D.J. Eliot previews Florida

D.J. ELIOT
“We had a good practice. Guys seemed to be energetic, flying around, excited. It’s just a typical Wednesday; so things went well.”

On linebackers: “I don’t know how it’s gonna spread out. I think that Josh Forrest is playing well and in position. We’ve had probably more rotation this year at ‘backer than we had last year. Avery played every single snap every single game. So he was in position a lot to make a lot of plays, and we’ve been able to rotate the guys more. But we’re not concerned about who makes the plays, just that they’re made. And I would like to see a defense that all those plays are spread out amongst a lot of players.”

On how different Florida’s offense is this year: “Completely. They’re a spread offense now. Last year they were mainly a pro-style offense with some spread looks, and now they are a spread offense with a few pro looks. So it’s quite a bit different.”

On if it would have been beneficial to have Florida play its opener so they could have two games of film of the new offense: “That would have been good, to have two games to look at them, but we didn’t get it so we just have to study what they’ve done and try to adjust to that.”

On if he watches a lot of Duke film to see more of Kurt Roper’s offense: “Yes. Yes. I will study Duke. Their offense is the same as he ran at Duke. So, we’ve studied them pretty thoroughly.”

On if practicing against UK’s up-tempo offense gives them an advantage against Florida: “I believe so, not having to replicate it in one week by a scout team. Instead we’ve been able to see it  by our own offense since we’ve been on campus.”

On what he’s been most impressed about: “I think we’re playing faster. I think guys are understanding what they’re supposed to do, therefore swarming the ball better and guys are reacting faster.”

On his biggest concern about Florida: “Their great speed. Their wideouts are big and fast. They have a deep-ball threat that you have to make sure that you have covered.”

On if he checks in with UK’s players from Florida this week, tries to keep them even-keeled: “We handle each week about the same. Sometimes you’ve got to do that. I think that our kids, they understand that it’s one game and it’s the next opponent and that’s the approach we take.”

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Mark Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
Opening statement: “Looking back at the Ohio game, we did some good things. I thought it was good to get off to a fast start again, jumped out to the 14-0 lead; it was good for us. Defensively, I thought we did some good things, forced them to punt on the first four possessions. Offensively, scoring; that was good. The negative things: We left a lot of points out there. We know we can’t leave points on the board, especially as we enter league play, going down to play a very good Florida team so we’ll have our hands full this week. Looking to get better. Like I said, very glad to get off to a 2-0 start but we’ve got to improve a great deal to go play this week. Looking forward to the challenge, looking at Florida, a very, very good football team, sound in all phases. They’re a traditional, dominant defense and offensively, greatly improved from a year ago. Obviously getting some guys healthy and having Driskell back, their quarterback, makes a great difference. They have three outstanding running backs and very physical up front and the receiving corps has great speed just like you’d expect, so, again it will be a great challenge. I have an awful lot of respect for Will (Muschamp) and the Florida program and what they do. Been there before. It’s a great venue. It’ll be a great challenge. We are excited for that opportunity.”

On Patrick Towles and when he saw difference in the quarterback: “Yeah, I noticed it right away obviously in spring practice because last year he was red shirting and he was working on things and he’d be down there on scout team and always had a great attitude and was always working the whole — just like you’d expect — I really didn’t notice him mechanically then last season as he was red-shirting. As we moved into spring, I noticed a completely different guy and with him, he’s a big, strong guy, as you know, and he had a longer release with that and with our offense that wasn’t a good fit because we like to get rid of the ball quickly and it actually slowed him down on his decision making as well. So he really worked hard on his footwork and shortening up that release, so I noticed it right away and to be honest with you, he was really a quite different quarterback when he went out there to compete for the job last spring. Just been overall pleased with him and his work ethic and his mindset and how he went about it. I think it sends a great message to our team and in particular our young players. When things don’t always go your way, Pat took the approach to look at himself in the mirror, go out and fix whatever he was doing and get better at it. And so I’ve been very pleased with him and his leadership and just how he went about his business. He goes out and you know, you know, the story’s being written right now, so we’ll see how it goes. But I’ve been very pleased with him. He looks very comfortable in the pocket and he’s always had great talent. It’s nice to see him fine-tuning some of his mechanics. So, very pleased.”

On his personal 1-0 streak at the Swamp: (Laughs) “No, I don’t think anybody will — that’s not too much of a streak. That’s awfully difficult. Just competing against Florida over the years, way back at Miami, when I was at Miami, we had some great games. I remember I think we were in the Orange Bowl one year down there and Florida was up big, big on us. That was one of the great Miami teams, might have been the national championship team, either that or the next year. But Florida jumped out on us and we were able to come back and win when I was at Miami. Of course, the rivalry with Florida State and Florida, just have a lot of respect for the program. I know those players, and I know the great pride they have. I know how well-coached they are, and the great administration and the whole deal. That’s people that have been doing things right for a long time, so it will be a great challenge. But, again, we’re really looking forward to it.”

On if he’s actually 2-0 at the Swamp: “In the Swamp, yeah I think it is. I believe so. I’m not sure. I don’t think I had every lost to — well I can think of one time. I was at Florida State, we lost to Florida once, but all those great rivalries and my time, you’d have to look it up. You can do the research. I don’t have time for all that, but I want to say when I was at Miami I think I was undefeated against Florida State and Florida, then while I was at Florida State I believe I lost to Florida once, the only time. Then here once. It was a good record, but it’s going to be pretty tough to hold those percentages up.”

On roster turnover at Kentucky and his recruiting classes: “We feel very good about the direction of our team and where we’re headed. There has been a lot of turnover. I think some of that, like you said, is commonplace when there’s staff turnover. Some of it just quite frankly needed to happen. We expected to compete in this great conference, and we needed to get SEC caliber players in here. Sometimes that’s a hard truth, but it’s the truth. Our staff has worked extremely hard to recruit great players. We believe we have some very talented young players that need to grow up in a hurry. It’s awfully difficult to expect those guys to come in and win some of these tough games, but hey, we’re not alone. There’s a lot of people that have a lot of issues, and Florida has to play some young players too, and it’s across this league. So it is what it is. We feel good about the direction of the program. We know we’re a work in progress, but we know we’re headed in the right direction.”

On Jojo Kemp’s comments about “walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces”: “I was furious. The thing is — I was outraged; I talked to him about it — but the thing is, he was trying to make light of some friends that he has on this program. But like I told him yesterday, ‘You think they’re gonna hear all that? They’re gonna hear the last five seconds of what you said.’ And I know the great pride of the players in that locker room at Florida. I’ve been all through Florida. I’ve been at Miami, been at South Florida and been at Florida State. I know personally quite a few of those players and the pride that they have, and one thing: it’s not very smart to try to challenge their pride before you play them. Believe me, I know them. And so I don’t think that was very smart. It’s not something that I teach. It’s not how we talk. And really, if you listen to his whole conversation, he was quite humble and really handled himself the right way until the end. But again, that’s just not very smart on our part, and we’ll get that fixed.”

On if he’s surprised at the number of good players they’re redshirting and if he expected to play more of those guys: “Yeah, I did. I did expect to play a few more. It was nice that some of our upperclassmen really worked hard and improved, and we needed them to. And I feel good about our roster right now. We’re not perfect, but we have a bunch of guys that have bought in and worked extremely hard and our players that were here have improved. It’s nice to be able to redshirt the majority of our freshman class. We don’t really have that luxury with some of the skill positions on offense, but the rest of the guys are very good players, and I’m really happy about being able to redshirt the majority of the o-line and d-line, because those guys can really get some extra lifting in as they redshirt.”

On his off-the-field relationship with Neal Brown and if they have a lot in common: “Yeah. We have a very good relationship. I really enjoy working with Neal. Like I talked about the other day, I really didn’t know him before this job, but as we got talking and got to spending time with each other before we decided to work with each other, I thought it would be a good fit. One thing I think that’s always important as you’re meeting your offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator is the confidence that he has. I think Neal’s a very confident guy. He has a system. He knows what he wants to do. And so it’s been very good. I’m very happy with it. And off the field, we’ve become good friends, and it’s always good to have that good relationship with the guys you’re working with.”

On if they share parenting tips: “No, no. We leave that up to our wives.”

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A Kentucky tattoo for Towles? He says no

Sometimes even players who spend a lot of time on Twitter are surprised by the power of Twitter.

That happened to Kentucky quarterback Patrick Towles, who joked to a friend about getting a tattoo if the Cats break their long losing streak to Florida this weekend.

“I didn’t think it would blow up,” Towles said on Tuesday. “I think it blew up way more than I expected.”

When asked what kind of tattoo he planned to get, Towles said: “Well, let me explain that situation a little bit.”

One of Towles’ friends has a bunch of UK-oriented tattoos and told Towles: “I’m going to add to my collection if we win,” the quarterback said. “And I joked and said, ‘Yeah, I’ll join ya.’”

That is definitely not going to be the case, Towles said. As if making a campaign promise, Towles looked straight into the cameras and said: “There will be no ink on my body regardless of the outcome of the game on Saturday.”

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Brown previews Florida

NEAL BROWN
“First day back, back to real work. We walked through a little bit on Florida stuff yesterday. Kids are eager. Obviously we’ve got a lot of Florida kids, so a lot of those guys are eager about getting home. I thought we did some really good things in that Ohio game. I was really pleased with how we started. Obviously we didn’t finish in the fashion that we needed to, so those are some of the things we’re working off of. Ran the ball, I thought, really effective early in the game. We got there at the end of the game, we were trying to run out the clock, I thought we were hit and miss. Too many negative plays as a whole. I think we had 10 negative plays with some missed assignments by some new guys mixed in there, so we’ve got to get rid of those.

“Florida is Florida. The strength of their defense is speed. They run well. I think they’ve got a couple guys that really stand out. (Dante) Fowler up front, he’s going to cause some issues, he’s somebody we’ve got to account for. He caused some havoc with us last year. Obviously I think Vernon Hargreaves is as good a cover corner as there is in our conference or in the country. They’ve got a bunch of other good players as well. Antonio Morrison really sticks out on film. He really comes up and hits. So we’ve got our hands full, but our kids are excited. It will be a really good — I think Coach Stoops said this yesterday — it will be a really good measuring stick for where we are as a young football team right now.”

On whether it’s exciting to have a guy in Dorian Baker who appears able and willing to block on the outside: “Yeah, we’re starting — we really took a lot of pride at Texas Tech, Tommy Mainord did and Sonny Cumbie, that coached our inside receivers. They did a very good job of really establishing a physicalness in our wide receiver position, something that we were hit-and-miss with last year. Guys were kind of underdeveloped, didn’t have the strength to pull it off. We’re bigger, much bigger this year at wideout. Through two games we’re starting to play with more of a physical presence. We can really set the edge really good, hands on DBs, cause some havoc, being a factor on every play. So Dorian is one of those guys. He’s got a strong build to him. He’s well over 200 pounds. He had a big hit on Saturday. I thought he did a good job of not putting his head in there, using his shoulder, making it a legal hit. But, yeah, he plays with a lot of energy and he’s physical. We need more of that.”

On whether the Swamp will be a test for the simplified communication on offense: “Yeah, I think so. We’re mostly a signal unit, non-verbal. The noise or loud atmosphere really won’t affect us very much. But, I don’t think — probably not so anymore than we do at home really. I thought we played at a really good pace there in the first half, especially early, those first two drives. I thought we were really moving at a good clip. Obviously our play total was higher. Again, when you get first downs, you can keep playing. And I thought that was one of the reason why our play total was higher.”

On Towles’ runs and whether he’s encouraged to hang in and go through progressions: “Yeah, there was a few things. We had some called runs. We do some option plays where he’s got the option to run or pass, and they covered the pass, so he ran. And what he’s got to do on those – he’s just got to be smart. If it’s not a short-yardage situation, he’s got to get down. He thinks because he’s big he can go and run like a big guy. But in this league, you’re not going to be durable doing that. So I think it was a good learning experience for him. I think there was two times during the game on Saturday where he pulled down and ran and they were poor decisions. The rest of them were pretty good decisions, you know? And he turned some big plays with them. I think he’s got to do a better job getting his eyes up as he scrambles and being a passer first. So I think it’s a good learning tool. Twenty-two times running, some of those were called. Most of them weren’t. Some of those were good decisions coming out of the pocket; some of them he needs to stand in there and throw it. One that really sticks out: We had one in the red zone where he kind of took a sack where really the third guy in his possession was open for a touchdown.”

On how he balances a game plan against a defense full of playmakers when he has an offense full of young guys: “Well, I think you’ve gotta be smart how you do it. You’ve got to figure out what you do well, what they can handle, and then what will be effective against the unit you’re playing against. Just because it looks good in a meeting room or it looks good drawing on a board and you think it might work, if your kids can’t handle it, then you don’t need to carry it in your package.”

On the Wildcat package direct-snapping to Kemp: “We’ve got a few different packages. We try to use one each week. We try to make them different so guys can’t game plan. Jojo does a nice job. He had a good feel for it last year when we put him back there. I think two of his better runs were from that Wildcat. It’s difficult to game plan. They’re hard to fit defensively. So that’s something we’ll continue to do.”

On the UK losing streak to Florida predating even him as a player and how important it is, in building a program, to kill those kinds of negative streaks: “I hadn’t even thought about it, man. I really hadn’t. I really hadn’t. I’d kind of forgotten about it, really. I think I want to forget about it. No, I mean, it is what it is. Until we beat them, it’s going to be there. It’s not something we’re real fired up about.”

On if other receivers are following Dorian Baker’s lead in being more physical: “I don’t know if he’s the leader. I wouldn’t use that. I think Joey Herrick’s done a really good job being physical. When we’ve put our tight ends out in space, I think they do a good job being physical. Blake Bone is a bigger kid that’s done a nice job being physical. So I think it’s more by committee. Now (Baker) had a big hit that got some TV time and things like that, so I think people assume that maybe he’s leading the way. But I think those other guys are doing a nice job too.”

On Cole Mosier and other young offensive linemen: “Cole got his first start there. I thought he did real well. Cramped up early in the third quarter, but I thought for a redshirt freshman making his first start, I thought he did a really nice job. I’m excited about him. He’s a big, strong kid. He does a really good job getting movement in the run game. I thought Nick Haynes struggled a little bit early, and then when Cole cramped, Nick went back in and played much better in the second half. Kyle Meadows, we played him a little bit. Obviously not as much as the first game.”

On Stoops saying he leaves the offense alone and whether that’s the norm for a head coach and whether he’s comfortable with it: “We do a lot of similar things coverage-wise this week — talking about our defense. We do a lot of similar things coverage-wise compared to what Florida does. So he’s good about giving input, especially when I ask. If he has ideas, he comes to me. But for the most part, he kind of lets us do our thing. And I appreciate that. He’s given me a lot of autonomy. I trust him wholeheartedly. When he tells me to do something, I do it and don’t hesitate. As far as other places, it’s been different. Coach Tuberville is pretty hands-off with the offense. Coach Blakeney at Troy has an offensive background, but all the guys I worked as a coordinator have been very, very good to work with.”

On Stoops saying he comes on the headset and asks for a long drive, and how often he does that: “He does it some. I’ve got a pretty good feel. If we’re struggling, I’m not necessarily gonna tempo a whole lot, or if the defense just had a long drive. I think you can’t just get locked in on your side of the ball. You got to have a feel. That’s one of the reasons I like being down on the sideline, because you get a feel for not only your guys, but you get a feel for the defense — if they may be winded, when to slow down.”

On whether Timmons will be as big a factor in the game plan this week: “Yeah, I hope so. I think he’s one of our better players without question. Played real well last week. So we’re gonna get him the ball. We’re gonna get him the ball as much as we can.”

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Muschamp: UK will be ‘as fast as anybody that we play this year’

Florida Coach Will Muschamp had some complimentary things to say about the Kentucky offense at his regular Monday news conference. Here’s what he had to say:

“Neal Brown is offensive coordinator, a guy that I’m very familiar with. They do a nice job in the run and pass game. They’re a tempo team. They’re going to be on the ball. They’re going to play as fast as anybody that we play this year. They settled on Patrick Towles, which is 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback that’s a dual threat guy. He can run the quarterback power and the quarterback draw as a threat to pull it down in the passing game when we lose discipline in our pass rush. We’ve got to do a real nice job of that.

“They’re extremely talented at the running back position. Braylon Heard is a transfer from Nebraska, was hurt the first game that he had two carries for two touchdowns and about 120 yards. Jojo Kemp from DeLand is a dynamic guy in the open field. Stanley Williams is a freshman from Georgia that’s a good player. Mikel Horton is a kid from Cincinnati that’s a good player. He’s a true freshman as well. Balanced in what they do. They’re right at 40 points a game, 233 yards running and 296 passing. They haven’t had a turnover this year offensively. And Ryan Timmons is a very good player that’s good there.”

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Some quarterback clarity

Mark Stoops fielded some questions on Monday about the status of Kentucky’s backups to quarterback Patrick Towles, and said that red-shirt freshman Reese Phillips is officially the next player up (with a twist).

“If something happened where Patrick was going to be out for a long period of time, then we would address the situation,” Stoops said. “If we can redshirt Drew (Barker), then that’s what we’re going to do. …

“I don’t know what the future holds as far as injuries and things like that. If we can redshirt him, we will.”

Stoops said Barker, the true freshman who helped recruit much of the 2014 class that has been so productive for the Cats, has handled his likely red-shirt season well.

“He’s been good; he’s still been right in there with all the game-planning and he’s been involved and he’s been engaged,” Stoops said of Barker, who also has helped on the scout team this season. “And he’s still getting some reps, so it’s been good.”

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Kemp: ‘I’m more of a Kentuckian than I was before’

As a break from the rigors of fall camp, Coach Mark Stoops called the team into the meeting room one day and had a showing of the movie Secretariat for the players.

While it offered a bit of a break, it also had another message, Stoops said: “To identify with Kentucky, to identify with the colors that we wear on our uniform and the fact that some of that was patterned after Secretariat.”

For running back Jojo Kemp, a DeLand, Fla. native, it made him appreciate the state he resides in now.

“I feel like I’m more of a Kentuckian than I was before,” he said. “Watching that movie and seeing how passionate those people were about their horses. … It makes me want to play not just for my hometown, but for the state of Kentucky as well.”

For a Kentucky native like reserve offensive lineman Max Godby, he saw it as a chance to learn about what makes this state tick for so many of the young guys that come from places like Ohio and Florida.

“It makes you proud to be from this state,” Godby said. “Secretariat, that’s where the checkered pattern comes from on our jerseys, the horse farms. … There’s just so much about Kentucky that we’re so proud about.”

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Mark Stoops previews Florida

MARK STOOPS
“Looking back to last week’s game, I thought we did some good things. I appreciate winning; our team does; we haven’t had enough of them lately, so we’ll take it. I thought we really started fast. That was good to see. I believe with defense, I believe we started with having them punt on first four possessions, and offense, we scored on two. It was a good start. Obviously, we need to finish better. Finish the games, finish the drives. We can’t be leaving points out there as we step up the competition here in the SEC. Looking forward to going down to Florida. It will be a great challenge: Well coached football team. We all know we’re in for a higher level of competition and we’re excited about that. The players will be excited, the coaches, so we’ll see where we’re at this week.

On whether he’s had a situation like Florida where they didn’t have an opener: “No. I have been a part of a situation where go up there, all the hoopla leading up tot the first game of the year, put the ball on the tee, line up for a kickoff and you get the weather delay. That happened to me once at Arizona, which was very strange, but we were at home, went inside for about an hour and then started playing.”

On what impresses him about Florida: “Just the typical Florida team: physical, with a bunch of athletes out there, very fast, very well coached. They’re very aggressive defensively. They’re much improved offensively. Obviously they racked up a whole boat load of yards.”

On Blue and Heard: “Umm, we’ll see. They’re day to day right now. I don’t feel great about Blue.”

On Cole Mosier starting and status of Zach West: “I’m worried about Zach. Told you last week that it happened late in the week. He’s got a strange issue. He’s got some fluid, and you know anytime — you thought it might be that maybe he slept on it wrong or something that caused him a little bit of nerve damage. So he’s bothered by that, there’s some fluid around it. He will not be cleared to play until he gets full range and full strength. They have no idea when that will be.”

On if it’s in his neck: “Yeah. Could be a couple days, a week, a month. I have no clue.”

On who backs up Mosier: “We’ll look at several options in there, mix some guys around this week. We’ll see.”

On how the offensive line played Saturday: “Some good things. Darrian (Miller) probably graded out the best. It was good to get him back. He played well. A couple of the young guys went in there and things were moving fast, they were blitzing and changing things up and some of the younger guys — Kyle Meadows in particular — struggled and that’s just from a lack of experience, so we’ve got to continue to work him in more.”

On if it’s tough to simulate a scrambling, elusive quarterback in practice: “It is. That’s part of it. We just need to be more disciplined as a whole defense because it was one person and then it would be a different person on a different blitz or a different pressure. And guys had good intentions, they wanted to retrace and not go too far past the quarterback but he was always spinning out the same way. We have to do a better job of communicating that to everybody, whoever was the contain rusher.

On how many runs should Towles have made and how many times he should have hung in there: “I don’t think we really want to be in the business of going into The Swamp and running him 22 times. I’m not sure that will be a good idea. Yeah, we’ll talk to him a little bit about some of the reads and some of the design. He can run and he will run. But I don’t think any of us are looking for that many every week.”

On the blitz pickup and whose issue that was: “It’s a combination of things. One of the them was a screen. Patrick has to get back and get rid of the football on one of them. They did a nice job. We’ll get it fixed. There’s a few breakdowns here and there. Some of that’s on Patrick.”

On if Towles had a run-first mentality throughout the game: “I thought he made some good decisions. That helped us at times. Then maybe he’s got to learn to go through his progressions more as well. He did come off his progressions a few times a little early, which he had not done.”

On concerns about going to The Swamp: “Well, we have some inexperience, but it is what it is. It will be a real challenge. I think it’s a great venue, obviously one of the best venues in college football. You’ll probably hear me say that every road game in the SEC (laughter). But it’s a great place, a great atmosphere. Very passionate fan base. It will be a real challenge. It’s certainly not easy. It will be really good for us to see where we’re at. I know the coaches are excited. The players are anxious for this great challenge. We’ll see where we’re at.”

On Austin MacGinnis issues with right hash:“Like I said, one of them he rushed, and the other one he felt like he hit good. He needs to take into consideration the wind.”

On if that’s a mechanical issue: “There was a mechanical on the first one from what I know of being an expert on coaching kicking (smiling). He definitely rushed that, yeah, so… You have to be a head coach for 10 years to be an expert. Automatically become an expert after a few years (laughter).”

On if he knows Will Muschamp: “I know Will well. Have a lot of respect for Will. Great defensive coach, great head coach. They’re going to have a good year, I know that. Like I said, I just like him, like the way he coaches, have a lot of respect for him and the program.”

On what a typical Will Muschamp team looks like: “Well I think what you see is what you get. He’s a tough guy, defensive-minded guy, and they’re gonna play with that great passion, which, how can you not love that and appreciate that? Like I said, I think they’re much different offensively this year and they got some weapons and they got some real speed outside and a great scheme. So I think they’re much-improved offensively.”

On if he uses the 27-game losing streak as motivation for the team: “I really don’t think we need that motivation. If it does (provide motivation) to some individual players, that’s fine. I’ll let them read that, but it’s not something I want to put in front of them. We’re pretty motivated to get out there and play well and to try to get a win.”

On how different Florida is offensively and what it showed in the first game: “Of course they do. They’re gonna do what they do to some extent. They’re always gonna implement new things each week and I’m sure add things as they go along. But you could see who they are and what their identity is. They’re very multiple. You’ll see some things schematically like we saw a week ago in that they could go with four-wide-receiver looks and return the tight end and get into a two-back run game or one-back run game, and they just put a lot of stress on you. They spread the ball out. They got very good athletes. They can be physical when they want to, and their backs are very good. They’re very deep and very good at running back. So that’s the basics of it, but they want to spread you out and then be physical when they want to be.”

On how much they’ll look at last year’s game: “Offensively, from a defensive perspective, not too much. Certainly our offense will look at them defensively. They’re still — they are who they are. There’s decent carryover from what we do defensively to what they do. So our offense saw a good dose, at least a portion of that package, throughout camp and throughout the summer.”

On Jojo Kemp in the Wildcat package: “It’s just a way for us to try to improve some of our short-yardage situations and just a little changeup. Jojo had some of his better runs out of that package the other day. He was good and patient and hit it when he saw the opening.”

On Za’Darius Smith: “Za’Darius, he did some very good things Saturday, along with Bud. Statistically Bud showed up on the radar, which everyone was wondering where he was at, but he played good in the first game as well. And Z’s doing some very good things. I think Z gets frustrated. He wants to go out there and make a bunch of sacks and cause fumbles and do all those good things, but he plays hard. Again, I think he gets a little overanxious at times with some contain and a few things this past week. But he’s a good physical guy, he’s playing well, and the plays will come.”

On if there’s a difference in Za’Darius Smith’s play between 3-4 and 4-3: “Well, there will be some difference in there, sure, on the stat line. It’ll be a little different.”

On what went wrong after the strong start offensively on Saturday: “I want to say the first eight possessions of the game, when the game was in question — after the rain came and it was sloppy we were really trying to milk some clock and get the victory and get out of there. The first eight possessions, we scored on the first two and the next two we punt. And then we drive every one of the next ones. The next four there, we drive for points. We’ve got to get it cleaned up. There’s no mystery. You can’t get first and goal on the 2 and get nothing. So that we got to get fixed, and we will. We’ll work on that. We’ve got to come away with some kind of points there. And then the other ones, we had some opportunities. So, as I said at the beginning, we cannot leave those kind of points out there. Certainly the missed field goals we’ve got to get fixed, a dropped touchdown and then you have the first and goal on the 2 and get nothing. So I thought we moved the ball very well. I thought they did a nice job of putting together some long drives. I want to say — I don’t remember exactly — at least four drives over 10 plays, which is good.”

On what he likes and dislikes about the running game right now: “Well, it’s a little bit hit-and-miss, as you can see. Sometimes we’re getting some very big plays, and sometimes we’re getting negative-yardage plays. But we’ve got to continue to work. I think when teams are moving on us, we’ve got to do a better job, when they’re pressuring us and things.”

On what he thinks of Dorian Baker “peeling guys back” on blocks: “I love his aggressiveness. I don’t like his choice of words sometimes. You know, you really have to be careful. What my point to him is, don’t get caught in a situation where they’re gonna get you a targeting foul right there. That’s something that he could be out for a full game. So we don’t ever want to go after somebody’s head. We want to be physical, but he’s got to be careful not to get a target, because all he does is hurt his team with that.”

On if Baker and Blake Bone give UK a swagger: “Oh yeah. I love his attitude, now. Both of ‘em. Dorian, he plays physical all day every day. We’re starting to get that mentality on the perimeter offensively of being nasty and being tough, and one of the hallmarks of Neal’s offense while he was at (Texas) Tech, and Tommy Mainord, the receivers coach. That’s one of the reasons why he’s here, because when you put on Texas Tech film before they got here, they were nasty.”

On if they need that blocking from receivers to run the plays they do: “Yeah, we do, with what we do, yeah. Absolutely. They do play that way, and Blake as he gets more physical, he’ll be more and more confident that way. But Dorian, whether he’s catching the ball, turning it upfield or blocking, he loves to play physical and get after people. So I’m excited to see that as he grows.”

On if Josh Forrest has played better than he expected: “I’ve liked Josh all along. I felt like he had the talent to be a good football player. As I said during camp, the pass responsibilities come very natural to him. He’s long and rangy and he can run, being more physical. He’s getting more and more physical, so that’s helping.”

On how he feels about the development of the defensive tackle group: “I feel like they’re doing some good things. I really do. Mike (Douglas) really played well this past week. Melvin (Lewis) has been doing some nice things. He’s coming along. So, overall we’re getting better and better.”

On what it says about the defense to shutout back-to-back opponents in the first half: “We’re happy about that, because we’re just always trying to improve, always trying to play well. I thought in the first game, even though there was areas where we know we needed to improve, we still did some very good things that we had to takeaway from them. The same thing with this game. I think we were more consistent, obviously, this last game and hardened up that run game, put them in some longer yardage situations.”

On third-down improvements on both sides of the ball: “The competition is going to get harder. We need to continue to improve in that area, but we’re better. That’s showing in that area. Those are obviously very critical downs that we need to improve on. It has been nice to see offensively we’re converting some longer yardage third-downs as well, which is good to see. I just think that’s a credit to us improving. Better at receiver, better at quarterback and the line is giving some protection. So, overall just improving.”

On saying previously he’s not measuring success by wins and losses but if this week success is measured with a win: “Well, I think it’s no mystery that it’s important to win some games and to compete at a high level in the SEC. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not going to back away from that. I’ve never said that it wasn’t important. We all know that ultimately I could be sitting here alone if you don’t have enough wins down the road. You’ve got to eventually win some ball games.”

On the reasoning behind  showing the movie “Secretariat” to the team: “I think for one thing to identify with Kentucky, to identify with the colors that we wear on our uniform and the fact that some of that was patterned after Secretariat. So, I think the players really appreciated that. The really enjoyed the movie. It was just a break during camp, just one of those nights where you just want to get them to decompress and relax a little bit.”

On if they haven’t needed to focus on the running backs in passing game yet: “Yeah, and there were some there this past week that they chose to go another direction. There’s some options there that we’ll eventually have to hit.”

On what problems Jeff Driskel presents: “He’s a good football player, and he’s got some good weapons and a good system. So, he can run it and he can throw it. They obviously — they exploded in that first game. They have some playmakers.”

On if they try to reverse the tables this week and try to be the underdog that hangs around as long as possible for a chance to win: “Well, I don’t know if we every really go into it taking that effect. But, I think it would be very challenging to jump out in front of them like we did in the first two. But that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

On how important this game is for judging how much progress they’ve made: “I think it is. I’m anxious. I want to have a great week of preparation by our coaches and our players. I want us just as excited to go out there and play as we were in the first two games at home, and I think it will be interesting to see how our young players respond and how they go play. So, yeah, it’s a measuring stick for us.”

On how different the Florida offense is this year: “They’re different. They’re different. I mean, however you want to say it. Sometimes they may line up in the same way, but scheme-wise they’re different. There’s probably some plays that they still run that they ran a year ago, but overall when you put it all together and how they’re calling plays and what they’re doing is different.”

On if the Florida defense is just as good this year as last year: “Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Very good. Very good defensively. A bunch of guys I’m familiar with and have watched come up through the high school ranks. I know their mentality, how they play. They’re very tough, they’re very aggressive. Vernon Hargreaves on the corner is exceptional. Donte Fowler, impact defensive end. So they’ve got some good guys. They’ve got a great scheme, they’re well coached.”

On balancing a game plan when Florida has a power running back and speed on the outside: “Well, it’s just — that’s always what stresses a defensive coordinator. You always — the best offense are the ones that are balanced, that make you play with numbers then hurt you outside. So, that’s what they do.”

On how much more D.J. Eliot is taking on as a defensive coordinator this season: ‘D.J. Durkin or D.J. Eliot? D.J. Durkin is from Youngstown too, you know. (Laughter) D.J. does a great job. He’s the defensive coordinator. He day-to-day works out all the details. Of course, I’m heavily involved. I was late getting over here because I couldn’t get out of there, for the defensive meeting. But, you know, I’m very much involved, but he’s doing very well organizing it all.”

On if he ever has to remind himself in practice he’s not just in charge of the defense anymore: “No. I’ve just stayed over there on defense. (Laughter). I’ve got my hands full over there. You know, you’ve got to go where you can help. There’s things that. Neal’s great and I do my best to let him do his job, because I can get over there and start having my mentality and tweak things. I don’t want there to be any reason for failure. He understands me. He knows when we need a rest on defense, we need to slow things down, get some first downs. And he also understands that when I get frustrated, we’ll get those things corrected. When we get the ball first and goal on the 2, we’re going to darn sure try to run it in there next time.” (Laughs)

On who the backup QB is: “Reese (Phillips) is. Reese is. Because, again, I said this a while ago: If something happened where Patrick was going to be out for a long period of time, then we would address the situation. If we can redshirt Drew (Barker), then that’s what we’re going to do.”

On how Barker has handled that: “Drew’s been good. He’s been good. He’s still been right in there with all the game-planning and he’s been involved and he’s been engaged. And he’s still getting some reps, so it’s been good.”

On who is the scout-team QB: “He’ll come over there a little bit once in a while and do that for us, just so he can throw more footballs as well.”

On Barker suiting up on game days: “Like I said, I don’t know what the future holds as far as injuries and things like that. If we can redshirt him, we will.”

On whether UK players from Florida are chattering about getting some extra touches against the Gators: “Well, I haven’t heard much yet from them, but I’m sure I will throughout this week, especially Jojo. I’m sure I’ll hear (from him). No, they’ll be excited to play. Javess is just frustrated. He wants to be healthy. He wants to be out there.”

On whether first game on the road for new guys, players will be pumped up: “I would assume so. I hope so. I hope they’re excited to play. I would imagine they will be. That’s been our identity all year. But I’m probably more interested in how we approach the week than how we are right before the game.”

On any update on WR Alex Montgomery, whether he will play in 2014: “I do expect him back this year. Not this week.”

On WR Jeff Badet: “He had to get clearance from me to wear sunglasses on the sideline (medical glasses and Stoops was joking). But he’s got the eye issue and, really, there’s some things that we’re still working out with the leg as well.”

On evaluating QBs from a defensive coach’s perspective: “In the games, you love to see the quarterback sit in that pocket, go through his progressions and distribute the football. You also like to see how he handles adversity. He’s been on point. He’s been a good leader. He’s made good decisions. When he’s made bad decisions, he’s bounced right back and not let that affect him. So I think overall he’s doing a very good job handling that.”

On his relationship with Neal Brown and how that developed, not knowing each other before: “It’s about what I expected. I obviously did my homework on him and how he’s handled things. We sat down and had a long talk before we decided to work together. So yeah, it’s been very good. A year ago, it was what it was. I look at everything and from a defensive point of view, I look at what he’s calling, what they’re doing, and look at dead plays. What I call dead plays, like, ‘Don’t run that; there’s nothing there.’ So I always watch that. But he does a great job of calling plays and setting things up. He’s got great experience, so I have a lot of confidence in him. And then when it comes to managing the game, again, any good offensive coordinator sometimes, they want to go. But he does a nice job of looking at the whole picture and understanding. And of course, that’s when I’m on the headset and things like that, when I know we may need a longer drive, we may need to get a rest. Sometimes punting is not bad. You get a couple first downs, use some clock, punt it, change field position. So just overall, I think it’s been good and he does a nice job of respecting what’s going on in a game and not just focusing on one thing.”

On whether he or Brown have had to bend any in their approach to practice: “Yeah, we both will give and take on some things. Sometimes we’re a good scout team to them and sometimes they’re a good scout team to us. So that’s just how it is. It’s been good. That’s what you have to do. I like the style or I’d have never hired him. I like the style, I like what we do, but sometimes you may need to get a little more physical and see different things. And they can do all those things. They may not just feature it from under center or different ways, but they can give us just about anything we need to see.”

On Henderson and Flannigan at weakside linebacker: “Yeah, Khalid really played a good game this past week. I was pleased with Khalid. And he’s being pushed because he has a very good player behind him. And with Ryan, he’s a very good athlete, very explosive. In these games, when offenses are adjusting, doing different things, maybe something we weren’t able to zero in on in practice, you gotta apply rules – and the game’s ever-changing with all the motion shifts, all the different things you see, and sometimes it’s going a little fast for him right now. But he was better this last week.”

On turnover margin so far and at UF: “It’s probably the most critical statistic to us, because of where we’re at. Like I said before, we’re not good enough to win a game on any one side. We have to play well on all sides to have a chance to win. We’re not dominant enough on offense or dominant enough on defense, but we put it all together and we’re good enough to play with anybody. We just have to play well.”

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Quick hits out of Stoops

Kentucky left guard Zach West is out indefinitely as he deals with some discomfort in his neck that has fluid surrounding it, Coach Mark Stoops said on Monday at his regular news conference.

  • In other injury updates, Stoops said running back Braylon Heard (ankle) and wide receiver Javess Blue (ankle) are both listed as day to day, but he doesn’t like Blue’s chances of playing.
  • Wide receiver Jeff Badet has not been cleared to play and is battling still with his eye injury and leftover stuff from his broken leg from spring practice. … Wide out Alexander Montgomery (knee) is still out as he does rehab work, but Stoops said he fully expects the sophomore will play this season and not redshirt.
  • As of right now, Reese Phillips is the Cats’ backup quarterback should something happen to Patrick Towles, but if there is a long-term issue and/or injury to the Cats’ starter the staff will reassess whether or not true freshman Drew Barker will keep his redshirt.
  • Kentucky coaches liked seeing Jojo Kemp in the Wildcat package, saying he got some of his better runs on Saturday out of that formation.
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Mark Stoops on win over Ohio

MARK STOOPS
Excited to be 2‑0. Maybe wasn’t as pretty as we’d like it to be, but we’re always going to respect wins. That’s a good thing. We did some very good things, and then we did some things that we’ll get cleaned up on film, so overall very pleased with the effort.

Q. Six takeaways, zero turnovers in the last two games; how big is that to you right now?

MARK STOOPS: It’s most important probably. If you’re just going to look at statistics, that’s a good one to start with. Very encouraged with the way we’re taking care of the ball offensively. Creating some turnovers, and today there was a couple gifts in there, but we’ll take them. That’s a good place to start.

Q. Was the game plan to run Patrick so much?

MARK STOOPS: A little bit, and then some of it late in the game was just trying to milk it down a little bit. There were some opportunities there.

Q. Do you worry about him, 22 rushes?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, is that what it was?

Q. Yeah.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, we might have to back off that a little bit. No, but we’ve got a big game next week, obviously. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but we’ll do whatever we have to do to try to win games, so if that’s what it calls for, then Patrick will be glad to do it. Some of that he pulled it down and ran it, and he made some very good decisions pulling it down and running it.

Q. What do you like about him when he’s able to lower his shoulders?

MARK STOOPS: He’s just a big guy. He’s sneaky fast, and actually we’re rubbing it in with some of our guys with our GPS in practice and in games. He actually hit the highest number a week ago. I’m not going to tell you what that number is because then it’ll tell you about our other guys. But no, he ran ‑‑ he’s sneaky fast. He’s making good decisions. Wasn’t perfect in all of his decision making today, but I liked the fact that me being a frustrated defensive coordinator all these years, when you have a quarterback wrapped up and they scramble out, it breaks your back, and that happened to us today defensively quite a bit, and very aggravating, especially at the end of the first half. But Patrick is doing that to people, too, which is good to see.

Q. How do you think you guys played overall defensively?

MARK STOOPS: Okay. Okay. Again, it wasn’t just lip service; we have a lot of respect for that team. They’re a very good team. They went to five straight bowl games. I imagine they’ll go again. They’ve got good players. They know what they’re doing. They put stress on you, and they make you defend plays. You have to add numbers to their run games. They’re very good at their shots. They know what they’re doing, and they make it difficult for you. So overall I’m pleased. Are there things we can get better at? Absolutely.

Q. Talk about the importance of getting off to a 2‑0 start.

MARK STOOPS: Very important. It feels good. That’s what I told the team. I was worried about that going into the game. We talked and talked and talked about one play, just truly one play at a time and stacking it on top of another. Your guys get excited and they want to do well and they want to go out and prove themselves. You can’t go from 0 to 60; you’ve just got to stack plays on top of plays. With a young team they want to get out ahead of themselves a lot, and we’ve just got to learn to control what we can control and focus on each and every play.

Q. Was there maybe a lack of focus on the offensive end in the second half today?

MARK STOOPS: I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus. Some missed opportunities I would say. There’s really ‑‑ I was a little frustrated, but if you really look at it, if we get the ball on the 2, we’ve got to do a better job there. I’ll take that and we’ll get that corrected. We get the 1st and 2 (again), we’ll give a better effort than we did there. But outside of that, then you miss two field goals and you drop one. Even with the stop on the goal line, that frustrates you a little bit. If you just catch the touchdown, then we’re sitting here at 27, and it’s something more to build on. But it is what it is. It’s a victory, and I just don’t want our players getting down about victories. We’ll take them any time, any way, and we’ll do what we have to do to try to get those Ws.

Q. How concerned are you about Austin MacGinnis going forward and the misses in the last two games?

MARK STOOPS: I’m not too concerned. He’ll be okay. He’ll be fine.

Q. Do you like us sitting here nitpicking your 17‑point win?

MARK STOOPS: I feel probably like you do. That’s okay. That’s a good thing. We want it that way. I want to continue to strive to get these victories and look pretty doing it, but again, all that matters is winning. But progress; win or lose, progress. And we still made progress today. It’s good to be in a tough game, things not go perfect and win.

Q. Did Timmons’ unsportsmanlike cloud what was otherwise ‑‑

MARK STOOPS: I don’t know if it clouds it. It was a silly mistake that I don’t anticipate that he would make again.

Q. He was just talking?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, that’s the way ‑‑ I didn’t see it but that’s the way I understood.

Q. Is Zach West hurt?

MARK STOOPS: He was. He had a weird injury late in the week. I don’t know, it was ‑‑ maybe he got banged at practice, maybe he slept on it funny, but he just had like a nerve issue that should be worked out I’d imagine here in a day or two, but he didn’t have full range in his neck so he couldn’t play.

Q. Did you guys scout and see both of their quarterbacks, that second one they brought in?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah.

Q. He’s pretty shifty.

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he was. We had a little issue there. He was escaping the same way, and it was different guys all the time. He was thinking he was coming back through the pocket so they were trying to retrace and he kept on going out and losing contain, so we’ve just got to get things fixed. Last week it was some other issues. This week it’s some of that and just fundamentally we’ve got to do things right and continue to improve and make guys understand things. That’s why these games are so valuable to come out with a win but still get all this teaching and all that learning.

Q. We’ve been asking you about those gray uniforms for two years now. Why this game?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah. We’ve never had those uni’s until this week. I don’t know what you guys are talking about. (Laughter.) Did you like them? I liked them.

Q. Any reason you went with them this week or ‑‑

MARK STOOPS: Just no reason. No reason. Just felt like it was the right time.

Q. You’ve got such a young team. Do you think that they understand the step up they’re going to have to take next week, or is that something you focus on in practice this week?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I do. I think they understand that, and we’ve just got to keep on putting our head down and going to work and getting better, coaches and players and everybody, and we will.

Q. Anybody tell you this is the first time that a Kentucky team has two consecutive first half shutouts since 1988?

MARK STOOPS: You know my man Tony (Neely) got me right off the field telling me that. I think he was trying to cheer me up telling me that. I got a smile out of that. That’s good. It was good. You know, the defensive effort I thought ‑‑ there were times out there where, again, they were scratching us, moving it a little bit, and the guys buckled down and made some plays, and they put together that drive to start the second half that was good for them, and give them credit, they executed and they moved it and got a field goal, and our guys settled down and made some plays. Again, you know, some of that there were some missed opportunities. I think we had a sack, we had a clear sack and just missed him. We had a good pressure called on 1st or 2nd down and we’re going to get a 10‑yard loss, instead they scramble out and get a 10‑yard gain. That’s a possession.

Q. What was the message to the team after the game?

MARK STOOPS: The guys were a little ‑‑ they were excited. Once we cranked the music up and they got their dance on, they were having a good time. They enjoy it, and I wanted them to. I told them to enjoy the victory and not be sulking around. If things didn’t go the way they wanted to individually, then go back to work and change it. We can’t have any selfishness. It’s about the team, it’s about everybody getting better and everybody pulling for each other and doing the right things, so we’ve got to get rid of anybody that might have any individual thoughts. It’s important that I want them to think about playing well for the team. They were excited, and we’re glad to be 2‑0.

Q. Do you anticipate getting Blue and Badet back for next week?

MARK STOOPS: I don’t know. Badet, no. Badet, no.

Q. What is the No. 1 thing that needs to be fixed? You said you needed to fix some things from last week and now this week.

MARK STOOPS: When I was talking about that I was talking about contain on the quarterback. That’s one that jumps out at me right away. Again, it’s just about being disciplined in all phases and that takes a lot to be disciplined and focused and the game changes and there’s many formations. They do a lot of good things that you have to be locked in on. So we’ve just got to continue to focus, and the big thing is do each individual job.

Q. Was Bud Dupree cramping?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he was.

Q. And before he cramped, did you feel like he played better this week?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he did. Guys, he did some very good things a week ago, and those guys, all of them up front, they want to make plays. They want to be active and all that, so they’ve just got to play within the defense, and the plays will be there. It’s a long year.

 

 

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