Mark Stoops previews Tennessee, Thanksgiving

ON QUARTERBACKS BEING AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS, DOES THAT MEAN THEY’RE INJURED STILL? “They’re fine. They both practiced today. They’re a little nicked up.”

HAS TEAM BOUNCED BACK ATTITUDE WISE FROM GEORGIA LIKE HE HAD HOPED? “They have. They have. We’ve had some good meetings, good practice yesterday, very good practice today, and yeah, I think we’re bouncing back fine.”

HAS HE DECIDED IF RAYMOND SANDERS WILL PARTICIPATE IN SENIOR DAY ACTIVITIES? “I did. I don’t want to get into it right now. I haven’t had enough time to talk to everybody involved, so I’d rather just stay away from that.”


“You know, they have a young quarterback that’s a very talented guy. Maybe a lot like us. We’ve got plays that are there at times. You’re just a fraction off here or there from really putting some good plays together and good drives. But I think the thing that really jumps out to you is their offensive line. As big as anybody we’ve played and physical and got some experience and some tough guys up there. So that’s what jumps out at you.”

IS JOE MASOUR DEAD LEGGED AT THIS POINT? “No, I think he’ll be fine. I think he’ll be all right.”

DOES HE FEEL LIKE THIS IS A RIVALRY WEEK? “It does. I’m sure the game — I know it’s very important to us, and I’m sure they feel the same way.”

WHAT HE’D LIKE YOUNGER GUYS TO TAKE AWAY FROM AVERY WILLIAMSON: “Yeah. I think just his commitment level. How important it is to him. How he goes about his business. You’ve heard me talk about that, but when you walk in the door, when you walk into these meeting rooms and into the practice sessions and things, just how you go about your business and attention to detail. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect all the time. We all make mistakes and all that. But he’s just got a great attitude, and it’s very important to him.”

HOW WILL TEAM CELEBRATE THANKSGIVING? “We’re gonna practice and then we’re gonna have a dinner together. And because they’re out of the dorms and out of school and all that, tomorrow after practice, each position coach will take them to their homes for dinner as well. So they’ll have dinner with their position coaches on Wednesday night. Thursday after practice we’ll have a team Thanksgiving dinner.”

ON HAVING FRANK DISCUSSIONS WITH PLAYERS ON DEPTH CHART AFTER THE GAME LIKE WHEN HE TOOK JOB: “Yeah, definitely. I think we have to have some of those conversations and let guys know where they’re at and where they stand. I’m always gonna be up front and honest with them.”

HIS FEELINGS AFTER HE LEFT THE STADIUM RENOVATION ANNOUNCEMENT: “Very excited. Very excited. I thought that was just a great event. I’m in the midst of preparing for Tennessee and I had the 12 o’clock press conference and we have team meetings and then they don’t tell me I’ve got to throw a suit on. Thank God I found a sport coat in my closet up there. Just got a lot on my plate. But you get over there — and I told the team this today, that Avery represented them well — and you go there and you see the governor and all the important people that are there and how much it affects everybody in this state, and it is important. We’ve got great support right now. It’s a great commitment by a lot of people, and that’s exciting. I thought it was a very nice event.”

COULD THERE BE MORE EARLY ENROLLEES TO JOIN THE FIVE HE DISCUSSED? “Yeah, there could be some more. We’re only allowed to announce the midyear guys that are high school guys, because the college guys that are gonna come in midyear, they sign a National Letter of Intent. So we could have some more high school guys or some more junior-college guys.”

DID THE STADIUM EVENT GET HIM MORE REVVED UP? “It did. It did, yeah. I didn’t need it, but yeah it definitely helps. It does. It gives you some motivation. It’s an exciting time. Just like I said, we’ve been through some tough times, but we’re gonna keep on pushing forward and excited about the future.”

HAS UK’S TEAM SEEN RENOVATION PLANS? “You know, they have not. Unless they looked at it online. That’s a good point. Maybe next week we’ll do that after we’re done and everything, give them some motivation for the offseason, but we haven’t.”

ON IF THERE ARE THERE GUYS AMONG THE FRESHMEN AND YOUNGER PLAYERS THAT HE THINKS IT’S IMPORTANT TO LIKE IT IS TO WILLIAMSON? “I really do. I really feel good. I don’t want to single out guys, but I really feel good about a lot of the younger guys. And a lot of our guys are starting to get it, but I feel good that the younger guys are willing to step out there and be more vocal, and I feel like there’s a very good unity with some of the young guys, and even some of the guys that are redshirting. Because they’re a little bit on a different schedule. They’re not traveling, they’re working out more. And I really feel like there’s a good cohesiveness with that group and a good attitude about that group.”

DOES HE GO CRAZY WITH TRICK PLAYS AND GADGETS IN THIS FINAL GAME OR IS HE HESITANT TO DO THAT? “ I think there’s always a good mixture. I mean, we always try to — I think you’ve seen some things that we’ve tried on special teams and offense and defense and all that. It’s a big part of just learning how to play. I want to feel good coming out of this game, and that’s where I told you it is important. With the 11 games that we played, I was not very proud of one of them. And sure, we want to be better in all of them, but there’s one game in particular right now that jumps out at me that I’m not very happy about. And so this gives us another opportunity.”

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
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