Stoops, Brown discuss QBs, injuries

MARK STOOPS
“Good practice today. Got some good work in. Starting to get some guys banged up, that’s bothering me more than anything. We’re improving, we’re competing, had a good third-down period today. So overall we’re still grinding it out, getting better and better each day. I like where we’re going, just getting some guys nicked up and that’s starting to bother me, nothing major, I don’t think anything major, just guys that are going to be nicked up and maybe this last part of this spring practice. We’ll see. I’ll let you know. Jeff Badet twisted an ankle pretty good today. Guys like that, we’re starting to get pretty banged up at wide receiver. Other than that, we’re in pretty good shape and getting better.”

On if he’s at a place where these guys still need every practice, can’t afford to miss a snap: “We do. We just need it. We have this spring. We have time to get guys back, but you‘re just trying to find that good balance where you’re getting good work in and competing as hard as we can with staying healthy just so we can have good practices. Wanna put out a good, wanna have a good day on Saturday for our fans and for our team and just get out there and have a good scrimmage, but we’re getting pretty banged up at receiver position, so we’ll see where we’re at.”

When will he decide on a format for spring game? “This week. We’re kind of getting through this. It depends on depth. We’ll have to see where we’re at. We’re going to meet on it and see, get with (trainer) Jim Madaleno and see where we’re at with our injuries.”

On how Thaddeus Snodgrass and T.V. Williams are doing: “They’re getting better. T.V. had some big catches and some big runs at times and Thaddeus, we’re just seeing consistent improvement with him. He’s a guy that needs all the reps he can. He’s a little tweaked up as well with a little muscle pull, nothing major. Hopefully he can get out here the rest of the week.”

On Joey Herrick at receiver: “He’s good. He’s been banged up as well, but he’s a good guy, a quality guy that can get you in and out of some practices and at times possibly work his way into the lineup here in the future.”

On if it is easier to tell us which wide outs aren’t injured: “Nah. I don’t want to get into all that until I see where we’re at. Nothing major. Nothing that’s going to keep anybody out for a significant amount of time, but we need to get through this spring and be healthy.”

On if it makes it hard to have a spring game with injuries like this: “It does. It does because again it’s spring game and a lot of it is for the fans and you want to get out there and put a good product on the field and have some fun, but we need to see where we’re at.”

On progress of Zack Blaylock progress: “Well, it’s the first time he’s been able to get out and practice consistently, so he’s getting better. He needs a lot of work. He’s missed a lot of time. He’s been able to go every practice through the spring, so that’s been good for him.”

On Regie Meant: “He’s in, he’s fine.”

On Ryan Timmons’ progress: “Timmons is coming along very well. He’s done a very good job this spring. He’s a little banged up as well, so he got a shoulder. He got hit the other day and got a little setback. Nothing that’s going to require any surgery or anything like that, so we’ve just got to get him back, get him healthy. I’ve got to see where he’s at for the spring game. He’s had a good spring.”

On if there are any receivers available for spring game: (Laughs) “You know, we all need to see that Air Raid out there next Saturday. We need some wide outs to do that.”

On Stoops’ health: “I’m fine. I’m in good shape.”

NEAL BROWN
On Stoops saying UK is thin at wide receiver: “Oh, yeah. We’re banged up a little bit at wideout. Well, we’re thin. Our numbers aren’t where they should be. We need more scholarship wideouts. We need more walk-on wideouts. We talked about it the other day: I think we’re probably a year away from getting this thing, from a numbers standpoint, where it needs to be. We were grossly thin getting here, and then we’ve had some injuries this spring that definitely haven’t helped. So hopefully we can get some of those guys back. Jeff Badet got rolled up today, so we’ll have to see what the extent of that is. Hopefully we can get some of these guys back healthy so we can put on a good show on Saturday.”

On whether the spring game might feature more ground game than the “Air Raid” then: “I don’t know. I don’t know. Tell ‘em we’re going to throw it. We need people here, man. Big recruiting day. Big recruiting day Saturday. Fans need to show up.”

On whether that dearth of receivers makes it harder to evaluate QBs: “It does. It makes it a lot more difficult. That’s why we were out here doing some extra work with me and Tyler (a grad assistant) catching the ball, just because we don’t have enough – the quarterbacks aren’t getting enough work right now, so we’ve gotta build in pre-practice and post-practice stuff to make sure they’re getting enough reps in the stuff that we’re going to run.”

On whether he has any eligibility left: “No.”

On his 40-yard time: “It wasn’t good enough when I was here the first time, and it’s definitely not good enough now. But I think I’d be in the two-deep right now, because we’ve got everybody else hurt. Coach Mainord had to run some routes today, and that’s definitely not good.”

On how big a concern it is that in the fall he’ll throw a QB starter who has played no college football or very little: “Well, Patrick’s got very little. You can probably count that as none almost. I think it’s a little bit of a concern. I don’t know. I’ll take talent over experience. As long as they’re talented, which the three kids that are practicing right now are talented; the ones that haven’t played, they’re talented. There will be some mistakes. I think you’ve gotta kind of factor that in. There’s going to be some mistakes. I think you gotta take care of them, especially early in the year, get them some confidence. But I feel good about those guys. They know how to prepare and we’ll do a good job putting them in a position where they can be successful.”

On whether there’s more pressure on those guys now that Jalen Whitlow, the veteran with 15 starts, is gone: “No, I don’t think so. I think there’s pressure at that position no matter what. At this level, in this conference, I think there’s pressure. Jalen being here or not being here, I don’t think that affects it. Whoever the guy’s going to be, there’s going to be quite a bit of pressure. I don’t think there’s any question. I don’t think we try to hide from that either.”

On whether he’ll stack the decks in favor of the QBs to put on a good show at the spring game: “Oh, I don’t know, that’s the head coach’s decision, man. Two-comma question.”

On whether he’ll have all three QBs come out on the first play of the spring game like last year: “No, I can’t. That wouldn’t be funny this year. That wouldn’t be funny. No, I don’t know. I haven’t even gotten to the spring game yet. We’ve got a big practice on Wednesday and then we’re lighter on Friday. So after Wednesday, I’ll probably start thinking more about the spring game.”

On how much better he feels about the O-line and whether, with so many other areas of uncertainty, they can maybe set a tone, lead the way: “Oh, we’re better up front. We’re better everywhere. We’re just young. Young and still inexperienced at times. We’re thin at wideout; we’ve talked about that. Those guys, our first five, I feel pretty good about. We need Zach West to keep coming. He’s gotten better. He needs to keep coming. (Jon) Toth needs to keep coming, Ramsey Meyers. Those guys got to keep coming, but I think when we go into September I think those guys are going to be ready. I like the chemistry they have. They’re on the same page. We’re doing a better job getting movement up front. We’re on the same page pass protection wise. So that group, I do feel comfortable with them. Now, we need the next five, four or five, months to get ready, but I do feel good with those guys.”

On if they needs someone to take control of the running back starting job or if it’s OK to go by committee at that position: “I think running back, you can be by committee. Now, we’d like a guy to jump up and just be the guy and be able to do everything. But I think you can kind form that running back position around what people do the best. But I know Coach (Chad) Scott wants a guy to emerge, and I’d like for that too, but you can — it’s not a negative if we do it by committee.”

On how much weight the spring game will have in the position battles: “It will carry a little bit more weight just because there’s people in the stands. We had the scrimmage a week ago Saturday. That carried a little bit more, and then the spring game it will carry even a little bit more weight just because there’s people in the stands. Should be a good crowd here, so you always take into effect how people are going to react when the lights are on and all that.”

On how he feels about the way the running backs are catching the ball and blocking: “Well they’re catching the ball really well. They’re actually catching the ball better than our receivers, which I’m not sure is a good thing but they are. They are doing a nice job. We do a deal where we do a catch percentage, and we want everybody — everybody should have a 90 percent or higher catch percentage. All the running backs do. They’ve had very few drops. We’re doing some things things this spring to get them more involved in the pass game because all those guys that are playing can do that. So, I’m pleased with those.

Pass protection wise, technique wise we’re good. We have a few technique errors, and some of that is because our defense is doing a lot as far as blitz. But I’m pleased overall with them in the pass game, from catching and blocking.”

On what he’s liked about T.V. Williams this spring and what Williams needs to improve on: “What I like is he’s good with the ball in his hands. He’s quick, he can get behind you, he can run. What he needs: he’s got to get stronger. Right now if they get his hands on him he’s going to struggle. He’s got to improve his blocking.”

On if he thinks he will pick a starting quarterback at the end of spring practice or let it carry over into summer/fall: “I don’t know. Coach Stoops and I are going to have some conversations. We want to get it narrowed down. I don’t know if we’ll pick one on Saturday. Something will probably have to happen over the next week or so to make that determinations. But we do plan to hopefully narrow it down. We’ll see how it goes.”

On if they will pick someone who is green just to avoid going through what they went through last year with split reps at quarterback: “They’re all green, so yeah we’re going to pick somebody green. (Laughs). We’re going to pick somebody green.”

On if it’s important for players to know who the starter at quarterback is for summer workouts: “I don’t think — I think it’s important we give somebody in camp, within a reasonable time toward the start of camp. I don’t think the summer necessarily matters, but I think toward the start of fall camp or during the early parts of fall camp I think that needs to be done.”

On if he has a gut feeling about the quarterback job he’s just not ready to share yet: “Not really. I’ve got an idea who’s looked the best in some pressure situations. Nobody has just grabbed it yet. I hope that happens. I’m really interested to see — and I didn’t mean to avoid it — but I’m really interested to see what happens on Saturday.”

 

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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