Q&A: Stoops’ final thoughts before Vandy

MARK STOOPS
“We had a good practice week so far, got one more day tomorrow. Guys have been energetic, focused, enthusiastic. So things have gone well. Hopefully that will carry over and translate to us playing better. We’re looking forward to going down there and having a great trip and see if we can put it together and play some much better football.”

On energy just running in building and if that’s been the case all week: “It’s been good. Guys have been focused and energetic, like I said, all week. They’re ready to go.”

On having more fun, being more energetic and what coaches have done to facilitate that: “No, we just, just the usual stuff, constantly talking to these guys and working with them. Nothing out of the ordinary. We don’t need anything like that. Just continue to reinforce having a strong mindset. And that means when you walk in the building being ready to practice and being sharp in your meetings and being enthusiastic and getting through practice. That’s how you grow. There’s no magical recipe for going out and whatever, playing Home Run Derby or anything like that. We’ve gotta man up and play football.”

On if Vandy’s freshman QB changes game plan: “A little bit with some of the gun-run game and some of the run game. There are some differences. We’ll be prepared for both quarterbacks and what they do. Nothing drastic.”

On good on good this week and what UK has gotten out of it: “Yeah, we got two team settings, two different team settings on Tuesday and one on Wednesday. It’s the usual.”

On Josh Forrest saying he liked going good against good:He did. Yeah. I think that’s where it’s fun to do. For instance, that day, he was one of the guys that wanted to keep on going. I was like, ‘Well, we have some other practice things to get to.’ But that’s part of it that you do like and you do enjoy this time of year where they’re just getting out there competing and practicing.”

On if there’s anybody he knows won’t be playing Saturday:
”Joey (Herrick). Joey’s still out. Darius has been back. He’s back. He’s probably 75, 80 percent Today was a walkthrough. Yesterday he looked pretty good, so no setbacks. So we’ll see. Tomorrow’s full speed, so we’ll see how he looks. Jason (Hatcher) looks better. Austin (MacGinnis) looks better. Kengera (Daniel) has something wrong with his eye. He saw a specialist today and everything checked out but he’ll be out for probably a week with some issues with his eye.”

On the report concerning ‘widespread discontent’ about UK’s high performance program: “I never heard the word ‘widespread,’ but I don’t worry about any of that. I told the players all week y’all would be looking for any cracks. I don’t know who this source is or what it comes from, but I was one of the first people to hire a sports science person. With that I anticipated some criticism. It seems to be the en vogue thing to do now, so we’re fine.”

On how he measures the day-to-day effects of the High Performance program: “We just take the information. It doesn’t really affect me and the way we do things at all right now. It really doesn’t.”

On the progression of Josh Allen: “Josh is getting better. We really feel like he’s got a bright future. He’s a guy that can potentially be a pass rusher that we’re looking for. As I’ve said many times throughout the season that position, there’s many nuances when it comes to dropping, rushing, changing strength. Just all the things that go into that position take some time, but we feel like he’s really going to be a good player.”

On projected defensive struggles sometimes turning into shootouts and if he anticipates a low-scoring game Saturday: “Yeah, you’re right. Sometimes it does happen that way. One thing you learn: Going into each game you have no idea what’s coming. You really don’t. We feel like, again, it’s all about how well, what I can tell during the week with the pulse of the team and the preparation, what it’s been like, but no, I have no idea what the final outcome will be. I know we need to play good. We need to play better than we have, that’s for sure. There’s no mistaking that. We need to play much better in all areas.”

On if he’s figured out the quarterback situation yet: “Yeah, we have a pretty good idea. We know what we’re going to do. We’ll let it unfold on Saturday. There’s really no reason – they don’t care. They’ll be ready for either quarterback. Things don’t really change for them. There’s no point in bringing it up right now.”

On players playing tight as the season winds down: “You don’t want your players to play tight, that’s for sure. You want them to have urgency throughout the week and throughout the game. But you don’t want them to play tight. That’s always the fine balance. I want our players to care. I want this to be an important game to them, just like you want the last one and the one after this. Every game is important. You want them to have that sense of urgency so I hope they have a sense of urgency, but I certainly don’t want them to be tight. We haven’t coached that way all week and I want them to be prepared. We want to put them in the best position we possibly can and then we want them to play and play aggressive.”

On Boom Williams playing with a brace on his elbow: “He’s looked fine. He really has. He had some good practices. He didn’t have anything that set him back all week. He took some decent shots—we don’t go all the way to the ground when we go good on good. But he did participate in good on good, which is generally more physical than scout team. He looked fine.”

On how sometimes a brace can change the way a player carries the ball: “Yeah, it can. Certainly with a running back it’s certainly a question I asked early in the week as well, because of the brace. What was explained to me is the hard part of the brace is on the outside. On the inside there are some straps. But Boom can carry it in either hand and he can carry it in the hand with the brace. Doesn’t seem to affect him. I think the key will be dealing with some pain. The brace is there to protect him so he can’t injure that elbow again. So he can’t get full extension. The key will be how much pain he has to deal with.”

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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