mind right away as a guy that’s come to work every day with the right mindset. Let’s see, who else senior-wise. Kevin Mitchell is a guy that really works hard every day and is playing through—he’s banged up, and he’s playing through a lot of injuries. Tyler Robinson has a great attitude, somebody that’s really kind of really been hampered this year with a back injury, but he’s got a good demeanor every day. I think those type of guys, it shows our younger guys, ‘Regardless of what happens, you don’t lose the same game twice, so whatever happens on Saturday, you come to work on Monday and you get better.’ I think those guys have kind of led the way. Those are some of the guys that jump out to me.”

ON KEVIN MITCHELL PLAYING HURT: “He does. He fights through. Good guy. Football means something to him. The University of Kentucky means something to him. And I think it’s great to have those in that room. You know, he’s the only senior that’s in that (O-line meeting) room and I think that those younger guys, whether it’s Swindle, Toth or any of those guys that are redshirting, I think it’s good for those guys to see: hey, when you get 11 games or 10 games into an SEC schedule, very few people are healthy.”

ON STOOPS SAYING SOME OF THE O-LINEMEN WHO ARE REDSHIRTING LOOK LIKE GUYS WHO COULD’VE HELPED THIS YEAR, BUT UK DID THE RIGHT THING BY SITTING THEM: “Oh, there’s no question. They would; they would definitely help us. But here’s the way I look at it: Let’s look at Jordan Swindle; Jordan Swindle is a sophomore right now. Now, if he was a redshirt freshman doing what he’s doing, then you’re like, ‘Whoa.’ You know what I mean? So I just believe that from a wear-and-tear standpoint up front, the right thing is to redshirt those guys. They’re going to be so much better as redshirt freshman and have four – they have a chance to have four great years, where this year it would’ve been up and down. Now, by this time could they help us? No question. Would they have been a factor Week 1, 2 or 3? Ah, probably not.”

ON THOSE GUYS WHO REDSHIRT BEING ABLE TO LIFT MORE AND GET BIGGER, STRONGER: “Yeah, they are. Like Kyle Meadows is a great example. He’s put on anywhere from 10 to 15 pounds just from preseason camp. And those guys, because those guys are lifting; they’re not traveling and those guys are able to spend more time in the weight room. Not worrying about conditioning right now, but just from a strength standpoint, they would not have gotten as strong as they are right now.”

ON SENIORS TEACHING YOUNG PLAYERS WHO HAVEN’T FAILED MUCH TO PERSEVERE: “Well, I think the good thing about it is most of our young guys come from places where they’ve won, so they don’t necessarily have – they’re not necessarily beat down. But I think the best thing those other guys have done is whatever happens, when they get to work on Monday, when they get to this building, it’s over with — whatever happened on Saturday — is over with and they’re focused on the next opponent. And we talk about having a ‘next’ attitude all the time, whether it’s next play, next series, next game and I think those guys have done a good job of leading the way, teaching our younger guys.”

ON DEFENSIVE SCOUT TEAM, WHO COULD BE HELPFUL NEXT SEASON: “Regie Meant’s the first one who jumps out. Regie Meant, he’s going to be a big factor. I don’t want to speak for D.J. (Eliot) or Mark (Stoops), but he’s going to be a major factor in what they’re doing. And J.D. unfortunately is over there and he did it to himself, but I mean he’s over there and he’s athletically, and you know, he played a lot of football last year and he’s a guy from an athletic standpoint will definitely help. And Melvin Lewis is a kid, who if he continues to get in shape and continues to get stronger and takes coaching, he’s a guy in there who can be a factor, too.”

WHEN YOU SEE WILLIAMSON DEVELOP INTO A LEADER, IS IT ENCOURAGING TO SEE THAT KNOWING HE DIDN’T HAVE A REDSHIRT SEASON AND YOU’VE HAD TO PLAY SO MANY TRUE FRESHMEN? “I think there’s no question, first of all, that Avery is the leader of the team. I think he’s obviously the leader on defense, but also the leader on the entire team. It is comforting. I wish they would’ve redshirted him, though, I don’t guess we can get that back. But yeah, it is. And you’re seeing some guys, like (Jordan) Swindle’s a guy that didn’t redshirt, but he’s taken a leadership role, I think as they get older, Jojo (Kemp) and some of those other, you know, Jeff Badet and Ryan (Timmons) and some of those other guys that are playing early in their career and kind of going through some down times, I think they can lead us, lead us to some better times.”

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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