Q&A: Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to getting back on the field and going down to Vandy and having a great game with them. Disappointed in our team’s slide. Don’t feel like we’ve played our very best football this past several weeks and really looking forward to having another opportunity and having a great week of preparation and going down and competing at a high level at Vanderbilt. And we’ll be excited to get down there and play.”

On if players are playing tighter or pressing more during losing streak: “You know I’m not sure. I didn’t see anything coming where we didn’t play our very best football last week. We had good days of preparation, guys were excited and still enjoying practice and competing and I think then we got there and don’t play very good. I’m not sure if they’re pressing or not, but we talked about a lot of things. We addressed a lot of issues this week and that is part of it with getting out there and enjoying it: Enjoying the preparation, enjoying the grind of a tough season and enjoy playing football again Getting out there and playing a little looser and enjoying what we’re doing and playing with that passion we need.”

On how UK avoids a slide like last season: I think certainly I have to look at all options. I look at practice schedules. I’ve really done a lot of research this week to see how many reps people are taking, friends throughout the country, even friends throughout the conference that I have. Looking at all things that we’re doing: Our practice schedule, what we’re doing weekly, the positions we’re putting our players in to be successful, whether we’re doing too much or too little. With all those things, I have to look at it. But I think a big part of it is mental and making sure we have a stronger mental approach to the game. We have to be physically and mentally mature enough to handle this type of schedule. We’ve gone through a tough stretch where part of it this past three or four weeks, we haven’t handled very well. So we need to bounce back and again, make sure we have the mental toughness to finish out this season and have a great week this week.”

On Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott: “Yeah. I’m extremely impressed with him. I think he’s an absolutely phenomenal player and I’m amazed he’s not talked about more in the Heisman Trophy race to be honest with you. I think he’s an exceptional player with great poise. He exudes confidence and leadership. You can just see it when they’re on the field with him, competing against him. I told him after the game, thank goodness he’s done because I’m tired of playing against him. Just have a lot of respect for him, and I think he’s an exceptional player that’s one of the very best players in the country.”

On how Prescott has improved: “I think he’s more comfortable in the pocket. You can see the way they’re calling plays this year and what they’re doing: they’re throwing it much more efficiently. You can see the confidence he has. He’s very content in the pocket distributing the ball, but yet he has that vision and that athletic ability to make plays with his feet when he needs to. We all know in today’s game that’s an important part of it, but he operates the offense extremely efficient but when things break down he has the ability to extend plays and make plays down the field.”

On the key to developing a more consistent pass rush: “I think we did a little bit better job this past week at that. Some of our inside rushers – Cory Johnson had some really good rushes inside that helped us at times last week. We’ve certainly worked on that quite a bit and emphasized that the past couple weeks, of developing some of your guys and developing into better pass rushers. I think it’s a combination of things. You have to look at schematically when we are pressuring people that we have the ability to get there and just our guys fundamentally getting better in getting some pressure. A big part of that is getting guys more predictable. We haven’t been great the past couple weeks of getting people off balance. They’ve been able to get efficient yards on first and second down, and we haven’t had them in predictable situations. Again, even last week we didn’t play great, but there were times we had them in predictable situations and were effective. So, I think that’s a big part of it.”

On if he sees some of those young players developing into top-level pass rushers down the road: “Yeah, I think we’ll have Jason back at full speed. I think Josh (Allen) is getting to the point where he’s getting more effective as a pass rusher. I think little by little we’re developing more and more guys that way.”

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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