Stoops talks QBs, INTs on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to going down and having a real challenge playing Georgia on the road, a very talented team and a team that showed a lot of heart a lot of guts coming back last week. Was very impressed with Aaron Murray and really their whole team to come back and take the lead and, you know, have a great opportunity to win that game. I know it wasn’t the outcome that they want but had a chance to watch it live as we were heading back from the Vandy game. We were on the bus and watching it. Just really impressed. I just feel like they have and awful lot of talent, and they’re a very good team. Very impressed with Murray, once again, and running back (Todd) Gurley is just a very, big, strong, physical running back. Of course, very talented receiving group that’s getting more and more healthy with (Chris) Conley coming back. So defensively, again, very good team and very talented. Bunch of linebackers that run all over the place and make plays. Very good up front with Ray Drew and good in the back end with (Josh Harvey-)Clemons and the rest of the crew. So it will be a real challenge for us.

“I thought we improved this past week. I was really pleased with the effort our team gave at Vandy. I thought we really played as hard as we have all year. The outcome was not what we wanted. I felt like the team really played extremely hard. I thought we really had the best game defensively since I’ve been here. And again, I feel like we made some good stops and played extremely hard offensively as well. We’ve just got to stop having plays that are killing drives for us — penalties, dropped balls, missed assignments that create negative plays and all those things. But, again, I thought we moved it well, we’ve just got to execute better to get the ball in the end zone. Special teams, kind of the same story. We can’t have a blocked extra point that creates two points for the other team. I thought that was a big momentum changer for us. Outside of that, I thought we played extremely hard on special teams and did some very good things. Our coverage teams were very good and limited yards on kick returns and punt returns for Vandy. Overall, making some improvement. We know we’ve got a little way to go, but pleased with the team’s attitude and effort.”

ARE THEY COMMITTED TO REDSHIRTING REESE PHILLIPS WITH TWO GAMES LEFT? At this point he is, but I tell you, he did move up. Once Jalen came back, if he was reinjured we were going with Reese, going to put Reese in the game and give him a shot. Now with two games left, no chance of a bowl game or anything, I think it would be in our best interest to keep that redshirt year now. But he was moving up and repping with the twos really the second part of this season. Impressed with the way he’s progressing and excited about him in the future.”

HOW HAS PHILLIPS HANDLED BEING SO CLOSE TO PLAYING, THEN GOING BACK TO RED-SHIRTING? He handled it very well because we was willing to take his redshirt year off if it helped the team to play, and he was preparing to play and really still is. But at this point, I would probably still go with Maxwell to keep his redshirt. But I was excited to get Reese some reps in practice. I liked what I saw. He’s handled it very well, and very unselfish. Like I said, he was willing to play. I thought he would have went in there and done very well, so in a way I’m kind of disappointed I didn’t get an opportunity to see him play this year, but in the long run for the future of the program I’m glad to be able to keep his redshirt.”

ON HOW HE USES ONE TEAM INTERCEPTION AND ZERO INTERCEPTIONS FROM SECONDARY TO MOTIVATE TEAM. ONE CORNER SAID IT’S ALWAYS IN BACK OF GUYS’ MINDS: Well, it is. I think the only thing that we really are doing here right now is really just trying to get them better. I like the way the group practices, I really do. I think they go out there and really practice well and prepare for the games well. We’ve got to get our hands on some balls. I think a lot goes into that: pressure up front, blitzes getting there, trying to get bad passes. I think leads help. It’s no mystery we’re struggling to score points, so it’s just like last week the difference in the game was the turnovers. So, I think they were very smart with the ball and didn’t turn it over and don’t put themselves in that situation. I think most opponents know when we’re struggling to get the ball in the end zone that it would be very careless to throw the ball up and put it in bad situations. So I think that’s part of it as well. I think you have an opportunity to get lots of interceptions when you’re team’s scoring a bunch of points and teams are playing from behind as well. You know that’s not been the case this year. So it all goes into it, but we need to do a better job in the secondary, we need to do a better job creating pressure and creating some negative plays, whether it be tips or different things like that. I think the group’s getting better, but we all know we have a long way to go.”

HAS HE STOPPED BRINGING THE INTERCEPTION NUMBER UP? “Oh yeah, every now and then I bring it up with certain guys, but they know it, they care a great deal and they’re trying to get some.”

ON AVERY WILLIAMSON’S THUMB AND HIS LATEST CAST: Yeah, he just…He’s had an issue all year. It’s a ligament. It’s not torn, it’s not a torn ligament, but for some reason after this past weekend it swelled up very big. As a matter of fact, it was so much swelling in it on Sunday that they couldn’t put a cast on it until Monday when they got some of the swelling out of it. It’s not anything that needs surgically repaired or anything like that. He’s just having and issue with the tendon or a ligament in his thumb.”

ON HIS IMPRESSIONS OF BUD DUPREE AND ZA’DARIUS SMITH: “Very impressed. Bud was here when we got here, and Za’Darius we recruited first couple weeks we were on campus here. We recruited Z here. But I tell you, I’m very impressed with both of those guys.  I think really kind of pleasantly surprised with the versatility of Bud Dupree. There’s a guy that’s very good with his hand in the dirt playing a 4-3 defensive end, and he’s also very talented standing up, playing linebacker in some of the 3-4 stuff that we’re doing. I think he’s a type of guy he’d be one of the best players on our defense no matter where we played in the front seven.”

DOES THE BENCHMARK FOR WHAT IS GOOD DEFENSE CHANGE AS THE GAME CHANGES? “Yeah. I do think it changes, certainly with who you’re playing. I do think it changes. You all see it. I know how much you watch, study all college football. There’s different teams that are so explosive, if you hold them under a certain amount of yards or a certain amount of points you feel like that’s maybe as good as you can do with certain teams. It takes a team effort to win against certain opponents, where you have to play good on offense, defense and special teams. You have to control the clock, you have to control field position at times and play a great team game to win. I know with us being here and the challenges we have here with our first year here, some of these opponents we’re playing are very tough match ups, you know. One of our worst games this year, certainly statistically if you look at it, is Missouri. It was just a very tough matchup for us. If you really study the game like we do and watch it and break it all down, we had an awful lot of good plays in that game, and I thought we really played tough up front. We mixed up some 4-3 and 3-4 and just did some really good things, but then we had a really hard time matching up outside. They’ve got some explosive plays and some points. When it’s all said and done, you look at it on paper and you say, ‘Man that is just a horrible day.’ Then we have to come into the office, break it down and see what we’re doing right and doing wrong, but again I felt like there was quite a few plays in that game that we really played well. So those are the things you’ve got to look at and measure. I definitely think there’s something to the question that you just asked. I think it comes down to your team winning or losing. So, you know, a lot of statistics matter. As a defensive guy, every yard and every point is personal but sometimes the bottom line is just winning games.”

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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