Dawson on philosophies, pace of play, other fun stuff

Spent part of Thursday morning with Kentucky offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and there will be plenty of stories to come from that in the next few weeks. But I also picked up some interesting bits of football information from the Cats’ new play caller. Here they are:

  • Even though the Kentucky offense has been running at a normal pace during the spring, Dawson’s ideal number of plays in a game is speedy. While Neal Brown said his goal was 75 plays per game, Dawson said 85 plays is more ideal to him. Last season, UK averaged 70.8 plays per game. At West Virginia, where Dawson helped run the offense last season, the Mountaineers averaged 84.4 plays per game.
  • Dawson will do his game-day coaching and play calling from the Kentucky sidelines, not the press box.
  • After being nearly 50 percent in run/pass ratio last season at West Virginia, does he have a perfect percentage in mind? “I think it changes from game to game, I really do,” he said, going back to something a coach he knew said a few years back. “He said, ‘If they’re going to stack the box, I’m going throw it 100 percent of the time. That’s good balance versus what they’re doing.’”
  • He has two simple offensive philosophies: Attack an opposing defense where it’s most vulnerable and get the ball into your top playmakers’ hands as many times as possible. “If you’ve got a really, really good player and he leaves the game and he hasn’t touched the ball a lot and you lose, then you can only look in the mirror with that,” Dawson said.
  • While many coaches try to use a script for their first 10-15 plays of the game or the first plays of a series, Dawson said he’s been migrating away from that philosophy because too many variables can change the script. “I do have a set of plays in my mind that we’re going to run,” he said. “But I think lately I’ve come to the place where I think I’m a little more likely to go off script quicker.”
  • He loves to get a quarterback’s input in the play calls as the team prepares for an opponent, even regularly pulling plays that he considered “the best damn play on the script” when his past QBs were uncomfortable with them.



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EKU players suspended for part in incidents

Unnamed Eastern Kentucky football players have been suspended for an unspecified amount of time for their part in the incidents on Jan. 25 involving Kentucky football players.

In an emailed statement, Colonels Athletics Director Steve Lochmueller said the school is following its procedure in dealing with the events involving the players.

“Given the actions of these student-athletes, these players have been suspended from the EKU Football roster,” Lochmueller continued without naming any players specifically.

“Their future at the University will be determined pending the decision by personnel within our Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. This type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

At least two EKU football players are named in the police reports involving two separate incidents in Richmond on Jan. 25. The first was fight at a bar involving Colonels offensive lineman Colton Scurry and UK quarterback Drew Barker, wide receiver Dorian Baker and defensive lineman Tymere Dubose.

“Suddenly, without physical provocation, Mr. Scurry charges into a crowd of people and throws a punch at an unidentified person,” the recently released report says.

Later at a campus dorm, Telford Hall security video shows Eastern defensive tackle (and former UK signee) Patrick Graffree punching Barker in the side of the head.

The video “shows Graffree taking off his sweatshirt as he enters the building and approaches Baker, Barker and Dubose. Graffree then strikes Barker, knocking him to the ground,” the report says.

Graffree is no longer listed on the Eastern Kentucky football roster online. Scurry, a 6-foot-2, red-shirt sophomore was still on the roster as of 2 p.m. on Thursday but was removed before 3 p.m.

Graffree played in 12 games last season and had 26 tackles, two interceptions and six quarterback hurries.

The Eastern Kentucky statement said it’s taken action now that the “legal process has run its course.” Last week a Madison County grand jury declined to indict any of the players involved in the bar fight at Jerzee’s Cocktail Lounge & Dance Club.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, when asked about the videos of the incidents released on Tuesday, he said he had seen them and “addressed that.”

When asked if he’d seen the videos before they were made public via an open records request, he didn’t elaborate.

“Not going to comment on that,” Stoops said. “There was no surprises to me yesterday. I’ve addressed it with the players and with the team and we’ve moved on.”

In the statement, Lochmueller added that it will be an internal student judicial review and that the university will have no further comment on it.

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EKU suspends players for part in incidents

Unnamed Eastern Kentucky football players have been suspended for an unspecified amount of time for their part in the incidents on Jan. 25 involving Kentucky football players.

In an emailed statement, Colonels Athletics Director Steve Lochmueller said the school is following its procedure in dealing with the events involving the players.

“Given the actions of these student-athletes, these players have been suspended from the EKU Football roster,” Lochmueller continued without naming any players specifically.

“Their future at the University will be determined pending the decision by personnel within our Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. This type of behavior will not be tolerated.”

Lochmueller adds that it will be an internal student judicial review and that the university will have no further comment on it.

At least two EKU football players are named in the police reports involving two separate incidents in Richmond on Jan. 25. The first was fight at a bar involving Colonels offensive lineman Colton Scurry and UK quarterback Drew Barker, wide receiver Dorian Baker and defensive lineman Tymere Dubose.

Later at a campus dorm, Telford Hall security video shows Eastern defensive tackle (and former UK signee) Patrick Graffree punching Barker in the side of the head.

The video “shows Graffree taking off his sweatshirt as he enters the building and approaches Baker, Barker and Dubose. Graffree then strikes Barker, knocking him to the ground,” the report says.

Graffree is no longer listed on the Eastern Kentucky football roster online. Scurry, a 6-foot-2, red-shirt sophomore is still on the roster as of Thursday afternoon.

Graffree played in 12 games last season and had 26 tackles, two interceptions and six quarterback hurries.

The Eastern Kentucky statement said it’s taken action now that the “legal process has run its course.” Last week a Madison County grand jury declined to indict any of the players involved in the bar fight at Jerzee’s Cocktail Lounge & Dance Club.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops, when asked about the videos of the incidents released on Tuesday, he said he had seen them and “addressed that.”

When asked if he’d seen the videos before they were made public via an open records request, he didn’t elaborate.

“Not going to comment on that,” Stoops said. “There was no surprises to me yesterday. I’ve addressed it with the players and with the team and we’ve moved on.”

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Q&A with D.J. Eliot to wrap up spring practice

“Good wrap-up to spring, good competitive practice. Guys were excited to be out there and finish things up. We were able to get a lot of guys in this spring and see how they looked. And today in practice, too, especially on defense, we tried some different looks, tried some different things to finish spring out, and now we can build off that and go into the offseason and into the summer and continue to get better athletically and continue to use the meeting time that’s allowed to get players better mentally and have them understand the game better. We’re looking forward to getting our new guys here in June and getting that team camaraderie with them, but also starting to develop them and head into August and get going.”

On the first steps toward replacing Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith this spring: “Yes, I think at those positions we have good players that can do some good things. I don’t see – you can’t say, ‘Who’s the next Bud?’ Last year, everybody was asking me, ‘Who’s the next Avery?’ Well, that’s not going to happen. Avery’s a special player and does things his own way, and do was Bud and so was Za’Darius. But I do think at those positions, we did a good job of developing some guys and I feel good about our progress moving forward into the fall.”

On if he thought about that a lot during last season, getting replacements ready: “Right, I was, I thought about that. And we think about that at every position. You have to continue to build on your younger players and continue to get them better throughout the fall. And we had extra practices at every position to do that for the younger players and for the guys that weren’t getting as many reps at those positions. So that’s something that, like I said, we were thinking about and we were working toward, but we do that every year at every position.”

On Jason Hatcher getting experience last season: “I think that the more game experience that any player gets, the better that he’ll be. So now that Jason has those extra game reps that he got, I think it’ll make him a better player. He’s been there, knows what it takes. He’s been in that atmosphere. He knows what the competition’s like in this league and how hard he has to work to be successful. I think that experience will definitely help him in the long run.”

On how much progress DT Melvin Lewis has made: “I think that Melvin, he may be one of the most improved players on our team from the start of him coming here to where he’s at now. He came in two Augusts ago, and we opted to redshirt him. Really was just a big kid, but not a very good player, to be honest with you. And he’s worked hard and he’s done what he’s been told to do and has made himself a good player. He is a good nose guard. He’s a guy that I am very proud of and feel very confident about at his position, and he’s completely earned that. Nothing was given to him, and he didn’t walk in here a good player. He’s a guy that, like I said, he may be the most improved player on our team from when he came in to where he’s at now.

On if Lewis is a guy they can hold up as an example to other players of hard work paying off: “Exactly. Exactly. And we have that talk all the time about sometimes coaches are gonna push you to the limit, but the player has to make the decision that he wants to be great, too. And Melvin was one of those guys that made that decision.”

On this offense being harder to prepare for and why that is: “I think that that offense is one that’s tough to defend and it has been at all the places that it’s been run. One reason is because they are able to spread you out and throw the ball around and they’re able to play fast and they’re able to play with tempo. But yet they’re also able to run the football. And when you have that combination, it’s tough to defend on the defense.”

On Kengera Daniel: “At our defensive end position, we like guys that are long. Kengera’s 6-5, 6-6. And then they have to have enough size, too, to hold up in the run, and Kengera’s a 250-, 260-pound player. And then on top of that with Kengera, he’s athletic. So he had all the measurements and he had all the characteristics that we wanted too. He was a good student, he was a good person. And then since he’s been here, we’ve seen some good things from him in the fact that he also knows how to play. He knows how to play football. So not only was he a good athlete for that position, but he’s got some football savvy about him.”

On players having fun and the value of that: “Well, ultimately they started playing this game because they wanted to have fun doing it. And if they ever lose that, then sometimes they lose their passion. So I think it’s important that, no matter how hard we push them and no matter how hard they want to succeed, they have to find the fun in the game, too. I think that’s good. We encourage that. And I think in the long run, they’ll be a better player if they take that approach to the game.”

On if players can have more fun when they’re more comfortable with the schemes: “I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if there is more or — you know what I mean? I think that overall, when they have fun they’re good players.”

On what they see at cornerback and what more they need there: “Well, that’s a tough position. You’re on an island, and the guy in front of you has every advantage over you. You don’t know where he’s going, and he does, and you’ve got to try to cover him. And a lot of times, in certain coverages, you don’t have any help, either. For that position, you have to be extremely skilled, but you have to be confident, too, because you’re gonna get beat because it’s so hard to play that position. It’s so hard to play that position. And you have to have the confidence to come back and be aggressive and execute your techniques the next play. I think that that’s something that we’ve got to continue to build on are those things at corner. We’ve got to be able to come back, play the next play, execute those techniques, be confident, be aggressive and know that those guys are in tough situations.”

On C.J. Johnson: “C.J. has become a better technician, and I think he understands the defense better. He uses his hands better than he did when he first got here. Coach Brumbaugh does an excellent job of coaching fundamentals with our defensive line. When you get those junior-college players, sometimes they’re behind, depending on how they were developed and what they were taught or what they did, and C.J.’s done a good job of starting to execute the fundamentals that we expect from him. And one of the biggest aspects of that is using his hands.”


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Q&A with Stoops to wrap up spring practice

“Good practice today. It was good to wrap up spring. No major injuries. As I told the team afterward, it’s definitely the most consistent we’ve been for 15 practices. We weren’t perfect for all 15, but the guys were really out there trying to make a conscious effort to improve on the things we point out in the meetings. We had great energy. Guys were really flying around this morning, having fun, competing, getting better the whole way through. Really pleased with the progress we’ve made. I feel like we have more depth. We have some good, young talent that we need to continue to work with. Overall very productive, very good spring. We need to keep that momentum, keep that consistency going here with the last two and a half, three weeks of school and have a great summer — physically and mentally getting tougher, getting stronger, getting bigger. And if we do that, then we’ll be excited heading into fall.”

On the end of first spring versus this spring: “Well, just like I try to tell the players all the time; I try to be very honest with them and if I’m honest with myself, it can be challenging to say the least. But really you focus on what you can control and that’s truly what we did from day one to now: work with what we had, get what we had better, again mentally and physically, and that was the concentration the first spring. It’s a challenge when you know you need some sharper arrows.”

On if he’d seen videos from Richmond incidents: “Yeah, I saw the videos. I’ve address that.”

On if he’d seen them before release yesterday: “Not going to comment on that. There was no surprises to me yesterday. I’ve addressed it with the players and with the team and we’ve moved on.”

On what qualities Jason Hatcher and Melvin Lewis bring to defense: “Jason’s a guy that I’m really excited about, getting some good experience a year ago, getting him out there in a position where he can make some plays. He’s very explosive. He’s always been a great pass rusher. He’s getting more and more comfortable on his feet and more and more versatile. So I like what Jason’s doing. Melvin’s just been very consistent. He has a chance to be a dominant player, a very good player. So he’s got to continue to work and have a good offseason, but we expect an awful lot from him.”

On Kengera Daniel: “Very pleased with him. He’s going to be a very good football player, for a guy that should be wrapping up high school right now, he really did a good job. It was really beneficial for him to be here and get the 15 practices in and you can see him getting better and better. The weight room is going to really help him as he puts on more weight and more strength.”

On if C.J. Johnson has made necessary strides: “Definitely. Definitely. I feel a lot better about him. When he’s not thinking as much, you see the talent and you see him making some plays. He’s another guy who needs to be more consistent.”

On if move to 3-4 defense changes recruiting: “It does. It certainly does. No matter what you’re playing, 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5, no matter what you’re doing, you know you need players and you need some outside backers and all that, but it does change it a bit for the body type we’re looking for.”

On if the more hybrid body types are more available: “I think so. I think so. When we were recruiting to the 4-3, the big, strong defensive ends, I think a lot of people search for those guys. And so I think some of the guys who have a little bit more length and some athletic ability, give them a little more time to grow into their bodies, there might be a few more of those guys out there.”

On how much better he thinks they are than the end of his first spring practice at UK: “Significantly better right now after the last day of spring here in year three and the last day of spring year one. Significantly better. Yes. I think it’s hard to put into words exactly. I just think it starts mentally. They understand what we want from them. They enjoy practice all the way through. Like I said, the 15th day — all the way through they were enjoying themselves, concentrating on getting better. I think mentally we’re much stronger. Definitely feel like we’re developing them to be a winning football team.”

On if the culture is where he wants it: “I definitely believe we’re moving towards the culture we want. Yeah. Definitely making strides in that area. I feel very good about this team. Again, we know where we’re deficient and where we need to improve, but I like the attitude and I feel like we have good young talent that’s still developing that’s going to get better with every opportunity.”

On what is most important to get where they want in the fall: “That consistency. We can’t have the ups and downs. It’s a long, tough season, and that’s the way it’s going to be. And that’s not going to change. So we need to continue to develop depth and we need to try to stay healthy, but there’s not a lot you can do to control that. I’d just like to see our team continue to improve mentally to be a consistent team, to every time we walk in this meeting room or walk out on the field to improve and get better. You can’t do that by just going through the motions. I see us being more consistent. Like I said with the opening statement, I feel like certainly this 15 practices, this spring has been the most consistent we’ve been.”

On if consistency means not having bad days, bad meetings: “Yeah, and one play leading into the next and all those things. Or one day, one period leading into the next. So, I just feel like we’re getting good work, and the guys are concentrating and focusing on the things that we’re stressing.”

On which players took the most dramatic leaps this spring: “I think that both quarterbacks made some big improvement. I really like what they’re doing. I think Garrett Johnson really took a big step. Blake Bone really had some big plays. Again today really had some flashes of catching the ball and making some impressive catches today. Josh Forrest I think is a guy that made some big improvement along with Ryan Flannigan. Those are positions that you know you need to improve on. I feel like they have. Again, as I’ve talked about a few times, I think through the middle of our defense with the nose guard, the backers and up through the nickels dimes and safeties I feel like we’re getting better. We need to continue to improve and get some depth outside at corner.”

On if there are positions that stood out for needing reinforcements from 2015 class: “I think just like I mentioned, possibly corner would be one. And then give us some depth at some other positions.”

On if there are any battles in good-on-good periods he particularly enjoyed watching: “Yeah, quite a few. I really think it’s been very competitive most of the spring. That’s what I like to see: good competitive plays, instead of one side or the other doing well because the other side was inept. I’m seeing more and more quality football plays. That’s when you know you’re growing: when a guy may be covered and comes down with a big catch or it looks like he’s going to make the catch and we strip it out of there. So, there’s been good competitive plays. We’ve been a cleaner football team.”

On what he wants to see from QBs over the summer: “Just continue to do what they’re doing. Just continue to be good leaders, continue to improve and really focus. Quarterbacks need to keep everybody accountable in the summer. We’re not allowed to spend time with them. Certainly we’re not allowed to be around them when they have a football, so they have to do that on their own and the quarterbacks certainly have to take charge of when they’re throwing and making sure and keeping accountability and having guys there and making sure we’re getting good work in when they’re there because they need to improve throughout the summer. the whole team.”

On my it’s important players are having fun: “Well as you’ve heard me say many times: the mentality as soon as they walk in the building can be positive or negative. There’s no replacing that positive energy and guys believing in what they’re doing and having a positive effect on other guys. So when they’re out there bouncing around and everybody’s enjoying it and competing hard and working extremely hard but getting competitive with each other in a good way, I think it’s very important.”

On if he’ll announce it publicly when he talks to the QBs and names a starter: “I don’t know if I said that. Did I say I was going to name a starter? Hmmmm. (Grinning.) I think I did tell Alan that I was going to name one, but I’m going to sit on that. I’ll let you know. If I’m ready to go public, we’ll call a meeting and call y’all in here and let you know.”

On in his impressions of new OC Shannon Dawson this spring: “I’ve been very, very impressed. I was very happy with what Coach Brown, what Neal was doing and where we were going. I knew we would be better this year, for sure, just with the personnel – and we should be heading into Year 3. So I was very pleased with what we were doing. I really like what we’re doing right now. I just think it was exactly what I was looking for and I just feel like we made a lot of strides and I like what we’re doing schematically. I think our players are really enjoying it, like I said, and in some ways maybe eliminated a little bit of thinking, a little bit of pressure off certain guys. So overall, I’ve been very pleased.”

On how much Andy Buh coming on and the restructuring of the defensive staff accomplished what he wanted there: “Very important. It was important. I really like the changes that we made defensively, as far as how we’re structuring our staff and what we’re doing. I definitely feel like that’s going to benefit those young outside backers. And we need to get a few guys in here from this class, certainly a couple junior college that will be in the mix as well. With Alvonte (Bell) out there at outside backer, he’ll need some individual attention. So really pleased with Coach Buh and the moves that we made and how we set up the staff. Feel very good about it.”

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Q&A with Shannon Dawson

On overall impressions of scrimmage: “I thought we did some good things. I mean, breaking it down, we moved the ball 29 or something first downs. We didn’t have that many explosive plays like we kind of did the past one. But I thought it kind of went back and forth pretty good. We did some good things. But when we didn’t do good things, I thought that you could probably put it more on the defense than probably what we were doing. They were doing some good things, too.”

On his impressions of QB Patrick Towles’ play in scrimmage: “Yeah, I thought he had a really good day. I thought he was solid throughout, accurate, good zip on the ball, got it out on time, made good decisions other than two or three times really. Overall very solid day. Really if you break it down, Drew (Barker) had a pretty good day, too, other than — the two picks skew it a little bit, but one of them was his fault and one of them really wasn’t — so you’re going to throw picks at times, but other than those, I thought he had a pretty efficient day, too.”

On how often this spring Towles has looked that solid: “There’s time we’ve looked good and times we’ve looked bad overall. There’s times, I think when we look really good, the quarterback gets too much credit and when we look really bad, I think the quarterback gets too much blame. There are (10) other guys out there, so I think overall as a unit, we were fairly efficient yesterday with the first group of everybody that was going through, so it’s good. It’s hard to say because as practice goes, there’s good and bad throughout. It’s different when you scrimmage. When you’re practicing, you’re just running scripted plays. So we really only have two scrimmages to go off of.”

On how many 18-year-old offensive lineman he’s encountered that look like George Asafo-Adjei: “Zero. Not one. That kid’s a special kid. Special, but he’s a good kid. That’s the good thing about it. He’s talented no doubt, but humble, wants to be great, everything you want. So we’ve just got to keep him on track and keep feeding him … information.”

On how much he subscribes to cliché at you’re never as good as you look or bad as you look: “Probably a lot because when I left the scrimmage, I thought we played like crap, so my initial impression typically isn’t exactly what it is on tape and sometimes when I think we did great, I look at the film and we didn’t. So I think there’s a lot to say for that. When I left the scrimmage yesterday, I thought we played really, really poor. Then when I watch it, I thought we played good. We wanted to do a couple things; I wanted to be physical and run the ball effectively and I thought we did and I wanted to throw the ball down the field and get better at that. I thought we made some strides with that, too.”

On routine plays: “When you make that many first downs, you’re making routine plays. So I think that was the biggest deal because defense did a good job — we had a couple of down the field throws that we made, great throws and great catches — you’re not going to make them all the time. So routine plays are the ones that keep drives going. I thought defense did a great job of eliminating our explosive plays because we really only had like six, what we call explosive plays. With that, when defense is doing a good job of eliminating that, you need to be methodical, make routine plays and keep the chains moving. I thought we did a great job. It’s hard; we didn’t get the ball in the end zone a lot, so that was one thing we did poorly on. But I think you can probably give the other side some credit, too.”

On his philosophy on designed quarterback runs: “We’ll do it a little bit, but it’s not something we’ll major in. If the defense — we’ll do it more so to keep the defense honest. If the defense is just not giving us any credit right there, we’ll let him keep it. We’re not going to sit there and run the quarterback 15 times a game. That’s not going to happen. If we run him two or three times a game, that’s big in critical situations when defenses are not honoring the quarterback and he keeps it and there’s nobody there, then we’re probably going to tell him to keep it a couple of times.”

On QB sneaks: “They’re bigger guys, so we’ll do that. That’s different in my opinion than quarterback run game. Quarterback sneaks to me is — I’ve never really been good at quarterback sneaks, so we’ll see — but these guys are big and physical, so hopefully they’re better than I’ve been in the past.”

On what he likes most about Towles right now: “He’s listening. That’s a good thing. Some of the things that we’re working on with him, as far as kind of quickening up his motion a little bit, shortening his stride a little bit, getting his feet in the ground quicker, those things right there tend to lead to accuracy being good. So I think his overall accuracy right now has been good and was good in the scrimmage. So just the fact that he understands how it all fits together from the ground up. I think the kid is – the one thing about him is he’s got a pretty good football IQ, so when you explain to him schematically where you want to attack defenses where they’re weak, it doesn’t take but a couple times for him to figure out exactly what’s going on or exactly what you want.”

On helping calm down the QBs this spring and Towles saying he doesn’t rip into them much for mistakes – and if that’s just a Mr. Nice Guy thing for spring: “No, it’s an overall thing. I think it’s just me playing quarterback and making a lot of mistakes, because I wasn’t very good, and the understanding of being able to have a clear conscience on the next throw. So to me, you’re going to make mistakes; I’m going to make mistakes. I made a number of mistakes in the scrimmage. I was watching film this morning and I said, ‘Well, that’s a dumbass call right there.’ But we’re all going to make mistakes and the fact of the matter is that when you make the mistake, the ones that can get over it quickest and move on to the next play are usually the better ones.

“So it’s not my job to hurt that confidence. It’s my job to forget about it, you know? So when that happens, it’s like when Drew threw a pick; he came over and I was just like, ‘Gotta move on to the next play.’ I mean, what are you gonna do? The worst thing you can do is just sit there and let that play affect the next three or four, or maybe the next two quarters. So I’ve always had that philosophy as far as quarterbacks go. You don’t want them going out there and being hesitant to throw it in that window, you know? They have to know that they have my back and I have their back, so if they make mistakes I can live with it and if I make mistakes, hopefully they can make me right and we can live with it.”

On C.J. Conrad’s progress: “The kid’s a special player. He’s young and so we’ve gotta – everybody needs to calm down a little bit with everything. But the kid’s such a good kid and he’s – there’s times where, throughout this camp, we got thin at that position, we had to (lean on him). Because we want to use those sets and we need to rep things, and there’s times we went into practice and we really wanted to limit his reps and stuff, but when the pads are on and he’s out there and practicing, he wants to be out there so bad. Those reports that Erik (Korem, High Performance Coach) gives us, he typically runs the most of anybody every day. But he’s taken a lot of reps. So we try to limit it at times, but then you look back at the practice and, heck, he’s throwing himself in there, so what do you do? He’s had a productive spring. Again, he’s young, so we need to – he hasn’t caught a ball in a game yet, so let’s just keep moving forward and hopefully he shows up in the fall like he shows up now.”

On if Drew Barker’s mistakes are good mistakes, just freshman mistakes that can be cleaned up: “I mean, he’s not making that many mistakes. I think they show up because he threw a couple picks, so I think people think, ‘Oh, he threw a couple picks.’ Well, when you break down those picks, there’s typically some reasons you throw picks. The overall mental mistakes are really limited; there aren’t a whole lot. Just like on the one pick, he had the back on the wrong side, so it pulled the mike linebacker. If he has the back on the other side, then the window he’s throwing through is really open. So he’s not expecting the mike linebacker to pull that way, but he should’ve put the back on the other side. And that’s what I told him: Heck, I might’ve put the back over there; when I signaled the play in, I might’ve sent the back over there. But there’s a progress, again, like I said a while ago, of making me right. I’m going to make mistakes like that sometimes, but he has to be enough on the same page with me to know that I don’t want the back there. I want the back here on this play. So the back was wrong on one play, which made us throw an interception. Again, I don’t know whose fault it is. Heck, it easily could’ve been my fault. So it probably was, to be honest with you. But the bottom line is it’s his job to make me right. I’m going to make those mistakes.”

On if Barker is getting closer to that: “Yeah, I think he is. Just, you know, yeah. I think there’s an overall comfort level that comes with reps and understanding what I want. Patrick, the one thing Patrick’s got on Drew is experience; he’s older. So the layout of the way football is played, he’s seen it a few more times. So it’ll come with reps. It’s nothing that I’m panicking about. I made a mistake, put the back on the wrong side; we threw a pick. It might’ve been a pick-six, too. So we better score on the next drive, right?”

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Monday’s Q&A with Mark Stoops

“After reviewing the scrimmage tape, really felt like we did some good things on both sides of the ball. Really impressed with Patrick. He really played very well Saturday. Made a lot of good decisions, got rid of the ball quickly. He was very accurate with the football. So, pleased with Patrick’s play. And again, just like I mentioned Saturday, Drew did some good things as well. He did have a couple interceptions, and there’s a lot of things that lead into that. But both had some really good days in the spring and some ups and downs. Both guys are playing much better. We’re much more efficient on that side of the ball, throwing and catching and moving the ball with good balance.

“Defensively, same thing. I thought structurally, for the most part, things were very good. There’s certainly things we can do better that we can and will get corrected with some leverage issue that comes from playing and schematically executing all the different things that we’re trying to do. But pleased. I think we’re making a lot of progress. Bounced back today with a good, good practice. Didn’t have great energy for a Monday morning, but the guys pushed their way through it. I thought we had a good, good day overall. Got better and improved. So we have one more opportunity on Wednesday.”

On Boom Williams not breaking big runs but making a lot of 8-, 9-yard runs: “He did, and he bounced it on us, and that’s where (there were) some leverage issues that I was talking about. He bounced it and broke contain and made some good plays where there wasn’t anything in there. So I agree, I thought he had some really good runs. Good quality runs. You could see he’s just very dynamic with the ball in his hands and makes some things happen. So I was very pleased with the way he played as well.”

On how much progress he’s made beyond being just the home-run guy: “He’s working. He’s working at it. He really is. The second half of spring he’s been much more consistent, and needs to continue to do that. He has a chance to be a real special player, and he’s doing the things necessary to continue to grow.”

On where Towles has improved most since the fall: “Accuracy. I think he’s more accurate with the football. And I think some of what Coach Dawson has done has helped with that, in that (he’s) eliminating some pressure of not always constantly making difficult reads. With the play-action, he has a chance to kind of sit back there and let it rip and show some of that arm talent that he has. Again today, in today’s practice, I was standing behind them watching them, and both him and Drew were going through the progressions and really throwing the ball well outside to the field, and that takes a big arm to be able to do that. It’s nice to see us execute some things much better. I think, like I’ve said over and over, I really feel like we’re growing, and Patrick has become more accurate.”

On Towles being the loudest guy on the sideline and if that’s the leadership he’s looking for: “I am. I’m pleased with that. Patrick’s a great young man and he’s becoming more and more confident, and that’s good to see. He’s becoming more of a leader on our team, yes.”

On how important added reps have been for Jeff Badet: “It was really good for Jeff. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to go today, but overall you can see him getting the dust off and just getting out there and playing. Same with Alex. Alex has been out there the past couple days in a limited role. So it’s good to see Alex getting back out there and getting some reps in before the summer, just to get that confidence going.”

On Badet and Garrett Johnson being reliable in catching passes: “It’s a big thing. Garrett did it again today, did it Saturday — getting the ball quickly and creating some things — and he’s been very explosive. And Jeff has that kind of mobility as well. So the more and more confident he gets, that gets us another guy out there.”

On if there were any defensive standouts on the film of scrimmage: “I still like the guys we’ve been talking about. I think we’re getting better up the middle. We missed Kendall (Randolph) on Saturday. Kendall Randolph was not able to go, but with Blake (McClain) and Mike Edwards and Darius (West) and A.J. (Stamps) I think we’re getting pretty solid up the middle of the defense. And our two linebackers are playing really well. You guys point that out. One (interception) was a tip — come on, that’s a tip on Josh (Forrest). That’s why I didn’t notice that. You’ve got to give that to — Ryan (Flannigan) is the one that tipped it. You guys were all giving me a hard time because I didn’t realize he had two picks. I knew he had the one. Josh made a great play on the one interception, and then he was fortunate to get the tip off the other one. But both guys did play very well. Josh had the one missed tackle that stood out to me right after the scrimmage, but overall I’m very pleased with the way they’re playing. And Ryan is playing well.”

On the advantages and disadvantages of naming a starting QB after spring practice: “You know, it’s probably bigger for everybody here or some people that really want to read about it and talk about it on air. But it really doesn’t affect our team, because where we’re at here in the spring, we only have two guys out there. We don’t have enough arms to go around. Like we’ve talked about, our coaches are out there throwing. These guys are getting so many reps — and you need to be confident in both guys. So, we’ll name a starter. We’ll name one. (Laughter). No, we will. And I think there’s some merit to that surely with getting that leadership going through the summer and letting the guys know where they stand and being fair with them if we know. I think we’re getting closer to that point. We’ll sit down with both quarterbacks after the spring.

On how C.J. Conrad has grown in his short time on campus: “He’s been a guy that — he’s been a very good player. We talked about him probably day one of these media sessions after spring. But I saw a guy just like a typical freshman through the grind — and we’re going every other day. It’s not like in the fall. Then he kind of got beat up a little bit, but I like the way he responded and came back and finished. And he’s beat up a little bit today. He’s fighting through it. I think another summer where he’s lifting and growing in our weight program, I think he’ll be a different guy even in the fall. But a big advantage for him to be here.”

On if Darryl Long is injured: “He is. He is. Yeah.”

On what he saw from safeties in the scrimmage: “I see us getting better. I see us making a few mistakes. It was great, honestly, to see Darius (West) get beat on that type of action that he got beat on. I say that because that’s how you learn. That’s how coaches learn, that’s how we grow: by getting exposed at certain times. He likes to use bad eyes at times and eye violate. That’s what happened on that deep pass. He gave up a touchdown. That’s how you learn. So it’s good to see one side take advantage if you’re not doing things right, but overall he’s getting better every time he’s out there. Got to learn from those mistakes but he’s a guy that is different from Mike (Edwards). Mike’s a guy that has great range. He can cover very well. Darius is that guy that for the most part he’s been a very sure tackler and been very heavy handed, puts a little thump on you and hits you.”

On what he means by bad eyes: “His eyes are in the wrong place. He’s looking at the wrong things.”

On if George Asafo-Adjei has looked like a guy who has earned playing time as a freshman: “Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah, we’ll have a big personnel meeting here today and tomorrow and start zeroing in on some of our depth and see exactly where we’re at. But he certainly appears to me to be one of the top five, six, seven guys on the o-line.”

On how Asafo-Adjei is different than most freshmen: “I think first thing you look at is physically whether guys can do it or not and whether they’re mature enough that they can handle it. He certainly is. Then you’ve got to look at him mentally: whether they can handle everything you’re asking them to do. We’ve been very pleased with what we’ve seen out of him.”

On if Darryl Long’s injury is serious: “No. No. He’ll be OK. Yeah. Yeah.”

On if T.V. Williams’ TD withstood the test of film: “No comment on that. (Laughter). They said there wasn’t enough proof, but I disagree. I think there was enough to overturn that.” (Laughs)

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Towles after Saturday scrimmage

On if he likes throwing the deep ball: “Yeah, I don’t mind it. That’s for sure. We keep getting looks like we do, we’ll be in good shape. Thad (Snodgrass) ran a good route, and Blake (Bone) had a good one too, so that was nice.”

On Stoops saying they’ve worked on throwing the ball downfield this spring: “For sure. You’ve got to be able to throw the ball vertical. You’ve got to be able to stretch it when they’re stacking the box in this league. There was times last year when we just couldn’t do that. We either didn’t have the personnel or didn’t make a good throw, but that’s definitely an emphasis of Coach Dawson’s offense. I think y’all saw a good bit of that today.”

On the importance of performing well today in the overall QB battle: “I think it’s definitely important. You know, you try to treat it like a game day. You try to treat every practice like a game day. You can’t off and on, no matter who you’re playing. It’s confidence building for me to go out there and play like I did today. I gotta be consistent with that. Same thing on Monday, same thing on Wednesday. But yeah, I definitely think so.”

On improvement in third and long situations: “I think it’s just comfort level, really. We’re comfortable with the offense, and I’m comfortable back there. He’s all about me relaxing back there and being simplistic with my mind and being efficient. I’m seeing things a lot better than I was in December, and our receivers are, and we’ve just got more chemistry, for sure. You saw that today and I think it’s going to help us a lot.”

On how Dawson relaxes his mind: “He doesn’t — it’s really kind of up to us to keep calm. He just wants that to be a thing. He doesn’t ever really jump us if we make a bad play. He’s all about, ‘You can handle it. Move on.’ Short memory, you’ve gotta have a short memory. You have to. And that’s really the thing: he’s not really gonna tear us up out there. He’ll talk to us in the film room, we’ll fix it, but he’s not the type of guy that’s really gonna chew us out there. Now, he has done that some times, but not really with the severity that we’re used to.”

On if that’s taken him to another level: “No question. I think if you look at the NFL, that’s what those guys are doing. I mean, look at Tom Brady and his feet are in the ground and he’s relaxed. That’s who we want to model our games after. He’s the best around right now, so if we can play more like him we’ll be fine around here.”

On if he thinks the offense will go to another level when all the receivers are healthy: “Not necessarily while it’s happening. For sure you want to look back at it and — ‘Oh yeah, we got Ryan (Timmons) out there and its’ gonna be a lot better.’ Or Alex (Montgomery) or guys like that, but the guys that are in are making a lot of plays, and I’m fully confident with the guys we’ve got that are playing right now. It’s going to help add some depth when we get those guys coming. But for sure. In this league you need as much depth as you can get. When those guys come back it’s going to be helpful, for sure, but that’s no slight to the guys right now. They’re making a lot of plays for me.”

On the offensive line looking different: “Yeah, for sure. They’ve been in that high performance system. Coach Korem and Coach Ed have done a phenomenal job of getting those guys ready to play. It’s a brutal league week in and week out, as you all know, and you gotta be ready to play every seven days. They’re doing a really good job of that. They’re more confident up there. I’m more confident in them. Jon (Toth) is doing a phenomenal job of getting everything blocked. Usually if there’s a sack out there it’s on us, because we’re not getting rid of the ball or doing something. So they’re playing phenomenal. I can not ask for anything more from those guys and I look forward to them to continue to improve.”

On if he can sense more confidence from the O-Line when going against first team defense on goal line: “For sure. It’s a personal thing. We go against those guys every day in practice. Whenever we can have that — you know, because the first few drives we had we didn’t finish. We had to settle for field goals and stuff, and we’re not about that. With Coach Dawson’s new offense, we wanna be able to be physical when we need to be. When the defense knows we’re gonna run, we still need to be able to run. A lot of the times we just give Boom (Williams) the ball and just let him do as he may, because he runs a lot faster than me, than I do, for sure. But yeah, he made a really good play. Saw a crease and bounced it outside, so it was good.”

On what C.J. Conrad adds to the offense: “Whew. A lot. He’s a physical guy. He’s phenomenal in the run game. He’s eager to learn. You saw that play he made: Drew threw a really good ball over I think it was Flannigan – right over Flannigan – and he made a phenomenal catch. But that’s not a surprise to me. That may be a surprise to people watching, who’ve only been here twice, but he’s been making those plays since Day 1, and I’m fired up to see how much he’s going to improve this summer and going into the fall how good he’s going to be for us.”

On if it becomes sort of a duel when both QBs are making great plays back and forth: “Not necessarily. We’re on the same team. We are competing for sure, and there’s no doubt about that, that I want to play as good as I can and he wants to play as good as he can. But at the end of the day, we’re on the same team. One of us is going to go out there and play and the other one is going to root for that one. So if it’s Drew, I’m going to be his No. 1 fan. If it’s me, I’m sure Drew would say the same thing. I love seeing him succeed. I love seeing him play well. It motivates me. It increases my confidence. Any time he can gash the defense and make the defense think about death, it’s better for me anyway.”

On if he noticed any teammates playing to the camera on his helmet today: “Um, a little bit. I don’t know if I like it or not. I wore it in seven-on-seven and then I just wasn’t a big fan of it. But, hey, if they tell me to do it then I’ll strap it on.”

On why he didn’t like it: “I don’t know. It just kind of felt weird, I guess. I’m weird about that kind of stuff. I don’t know. I just didn’t like it.”

On hearing him encourage Barker after a mistake: “We’re teammates. At the end of the day, we’re teammates. I want him to play as best he can and I’m sure he wants the same for me. There were times he wasn’t today – and he’ll tell you that – but he came back and made a lot of (plays). Like that throw to C.J. might’ve been the best throw of the day that he threw. So he’s a really, really good player and he knows it and he’s playing well. So kudos to him for that.”

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Q&A with Mark Stoops after open scrimmage


Overall pleased. Pleased with the effort. I challenged our team to really have a good week this week and make some progress and grow as a team and as a program. I felt like it was the most consistent week we’ve had in awhile with all the things we’re doing: the practices, what we’re doing off the field, just with the accountability and dependability of our guys, whether it be academically and taking care of their business. I felt like we had a good week.

The scrimmage today, overall was pleased. Obviously it’s not always pretty. We’re a little watered down. I wish we could get it more at full strength at certain positions, but you still see the progress. I thought offensively they moved the ball some, and defensively came up with some stops and big plays at times. But I still like the direction where we’re headed. I like the balance of our offense. I felt like we’re getting better at throwing the ball down the field. We need to continue to get back at full strength at the receiver position. When that happens I think you’ll see us take another big step forward with what we’re doing. Again, just pleased. We have a long way to go, we have a lot of work to do, but this team is starting to grow a little bit.”

On Patrick Towles looking dialed in and throwing two really good deep balls: “Yeah, and he’s been doing that. We’ve been working on that: taking our shots. We’ve been hitting more and more. It was good to see him throw it. I was standing directly behind him when he threw the one to Blake (Bone), and I thought Blake did a nice job of adjusting and running underneath that one and coming down with the catch. That’s what a quarterback needs: for the receivers to come down with some big plays for him. So, I thought that was well executed. Again, we’re getting better.”

On if Towles is separating himself in the QB competition at all: “Nah, I wouldn’t say that, because as I told you after one of the other practices, I felt like it does go back and forth. There are times when one or the other really shines and has a big day. Patrick has done a nice job. I feel like he’s getting better, and that’s the most important thing. Rather than naming a starter, I need all the guys to get better and in particular at quarterback. I feel like those guys are getting better.”

On if he saw offense consistently making the routine plays: “I did. For the most part I saw routine plays look routine. Didn’t appear to be too many drops off the top of my head. Felt like just throwing and catching the ball, we were more accurate and more efficient at the routine plays. We didn’t get behind the chains too much. Not too sloppy.”

On Josh Forrest’s two interceptions: “Did he have two? Yeah, OK. Well, you’ve heard me talk about it a lot: he’s very good at pass coverage. You probably heard us yelling at him a few times in the run game. Probably heard Coach Eliot more than me. We need to be more consistent there. We only get so many opportunities where we’re completely live. We’re still not quite as deep as we need to be where you could go scrimmage so many times, but you do see some bad plays stick out in the run game when we go live. He had a few missed tackles in there. So that’s where he knows he needs to improve, but he has great range and he’s very good in space and can make some big plays in the pass game. We’ve just got to be more consistent. That’s a lot of guys.”

On Farrington Huguenin being disruptive, tipping some balls: “He’s been a good player. We expect him to. He’s a senior, and he’s going to have a big year. He’ll play well. He played some good football for us a year ago, but he was behind some good players.”

On if he likes way offensive line looks: “I think across the board, we’re starting to look better. Y’all see us. Maybe you tell me. I feel like our young players have the body types we’re looking for and have the size and have some ability, so I like that when we’re getting into the depth and you know you’re developing players that are going to be players down the road. And o-line and d-line are always hard positions to develop for us. We’ve got to get a lot of guys and we’ve got to get them in here and get them eating and get them lifting and develop them. So we’re getting better.”

On if Huguenin can be counted on to make big plays: “Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I have a lot of confidence in (Farrington). He’s going to be a very good player; he’s played good football for us, he’s just got a bigger role now.”

On Denzil Ware running with first team and looking like he belonged: “He does. He does. He unfortunately those were a few things that popped up today that I didn’t like when we lost leverage on some plays and that’s where the experience comes in and that’s where coming and playing in a scrimmage situation, in a game situation. He needs those valuable reps because he made some mistakes today that are going to be great to see on film and great teaching tools for him and we need more of that. He’s got the ability, it’s just the experience. We’re asking him to do a lot. He’s used to putting his hand in the dirt and going after the quarterback and now he’s got to do a lot of things. He did lose leverage a few times a few times that I noticed right away that we’ve got to get fixed.”

On tackling: “Overall it was about what I expected. I felt like there was good, physical tackles in there at times and there were some that were unacceptable in particular inside when they had a couple of runs that really shouldn’t have been there. And that’s what you can’t have. You can’t have a 5-yard run turn into a 15-yard run and I saw Josh missed one that that happened. And there were a couple on the perimeter that were blatantly missed tackles. But that’s what you expect in the spring at this point with only teeing it up live a couple of times. We certainly need to improve but I thought physically we’re getting better. And I saw some guys with some pop and some thump at times that we didn’t always have.”

On being excited about tight end C.J. Conrad: “Absolutely. You guys saw it today, have heard people talk about it this spring that he’s a guy that the sky’s the limit for him. He’s a great kid; he works extremely hard. He does everything right on the field, off the field and he’s a great student. He made some big plays today and he’s going to be a guy who plays an awful lot of snaps for us.”

On Horton and Kemp being absent: “Nothing major. Nothing major. Jojo has been very sick. He should be back soon and Mikel has an ankle sprain.”

On Timmons’ role: “We expect Ryan to have a big year. He’s played a lot of football for us at times around here. Certainly my first year, he was one of the very few guys as a freshman that we were trying to funnel the ball to all the time and now we have other players that can make plays and we have much more depth and I think that will only help Ryan be a guy out there where all the attention isn’t always on him. And I felt like at times last year, he did some very good things, but again, he had a lot on his plate and he’s going into his junior year and we expect him to have a good year. He’s always worked extremely hard. He cares a lot about the program and we can see him having a big year.”

On Blake McClain’s leadership in back: “He’s a good versatile guy and he’s played a lot of football and he’s starting to get more confidence out there.”

On importance of seeing players step up with crowd out there: “That’s part of it. I think that’s part of it. I think I need to open it up all the time so we can have great energy. But really we had a good week. I was pleased. Yesterday we had to go in shorts as I mentioned but I felt like the guys were really focused and had good energy. We had a good, solid week and that’s something to build on. That’s what we need to do, that’s the consistency we need to have to grow as a program.”
On Jacob Hyde putting some defensive guys on back: “Yeah. Yeah. He does that just about every day. So we’ll have to look at the film. He likes the role and we had to pull him over again today (officials) kept telling me again that we had 10 on defense, and I said, ‘No. We’ve got a nose guard in blue.’”




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Q&A with D.J. Eliot after 12th practice

Today was a no-padded practice, so the emphasis was on assignment and playing fast to the point of contact but avoiding contact. Still, it was a high-energy practice. There’s still a lot of fundamentals you can get done, a lot of assignments you can get done and a lot of things you can emphasize, and I think we were able to accomplish that. We’re not where we need to be, but we’re much improved. Certain guys that are young at certain spots are starting to step up and starting to make plays and starting to play within the defense. That’s encouraging, because we’re going to need that.

“We’ve got a scrimmage coming up tomorrow, and we’re going to really find out what some of our guys can do. It will be a live-tackling opportunity. Certainly the most important thing probably in defense is being able to tackle, so we’ll get a chance to evaluate them on that. I’m excited about it and looking forward to it. Getting ready to mark sure we’ve got everything we want in before the spring is over and everything we want accomplished before the spring is over.”

On what he hopes players took from talking with Richard Sherman: “You know, Richard Sherman was very impressive in the fact of how much a competitor he was but also on how much of a student of the game he is. He went over all of the things that he looks for on almost each play. He has certain things that make him a better player, and it’s not that he’s necessarily a great athlete. He mentioned that he may not be the fastest guy on the field, but he’s going to get the edge anyway he can to make sure that he can cover every single person he goes against. And he went into details about that. Even though they may have been defensive back details, it was important for the rest of the players to see how important and how detailed he is in his game.”

On if he stresses small details with his defense: “Yes.” (Laughter)

On the difference in Ryan

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