UK’s Stoops, Eliot discuss Friday practice

MARK STOOPS

Opening statement: “Took a little step back offensively today, didn’t have as good a practice as I’d have liked. Got back to some drops, which put us behind the chains a little bit. Good energy from the defense, again, we need to offense to continue to progress. Today was not our sharpest day, but we got a lot of good work in and looking forward to wrapping it up here next week and getting some good practices in next week to finish off spring.”

On what didn’t go well for offense: “Just, just getting behind the chains, drops, maybe first-and-10 had some good play actions, balls batted down, so as you know — you saw it last year and it’s the same right now — we get behind the chains, we’re not very efficient.”

On if that means defense played really well: “Defense made some good plays. I think it’s a combination, and we’ll go watch the film. But it’s not always, and that’s what I told the defense, we had good energy and they’re playing good, but it’s not always because we’re playing stellar. Maybe the offense is not executing like they can. It’s a little combination of both.”

On if there’s anything you want to accomplish before the end of spring: “Again, just overall improvement and I’d like to get the continuity going offensively, see where we’re at with the pecking order of the quarterbacks. If we can figure it out in the last week, we will. If not, we’ll continue to work through it. We have time until our first game, but I like the progress we’ve made overall. We need to pick it up again next week and finish off this spring. Just overall improvement, continue to build depth.”

On if the quarterbacks will still get equal reps next week: “Yeah. It goes by drive, so give or take a few plays here or there depending on how long certain drives are.”

On spring game setup: “We’re going to look. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up right now, either from off-season surgeries and then new injuries, we’ve got to see where we’re at and I’d like to just let the kids have some fun and draft teams and have some fun with it that way and split it up, but that depends on depth.”

On if they will scrimmage again before Blue-White game: “I was going to go today but we couldn’t do it. To some extent, we scrimmage every day. Our team period right now, most of it’s not scripted. We put the ball down and let them roll. So basically we’re scrimmaging every day.”

On if any of injuries are significant: “No, I don’t believe so. I think everything should be back. Well, I take that back with the exception of Nate (Willis). Nate has to get the sports hernia surgery, so that’s going to put him back about 3-4 months.”

On if there are a couple other position battles beyond quarterback to watch: “Running back is one that jumps out at us, settle in on a starting lineup at receiver is important and where we’re at D-line wise.”

On if there are more play makers in defensive backfield: “We’re improving. We got our hands on some balls today, got a few interceptions today, which is good. We’ve been improving in that area.”

On if anyone in particular stands out in the secondary: “I think just having A.J. (Stamps) back there helps us, gives us gives us a little bit more athletic (player). J.D. Harmon coming back at corner gives us some more versatility and more depth, so those two guys help.”

On Stamps playing receiver previously and whether he has the ball skills to make those plays when he gets a chance: “Yeah, he is. He’s got good athletic ability and he’s giving us some options back there, a lot tighter coverage, so that’s helped.”

On why safety over corner for Stamps: “It was a combination of what we felt was best for him and the team, the team’s needs. He was comfortable at either position.”

On having former FSU star defensive end Bjoern Werner in town: “Oh, we love Bjoern. He’s just a great friend of ours (his and D-coordinator D.J. Eliot). So we look him up whenever we’re in Indianapolis (Werner plays for the Colts). We got say hi to him, have dinner with him. And he came in to see us and say hello and just be around. It means a lot to us. We build strong relationships with these guys and appreciate them coming by and saying hi and then just saying a few words, talking to the team, talking to some of the defensive guys and giving them some words of wisdom. It always helps.”

On having an example like Werner for Bud Dupree to look at: “Absolutely. It’s really good. And it was nice to have Bjoern and just ask him questions. He watched film with us as a defensive staff and just some of the pointers that they talked with him about. And yeah, he liked the way Bud was coming off the ball the other day.”

On DT C.J. Johnson: “It’s taken him a little bit (to catch on). We are asking a lot of those guys as far as techniques. We’re playing some four-down, playing some three-down. So it’s a lot we ask of those guys and it gets spinning for him a little bit. He’s settling in and getting better. I’m confident by the time we roll around and open the season that he’s going to be ready to play.”

On the battles between Dupree and OT Jordan Swindle: “It definitely – competition always helps. The great thing about those two is they’re really learning how to practice. It’s really important to both of them. They both have good energy and are becoming leaders on each side of the ball there, so it’s fun to watch them go at it. I like to tease Swindle because he’s the high-energy, but sometimes at that pace when we get going I don’t hear much from him.”

On Dupree’s changes physically: “You know, I don’t want to use the term that everybody uses: freak. But athletically, he really does things very easy. And that even comes from like putting on weight, cutting weight. I don’t want to take anything away from him, because he works his tail off, but he’s blessed to have a lot of athletic ability and things come very natural to him as well. So he’s right where he needs to be. He’s very comfortable. He’s playing extremely fast. And again, I’ve said it before: he’s very versatile.”

On whether Dupree’s progression/development reminds him of Werner’s at FSU: “Yeah, there’s no doubt. It is very similar. They’ve developed themselves into the players they’ve become. Bjoern was much the same way. But again, I think Bjoern just like Bud, some things were very instinctual to him as well. So very similar in certain ways, yeah.”

 

D.J. ELIOT

On Stoops saying the offense wasn’t good today and if that means the defense was spectacular: “I wouldn’t say spectacular, but we did some good things today. We had good energy in the team period. Guys were flying around in that period, and that’s good. We didn’t execute early and just picked it up throughout practice.”

On getting interceptions and if he’s seeing more of that and getting more of what he wants in that regard: “Well, we track it in practice. We always track our turnovers, and not only do we track the ones that we get, we track the ones that we should’ve gotten, and we make the corrections on that. And I think that we’re getting better at that. We are. We’re getting better.”

On if they’re making turnovers a point of emphasis: “Correct. I think we led the league in fumbles recovered, but then we were last in interceptions. We’re not emphasizing it any more, but it’s a strong emphasis on defense in general.”

On what Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree can learn from Bjoern Werner being at practice this week: “Bjoern is a special person in the fact that his commitment and his work ethic to not only football but everything he does in his life is tremendous. I think that not only his example, but the message that he can deliver is outstanding and it’s something that young men can really follow.”

On Nate Willis being out and who’s stepping into his spot: “Well, Fred (Tiller) has gotten reps at corner, and Cody Quinn’s getting a lot of reps at corner. J.D. Harmon has been getting a lot of reps over there. So we’re just kind of rotating them, and different days different guys do different things good and bad. It’s a long ways away, so it’s tough to tell who’s gonna be our guys.”

On Willis wanting to take the next step and if the injury is frustrating for him: “Yeah, it is. It’s frustrating. It’s always hard when you have an injury and you got to be out, because you miss all those reps. That frustration sets in, but you always got to look at things on a positive note. He knows that he’ll be back in time for the season, so he just has got to get the mental reps until then, and then when he comes back, he’s just got to be clicking on all cylinders.”

On if he’d seen progress in Willis prior to the injury: “You know, I did. I saw some progress there. He’s been out for a while now, but early I did see some progress.”

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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