Stoops wary of Tigers’ big-play capability

LSU knows what it does well, and it keeps doing it over and over. The Tigers will run the ball three, five, seven times in a row.

It’s a game of big cat and mouse.

“You think you’re hanging in there and battling and the next thing you know, they get a big play over the top,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said of the Tigers’ big-play ability.

LSU is 12th in the country in plays of 20 or more yards, with 40 of them, and is in the top 30 nationally in plays of more than 30 and more than 40 yards.

Part of that is a hallmark of a Cam Cameron offense, Stoops said of the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.

“Anybody with that pro experience does a nice job of setting things up with their run game and their play actions, and like I said, if you think it’s not just as easy as going one way or another, they keep you balanced,” Stoops said. “They’re balanced in their run game. They know if you’re cheating too far one way, they’ll go another.”

For its part, Kentucky mostly has been effective at not giving up the big plays this season, giving up just 22 plays of 20 or more yards (31st in the country).

And rarely do opponents get much farther than that: UK is tied for fifth in the nation in giving up plays for 30 or more yards (six) and tied for third in plays of 40 yards or more (two).

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Stoops’ final thoughts before LSU

“Good practice today, putting the finishing touches on a pretty good week of work so far. Guys are excited. We’ll have a run-through tomorrow, but so far so good. Been a good week. Guys have worked hard. Energy’s high. So we expect to go down there and play well.”

On how significant it is for these players to be this deep into the season and playing bigger games each week: “I think we’re right in the middle of the season, and the monotony of going through a tough season kind of sets in with everybody. So obviously the more we win, the more significance these games have, and that’s been evident by the way we’ve approached this week. We haven’t had to prod them quite as much. They’ve been pretty focused all week. And that goes with winning. If we take care of our business, we’ll have the opportunity to play in some big games.”

On the balancing act of being aggressive and staying in line with the rules: “I think there’s always a balance there. I think we want a disciplined, tough, hard-nosed football team, but we also want an aggressive team. So we’re always gonna preach discipline and unselfish play, but with that, it’s a physical game and we need guys to play aggressive.”

On how he thinks his team will handle LSU’s physical play: “We’ll be prepared. It’s still a challenge. It’s obviously a very big challenge. They’re not only physical, they’re skilled and they know what they’re doing. They put pressure on you. If you load up too much one way, they go the other and all those things. And they have great speed outside. That doesn’t get talked about enough, because those wideouts can really go. So you’re going to be in one-on-one situations quite a bit of the night, and you have to be able to hold up out there.”

On that being an LSU staple: run, run, run, play-action: “Yeah, exactly, and you’ve seen that throughout this year. You think you’re hanging in there and battling and the next thing you know, they get a big play over the top. So I think you’ve heard me talk about that before, but as a defensive coordinator, that’s always – that’s the bread and butter; that’s the toughest thing, guys that can run it and throw it.”

On whether LSU’s more straightforward, pro-style offense makes it simpler – not easier – to give his defense a game plan than offenses that are more wide open and move around a lot: “In a way. As far as alignments and assignments and things like that, a lot of times it is. Because if you watch some of college football, with the teams that go extremely fast and the crazy formations and all that, it’s like a trick ’em half the time. And these guys aren’t so much trying to trick you. They’re trying to just line up and execute. So I guess in that regard, it takes a little bit of pressure off you.”

On first and second downs being crucial in this game: “I think that’s fair to say, because we need to get them in some third downs and get them in some third-and-longs and not give up so many yards on first and second down like we have done at times this year.”

On Forrest saying the defensive guys have worked with offensive guys on ball-carrying and whether that has helped defenders get more picks, etc.: “That’s just something that we do in the preseason that’s just something we’ve got to do once or twice and log it away so the guys carry that with us. So the defensive guys go to the offense and they teach them ball security and the basics of it and put them through some drills. It’s one of those camp drills that we do to check it off. You know, it is critical at the end of the game. There’s nothing more demoralizing for a defense than to get a big pick and then fumble it back.”

On D.J. Eliot saying it h as been a benefit to have interceptions on film to show players mistakes on returns: “Yeah, it’s a good point. Yeah. Yeah, it’s true. I mean, we didn’t get a lot of coaching points last year, did we? (Laughs) It’s true. Just like the one that you heard me reference before, with A.J.’s at the end of the first half of the South Carolina game. I really felt like we should have scored on that play. And it is something that we can correct. More opportunities.”

On how important it was to make the holdover players “his guys” when he got here: “I think it’s very important. It’s, you know, the No. 1 thing you need to do: is gain the respect of your team. And it’s a two-way street. They’re not going to — just because you say ‘coach’ and walk in the door, they’re not going to trust you and respect you right away. And we didn’t really know them. So I think that’s a big part of growing together: just getting to know each other. We’ve already talked about all the things necessary, the accountability on both sides, but I think it’s real important to gain those relationships.”

On being blown out at LSU when he was with Arizona in 2006: “Ooh, I’ll never forget that day. Yeah, that was rough. Started rough. I think our poor quarterback was knocked out for like two years after that, I think. Yeah, rude welcome. Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. (Laughs). It’s been going so good.”

On whether the process of getting holdover players to be his guys here was any different as a first-time head coach: “Yeah, a little different. Yeah in that regard, much different for me. Obviously twice as many guys to get to know and get close to. But, I don’t think there’s any one thing you can do. You guys have been around me. It’s not like I’m used to all these little sound bites and coach speaks and all those little things. So I think it just takes a little time for each, for us to get to know each other and to be who we are. This group has been a lot of fun to coach. We went through some growing pains of course, just like you do any time you’re trying to turn a program, but these guys have been a lot of fun and they’ve done a lot of things we’ve asked them to do. Again, we’re not perfect. We know that. But they really by and large part are doing a great job.”

On his biggest concern with LSU: “Just the things we were talking about, the physicality on both sides of the ball and big-play capability on all sides of the ball. They’ve got a lot of good athletes down there, a little bit young for them in certain spots because of the great talent that they’ve had and lost, but they’re still — these guys are just as talented and they really have big-play capability.”

On any hallmarks of a Cam Cameron offense: “Well I just think you see an excellent play caller and sets things up. Anybody with that pro experience does a nice job of setting things up with their run game and their play-actions and like I said, if you think it’s not just as easy as going one way or another, they keep you balanced. They’re balanced in their run game. They know if you’re cheating too far one way, they’ll go another.”

On having a quarterback who embraces a road environment: “I hope so. I do. He’s had a good week of practice. (Noise) really didn’t affect us much the last time we were at that type of environment. Let’s hope it’s the same. I think it’s certainly not uncommon to see some problems when you’re in a hostile environment, so if we get a few, we’ve just got to be able to overcome them.”

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UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot previews LSU

“We had a very good practice today. We had a lot of intensity. Guys were flying around, communicating, playing physical and making plays. That’s what we needed to have on a Wednesday.”

On whether he could tell that they were a little bit flat in practice last week: “We’ve had a very good practice this week. Last week, couldn’t necessarily tell at the moment, but obviously that was the case to start the game on Saturday. So I think that this week we’ve had good tempo and good practice, and guys are ready.”

On LSU RB Leonard Fournette: “He is a very, very, very good tailback. He is extremely athletic but yet has size where he can run you over too. And he’s become a better player every game. Being a freshman, he doesn’t have any college experience and you can see the improvement in him every single game. And he sees the hole very well. He has great vision, change of direction and, like I said, power.”

On whether there was a change in the run defense last week: “We were much better. We were much better. We played better against the run. Linebackers played better, which is good. Khalid Henderson had one of his best games. And it was good to see us make those strides.”

On what Henderson did better: “He tackled better. He was a more physical tackler. He triggered faster. He was in the right spots.”

On how LSU’s run game compares to Florida’s and South Carolina’s: “LSU is almost exclusively a pro-style offense. Florida and South Carolina, they did a lot of different things and different looks, and LSU is a pro-style offense, so you mainly see pro-style runs. You see an ‘I’ backfield. You see the quarterback under center. You see power. You see ‘iso’ plays, where the fullback’s (isolating) up on the linebackers. So it’s a little bit different in that aspect, because the quarterback’s not in the gun that often. They don’t have the zone read that often. Now, they have it in their packages, but they’re mainly a pro-style offense.”

On whether there’s much difference in LSU’s two QBs, Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris: “Not really. Both are very athletic. You got to keep them contained. If they get out, they can get some yards. Strong arms. So there’s not really much difference between the two.”

On what head coach Mark Stoops does to mesh new recruits with older players: “I think Coach Stoops does an excellent job of making everybody that’s here feel like they’re his guys. It’s not ‘my guys’ and ‘the old guys.’ As soon as he walks on campus, ‘You’re my guy.’ Everybody’s a part of the program, no matter who recruited you or how long you’ve been here. And that probably comes with his personality. He has a very genuine personality, and people believe in him and follow him.”

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Stoops: Thursday game ‘will be big’ in recruiting

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops is too focused on upcoming games on this season’s schedule, including a big one Saturday at Louisiana State, to look ahead much at next season’s schedule.

Fans will dissect and digest the 2015 slate of games, which was announced by the conference offices on Tuesday night. Stoops will be focused on this season.

One of the highlights of next season: Kentucky’s first-ever Thursday night game, Oct. 15 at Commonwealth Stadium against Auburn, definitely caught Stoops’ eye.

“I’m very happy and looking forward to having a home Thursday night game,” Stoops said, thanking UK President Eli Capilouto and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart for their efforts to make that happen. “It’ll be a great stage for us to be a home game on Thursday night and national TV and have a chance to really show everybody a lot about our community and about our school and about our team. So that’ll be a lot of fun.”

Stoops said it can only help in recruiting.

I think it helps,” he said. “I know it’s a lot nicer for coaches to have a home Thursday game than to be on the road on Thursday, that’s for sure. So I think it’ll help, and I think it’ll be big. It’ll be a lot of exposure for us.”

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J.D. Harmon will miss first half vs. LSU

Kentucky cornerback J.D. Harmon, who also is a leader on special teams, will miss the first half against Louisiana State for a hit on a Louisiana-Monroe player, Stoops confirmed on Wednesday.

“We can’t take a shot on a guy that’s unprotected,” special teams coach Craig Naiver explained of Harmon’s hit. “It’s a very aggressive play, a very physical play. We’ve got to be smart with that. It’s part of the rules now and we’ve gotta follow them.”

Stoops defined the hit as “close to being an illegal hit or an illegal hit that wasn’t called. The head coach said he talked with Southeastern Conference officials this week about it.

“We just felt like it was the right thing for me to do to suspend him for a half a game.”

Harmon is tied for eighth on the team in tackles this season with 22, including two for a loss. He also has three quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles for the Cats. He also has two kickoff returns for 53 yards.

“He’s been a spark on those units as far as coverage team, return teams, all those,” Naivar said of Harmon, who has been the leading overall producer on special teams this season. “We’re going to miss him the first half and be glad when he comes back.”

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Stoops on SEC teleconference

“Glad to get the victory last week over ULM, wrap up the first half of the season 5-1. I felt like we got off to a slow start last week, so we’ll try to get that rectified this week and get off to a faster start. We’re going to need that, of course. Looking forward to this week’s challenge going down to Baton Rouge and playing LSU. It’ll be a great challenge and it’s an opportunity that myself and the team is looking forward to. We’ll have to play significantly better on all sides. We’ve gotten off to a pretty good start this week, practice-wise, and really just trying to improve in many different areas. Like I said, we’ll need to.”

On if there’s any value in examining how his brothers have schemed against LSU and Les Miles at Oklahoma or Arizona: “Not too much, to be honest with you. No, I think each team is different year to year. You’ve got to find your identity, what you’re doing well offensively, defensively; same goes with them. I think LSU is a typical LSU team, like you would imagine: a well-coached football team that is very physical in all areas. So I don’t think a whole heckuva lot changes as far as our preparation week to week. I don’t think it does us much good to go back there.”

On if when he watches LSU he sees things he saw from relationship with his brothers, and if he was on Bob’s staff previously: “No, I was never on Bob’s staff but obviously watched games closely and just watched Les’s teams for many years, whether it be just on TV or them playing the brothers, like you talked about or whatever. But that’s like I just said in my previous statement: it’s just a typical team. They’re hard-nosed and tough and physical. They’re big across the board, well-coached. So that’s what you’d expect when you play them. You’ve got to give them credit. They’ve won an awful lot of close games as well.”

On suspending a player for the first half against LSU: “It’s just a situation where I was in contact with the league. It was really about a (hit that was) close to being an illegal hit or being an illegal hit that wasn’t called. So after consulting with the league about the situation, we just felt like it was the right thing for me to do to suspend him for a half a game, and that’ll be J.D. Harmon.”

On 2015 schedule and Thursday night game: “Yeah. I’ll comment on the Thursday night game. The rest of the schedule it’s hard for me to comment on. I really looked at it a little bit here and there, but haven’t paid much attention to it, to be honest with you. Our associate AD Marc Hill’s been working on that schedule. But the Thursday night game, I’m very happy and looking forward to having a home Thursday night game. I appreciate Dr. Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart and all the people that made that happen. I think it’ll be a great stage for us to be a home game on Thursday night and national TV and have a chance to really show everybody a lot about our community and about our school and about our team. So that’ll be a lot of fun.”

On how big it is in recruiting: “Well, I think it helps. I really do. I know it’s a lot nicer for coaches to have a home Thursday game than to be on the road on Thursday, that’s for sure. So I think it’ll help, and I think it’ll be big. It’ll be a lot of exposure for us.”

On his involvement in the practice facility plans and what he most wanted in the facility: “I think — I could not be more pleased with the way it turned out. I just think it’s going to be a building that’s very functional. We’ll get great use out of it. It’s an area that we really had to look hard to help with player development, whether it be the weight room, the training room, the high performance area and all those things. You know, just could not be more pleased. I’ve been heavily involved, I guess to a point. Throughout the summer when the designs were going on, we were meeting quite a bit, and I have some guys on my staff — the non-football coaching staff — that have been heavily involved with the design. They meet with me from time to time, and we look at things and tweak things here and there. But overall, just very, very pleased. It looks like a fantastic building. Be close to 98,000 square feet, and we’ll have plenty of space and it’s really sleek and a good looking building. So, I’m excited about it.”

On Stoops’ impressions of LSU RB Leonard Fournette: “My impressions of Fournette are probably a lot like yours: very impressed. You could just see him gaining more and more confidence with every run. He’s extremely talented, very big and very powerful, but also great vision and really made some nice cuts and some nice runs where he was kind of hopping over people through the lines and then making good cuts. He can run over you when he wants to. So great vision, great back and I guess you could definitely see the mentality shift a little bit if you want, but I think that’s a staple of Les’ teams is he wants to be physical. They’re a pretty physical bunch up front. You could tell they enjoy run blocking and coming after you and running the ball downhill, so we’ll have our hands full.”

On LSU offense looking like old Big Ten offense: “I guess so if that’s how you want to define it, but one thing that I see also is absolutely tremendous speed on the outside and that scares you. Anybody that is extremely physical and can run the ball like they run the ball with great tailbacks and very physical up front, and then you get a talented quarterback with great speed outside, it can present some real problems. So I think I don’t know which way you want to interpret that, whether it’s an old Big Ten team or not, but I see great skill on the field as well along with some muscle.”



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Kentucky’s 2015 schedule unveiled

The games that will be played inside the shiny, new Commonwealth Stadium next season were announced by the league office on Tuesday night.

On the brand new turf in the $120 million renovated stadium will be a total of eight home games, starting the season with Louisiana Lafayette on Sept. 5.

The new stadium also will host a new event: a Thursday night game at Commonwealth Stadium for the first time in program history against Auburn on Oct. 15.

University and athletics officials are working to iron out some of the logistical concerns involved with a Thursday night game that have kept UK from being able to play one at home before.

There likely will be some logistical concerns around Halloween for UK and the city as the Cats host Tennessee on Oct. 31, the same weekend as the Breeders’ Cup is at Keeneland. It will be the earliest that Kentucky and the Volunteers have met since 1909.

Kentucky will go on the road first to South Carolina (Sept. 12) for the first time in program history. For the last six seasons, UK had opened Southeastern Conference play versus Florida.

After the trip to Columbia, though, UK will have plenty of time to enjoy its new stadium with five straight weeks (including one bye week on Oct. 10) at home, the Cats’ longest home stands since since 2001.

Those home games will be Florida (Sept. 19), Missouri (Sept. 26), Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 3) and then the Thursday night Auburn game on Oct. 15).

The Cats are meeting the in-state Colonels for the first time since 2009. UK leads that series 3-0.

After the long home stand, Kentucky will go to Missisippi State on Oct. 24 before returning home to face Tennessee.

Back-to-back SEC road games open November with games at Georgia (Nov. 7) and then at Vanderbilt (Nov. 14).

Then the Cats will end the season with two non-conference foes for the first time since UK joined the league in 1933 with games against Charlotte (Nov. 21) and then Louisville (Nov. 28).

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Neal Brown discusses LSU

“We had a really good practice today, had a lot of energy, a lot of focus. I told you after the game we were a little lackluster last week in practice. Got away from some details. Really I thought going into that South Carolina game, we really prepared well and really played with a lot of discipline, a lot of details. Some of our negative plays last week in the Monroe game were due to some fundamental errors, not paying attention to details. We got back to that today, had a really good practice. Focus was good, energy was good. Our guys are excited about the opportunity to go down and play in Tiger Stadium, Death Valley. LSU is about what you’d expect. They’re big, fast, strong. They, Coach Chavis has done a really good job there for a long time. Most of you all have been around for a lot of his years coordinating defenses so you all know kind of what he’s about: four-man front. Danielle Hunter, their defensive end, No. 94, really can come off the edge. He’s going to pose some problems. We’ve gotta account for him, similar to Dante Fowler that plays for Florida. They’re young interior d-line, but you can see them getting better week in and week out. No. 4, their linebacker (Kwon Alexander) from Alabama, he’s as good, probably the best linebacker that we’ve played to this point. He’s very talented; he strikes you. He runs well. And they’re the most talented secondary we’ve played. They’ve got some youth there, but they are really talented. They’ve got guys that will pay for play and play for a lot of pay. So we’ve got our hands full, but we’re looking forward to it. What? 7:30? 7:30 kick. Let’s see if we can go down there and get our sixth win.”

On combating the noise: “We really, we go silent count all the time. And I’m not trying to downplay it because it is loud. And really, other than (Jordan) Swindle — and it could’ve been quiet as a mouse and he may have jumped off sides three times against Florida — we really had no issues down at Florida. I don’t really expect us to. We practice in the indoor with loud music playing all the time. That’s everyday, every time we go over to the indoor, so I don’t really expect it to be a problem. It is loud, though, and they’ve added a few thousand seats since last time I was down there.”

On most pleased with Demarco Robinson: “What I’m excited about Demarco is kind of where he is as a person than where he is as a football player. He’s always been talented. I think the game has taken (on) a lot more importance for him over the last nine to 12 months. He’s become a leader in that receiver room, where if you’d told me that a year ago, I’d have been worried about that. He’s been a really good guy for — he’s always been football smart. He’s an intelligent football player and he’s got a good skill set. He’s not very big, but he’s got a good skill set as far as he can make people miss; he can stick his foot in the ground. He’s got really good hands, can run routes. But he’s really matured. Football has gotten more important to him and he’s making plays. You know, on Twitter, what’d you say: he’s 15 of 15? Yeah, so he’s been sure handed for us. I think he’s made as big or bigger impact in the return game also.”

On if Brown is a voracious reader (on Twitter): “Nah, I catch up. I check Twitter before I go to bed. I’ve gotta keep up.”

On accepting game manager role at times, but also needing Towles to make plays: “I don’t know. I don’t really know what a game manager is. I think what happens, when people get labeled that, a game manager, people are thinking they’re not making mistakes. You know, but Patrick he didn’t make any real big mistakes last week. It wasn’t his best game, but I thought from how he handled everything and adversity early. He missed a couple throws, but I thought he came back and made some big throws later in the game. So there’s going to be some times that we need him to play at a really high level to win and there’s going to be some times where he just needs to get the ball where it’s supposed to be. We’ve had some games, like the Florida game, he kept us in there, made some huge plays, you know? Last week, some guys made some big plays around him. Now, he threw a heck of a ball on that go route to Javess that Javess made a play on, but not a bunch of ‘wow’ plays last week, but I thought he played pretty solid. I don’t know. I probably didn’t do a very good job of answering that question.”

On which kind of game this is: “He’s gonna have to go make some plays. There’s no question about this one.”

On Boom Williams learning to take hard coaching, and what that process entails: “Well, he doesn’t take everything personal. We always make a point to say, ‘Hey, we’re correcting.’ When you’re in a constricted time frame, you don’t have enough time to say, ‘Stanley, man, I really wish you would run that route full speed’ or ‘I really wish you would please hug that o-line before you made that cut.’ You just don’t have enough time, so you got to say, ‘Stanley let’s go! Make that cut now!’ Or ‘That’s not good enough!’ And we always talk to our guys about, we’re correcting the action, not the person. Just because I got on him doesn’t mean I didn’t like him. And Chad tells him the same thing. So I think he’s understanding that. He’s able to separate, ‘Hey, they’re telling me that so I can be a better football player so I can be successful on that play, not because I’m a bad guy.’ Does that make sense?”

On what Stoops has done to keep veterans in the fold while brining in new players: “I think he did a really good job from the get-go. And maybe it didn’t show in the win-or-loss column last year, but I think he stands in front of this group and says, ‘There is no my guys. You’re all Kentucky Wildcats. You’re my guys. Whether I recruited you or I didn’t recruit you, you’re my guys.’ And he’s done a really good job of brining those guys in. The guys that are here, that are players for us, have bought in. I think Mark said it the other day in his press conference — those are our leaders. The guys that were here before we came, those are our leaders. You talk about Darrian Miller, Jordan Swindle. You talk about Bud Dupree. Those guys. Those are our leaders. Za’Darius we brought in, Coach Brumbaugh was able to recruit. But I think he’s done a really good job. He’s sincere. I think that probably doesn’t get talked about enough, but he’s a really sincere individual, and the kids understand. He’s not one that is trying to sell anything. He’s sincere, and when he says ‘You’re my guy,’ that’s what he means.”

On what the wide receivers have to do to be successful against LSU’s secondary: “We have to stick our foot. We have to mix up our releases, because they’re gonna press us. The difference in them and a lot of people is they’re long. They’ve got — I think all three corners are 6-foot-plus. And I think his name’s Robinson, he’s 6-2, maybe 6-3. So we’ve got to be able to stick our releases and we must keep their hands off of us. And we’ve got to take into effect that they’re a little bit longer than the average guy we’re going against. So I think sticking releases, mixing them up and keeping their hands off.”

On having a different playmaker step up each game: “Well, I think it’s great for team morale. And I think it makes us a little harder to prepare for. I was watching Coach Miles’ press conference yesterday. How many guys — we got several guys with more than 10 catches or something like that. So I think it makes us harder to defend. People can’t push their coverage to a certain guy. And then running back, we’ve been by committee a little bit, and each one of those guys has at different times really, really shown the ability to make big plays. I think it’s been positive for us.”

On what he said to Jojo Kemp after he threw an interception: “Nothing. He shouldn’t have thrown it, but it’s not that big a deal. I made a joke to him, really. Now he took it really hard on himself, and it affected him, that fumble he had. We had that really blocked well, and it was a good snap. He just dropped it, and he would’ve hit it for a long way. But we always talk about playing the next play, and he didn’t do that. I fibbed to y’all last week. He doesn’t throw it great. Y’all saw that. But he shouldn’t have thrown it. But it wasn’t that big a deal to me. I tried to make light of it.”

On Les Miles saying UK has a player in the wildcat that can throw it a little: “A little? I don’t know. A little? I guess it depends. He did throw it a little. A little to the other team.”

On if the goal is to at least make the defense think they could throw it: “That is. I think we needed to get it on film. And we’ve got a couple other trick plays we can do out of it also.”

On if they have any backs with a better arm: “I don’t know. We need to do tryouts. We need to do tryouts. They’ll all say they are. We don’t know.”


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Kentucky’s Stoops previews LSU

“Good victory, once again, going back to ULM. Proud of the guys. Obviously we’d like to start better. We gotta work on that and get off to a better start. A little flat, but give ULM credit. I thought they had some good schemes and played very well early. It was good to see our team have the ability to make big plays on both sides of the ball. So overall, good team victory. Really excited and looking forward to the great challenge of going to LSU this week. Typical LSU team, extremely physical, well‑coached team. We’ll have our hands full, but again, looking forward to it. It’ll be a great challenge and a great opportunity.

On dealing with fan noise on Saturday versus LSU and how it could affect the offense:

A: We’ll do what we do on the road. Same communication that we used in the Swamp (at Florida), you know. So of course, you know, each of these challenges going on the road in the SEC, it’s going to be loud and all that, so we gotta deal with it. We’ll be OK.


On how the linebackers responded Saturday:

A: We were better. We were much better. I really was proud of Khalid (Henderson). I thought he played his best game. He really improved. Josh (Forrest) played better against the run as well. Like I’ve said over and over, Josh does some things very well, but overall as a unit, they took great pride in trying to improve, and obviously that’s going to ‑‑ we’re going to need a great week of preparation this week, because it’s a different challenge this week. You know, they (LSU) run the ball extremely well. They’re extremely physical. You know, with the emergence of their freshman tailback, (Leonard) Fournette he’s a physical guy, and of course, Kenny Hilliard, their senior. They got some good backs. Very big, very physical. Their whole line does a great job, so we’ll have our hands full this week.

On needing to be physical against LSU:

A: We need to do a lot of things better. As a coaching staff (we have to) do a better job of putting them in position to be successful and so scheme-wise, we have to be good and on point. And we need to continue to play great technique up front and we’re going to need improved play from the linebackers and we’re going to need great support from our secondary as well. So it’s always team defense. You know, obviously starts up front with the technique of the D line and the linebackers. So it’s a combination of things that we’re ‑‑ you know, they keep you off balance. They know what they’re doing. They can run the ball a lot of different ways, and it’s not just about brute brawn. They’re big and physical, but they also know what they’re doing.

On UK winning games even though it hasn’t played its best and whether penalties are a concern:

A: Well, I think that’s part of it. You know, we’ve talked about it. We have not played our best. That is the good news. I think there’s an awful lot of room for improvement in all phases. We can coach better. Guys can play better. We can be more disciplined with penalties. So that’s what we’re looking to continue to get better and improve. So we’ll continue to work on that with penalties. When you have an aggressive team, there’s going to be some penalties, too. So we will work on that and continue to work on discipline, but we do want an aggressive team.

On Stanley “Boom” Williams:

A: Yeah. Boom, it was great to get him back again last week, he had a big impact. He’s explosive. You know, the kickoff return, getting him on the perimeter with some of those runs. He’s got the big‑play capability. So he definitely helps us and gives us that added dimension of a home‑run guy.

On running back Braylon Heard not getting a lot of carries:

A: No. Again, we had 59 touches and splitting it up. That’s the good news as we move forward here with a big, physical game coming up this week, we have a lot of backs that we have confidence in.

On whether safety A.J. Stamps is OK:

A: He’s fine. He’s been playing ‑‑ he’s been a little bit sore, but he’s been playing through it and he’ll be OK.

On Darrian Miller being injured:

A: Darrian will be fine as well. He could have gone back and played, but you know, once we were in control of things in the second half, we didn’t feel the need. And you know, so he should be healthy and ready to go.

On wanting guys to play with emotion, but keep emotions in check:

A: Yeah. Well, we just need to constantly preach being unselfish, and you know, I want aggressiveness. I want them enjoying it. We’re always toeing that fine line of letting the guys be who they are. I want them excited at practice. I want them excited in the games. But we can’t be selfish. We’re not good enough to overcome foolish penalties and all those things. So we’ve gotta continue to work on that, and it’s a situation this week where I’m going to self‑impose a penalty on one of our guys that’s going to miss the first half of this game for that very reason. So we just (have to) continue to grow.

On whether he wants to say who that player is:

A: Not really. (Laughter).

On Kentucky’s depth at running back:

A: Yeah. You know, it just depends who gets hot, and we feel ‑‑ each of those backs are a little bit different, and maybe it depends on what’s hitting and what style, whether it be the Wildcat, like we talked about or Braylon hitting the big crease or Boom getting on the perimeter and Mikel (Horton). Mikel is kind of the complete back as well. He’s a guy that has good vision for a big guy. Some of those yards don’t look real fancy, but really he’s got good vision and he’s a big, strong guy. Mikel is a guy that I think the more and more touches he gets is better and better as well. So we have a nice mixture.

On Marcus McWilson’s play:

A: Yeah. Marcus is growing. And I (have to) continue to lean on Marcus, and we’ve gotta continue to really push him, because he’s got great ability, and it’s just a matter of just really being disciplined in his preparation. He means well. He’s just gotta concentrate and be more precise in his practice habits, because he’s got some big‑play capability, and he’s a big, physical guy. And so we have to continue to work with him and continue to push him.

On whether Stoops talks regularly with former UK special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto, now with LSU:

A: Yeah. He always sends texts, and we communicate back and forth throughout the year. Bradley Dale has been a close friend of mine for a long time, and we’ll continue to be. I don’t think we’ll talk much this week. Maybe he’ll send me over some crawfish to the hotel or something, but we talk throughout the year.


On whether he changes anything UK does as far as signaling, with Peveto on the opposite sideline:

A: We’re different ‑‑ we already have different signals this year.

On UK and LSU being similar teams with similar weaknesses:

A: I think any coach will tell you just look to improve in all areas. Again, talking about them, they’re just very physical. That’s what you expect when you play LSU. I’m sure Coach Miles prides himself on that, and they are. They’re big and physical up front, big strong backs. They’re inexperienced at certain positions, but very talented. They’re extremely talented in the secondary. You know, that’s something that I noticed right away in watching them. Just have great appreciation for the way they cover people. They’re big and long and athletic, and obviously very well coached with Coach Chavis (defensive coordinator John Chavis) being around forever, doing a great job. So they’re just good across the board. And that’s us, all we’re doing is do is improve in the areas like you talk about, maybe we’ve not been strong, we gotta continue to improve and that’s the good news is we’re just scratching the surface. I think we can be a much better football team.

On LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis and the characteristics of his defense:

A: Just well coached, always in position. Aggressive, but they’re in position. They’re not going to give you anything. You have to earn it. You have to beat them. And just a well‑coached team. And always play hard. That’s always a compliment to any coach with the attitude of your players.

On whether there are things a team can do to prepare for the hostile environment:

A: I really don’t think there is. Crowd noise is not going to simulate what it’s like down there at 7:30 kickoff. The good news is we’ve been to a hostile environment, and hopefully as I commented last week, I think we grew from that game, and hopefully we can take something away from it again, because if we execute and do what we’re capable of, you know, they can’t get down there and play. But I love the atmosphere. I’ve been down there before. They are passionate fans, and it’s a hostile environment, and that’s why we play. That’s why we coach. We want to continue to win games to put ourselves in position to play in big games. So this will be a great challenge.

On what went wrong offensively that led to slow start versus ULM:

A: Yeah. It was a variety of things just like we talked about before. It was always one guy. You know, that’s the good news because we talk about being flat and whatever. There’s no excuses. They performed better than we did. But it was one guy. It was a breakdown here or there, and those are things that we gotta get fixed.

On whether it’s a problem players saying they came out flat:

A: You’re always glad to get through with a victory. I said it in a press conference last week, I believe, but you can talk till you’re blue in the face. You can put all kind of examples in front of them. We try to prepare them the best we can, and hopefully they learn something from it. It’s not just emotion either. You don’t just turn emotion on on Saturday. It’s about the week, and I know I talk about that all the time, but it’s so true. They’ve gotta walk in our building today with a great attitude about them and a strong mindset to have a great week of preparation to put ourselves in position to win a game.

On how he’d evaluate his team at halfway mark in season:

A: Progress. We’re making progress. And I think there’s still a lot more in our tank. There’s a lot more we could do better.

On Kentucky’s return game:

A: No, I think we’ve been solid. I really do. I think we’ve been solid across the board on special teams and our return game. You know, we had a muff here and there of a punt return; that’s an individual decision that we got corrected. But overall I’m really proud of our team’s effort on special teams. I’ve gotten some comments and some compliments of the way our teams are playing, and special teams is a big indicator, because you have to be unselfish to play special teams, and they don’t get a lot of credit all the time, and I think our guys are playing very hard, and I think that’s a credit to Coach (Craig) Naivar, and he’s very passionate about what he does, and our players really love playing for him and they played very hard and they’ve been unselfish.

On Kentucky’s leadership:

A: I think the tone is set by our older guys. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they’re doing to try to change the culture in our locker room. They’ve really been good, and they’ve been a pleasure to coach. Our older guys have really kind of set the tone, and you know, are constantly working to continue to improve and be an unselfish team and a team that is doing the right things. We’re not perfect, but there’s a bunch of guys that are working extremely hard and doing a lot of good things.

On Bud Dupree providing leadership early in season even while his stats were suffering:

A: It’s a great example, because all the great players, they want to jump out right away and get all those statistics and everything. Everybody talks about them off-season and in the preseason and all those things, and that’s where you can get in trouble. And we had some circumstances where, not Bud, but certain people were trying to do too much, and it was hurting us. And everybody’s bought in trying to do their part. You have to be very unselfish to play D line, and I think we’re getting good D line play. No matter what the recognition they’re getting, they’re playing very hard and fundamentally getting better and better and Bud is starting to get his statistics. Z (Za’Darius Smith) is starting to get his stats but the bottom line is those guys want to help us win football games and obviously play good and improve their stock in the draft and things like that by just playing good football, and people recognize it. And they’re just doing good things and they’re getting better and better. And again, I think, you know, you need that type of unselfish play. The recognition and the plays will come if you play good.

On UK’s interceptions this season and players saying it was a frustration how few they had last season:

A: I think, as you’ve seen throughout the year, some of it has been great individual efforts. Some of it has just been good team defense. Some of it’s just been a fortunate break here and there. And you know, the harder you work, the luckier you become. I think our guys have really bought into that and we’re working hard to put ourselves in position, and you have to have great structure and great position on the football to make plays. And I think you’ve seen a variety of things, like I just said, some individual effort and some just good position on the ball with team defense.

On defensive backs breaking on the ball faster and taking more chances:

A: I think it’s a combination of things. I think our coaches have done a good job of working with them fundamentally getting better. I think a big part of it is understanding. You have to be mentally sharp to play this game, know where and how to take your chances, where your help is, just understanding the whole situation. And so a big part of it is technique, and a big part of it is mental, just like a lot of things.


On how Towles graded out in Louisiana Monroe game:

A: Patrick did some good things. I thought we took care of the football better in this game, outside of Jojo’s pass. So I thought Patrick really did some good things, and you know, maybe wasn’t flashy and all that, but really threw the ball well when he had to and really had some good throws. We were off a little bit at times, too, whether it be a receiver or high throw here or there, so we weren’t perfect, but he did some good things.


On Towles’ decision-making:

A: Yeah, I liked his decisions, yeah.


On Jojo Kemp’s pass:

A: Gotta keep them honest. (laughter) We’re working two or three more this week.


On Patrick Towles being a game manager:

A: Well, I think if you’re going to play quarterback, you better embrace that tag because there’s times when, you know, they may be covering you. You may call for more runs. You gotta protect the football and play defense. Game changes all the time. It very rarely goes according to script. But with that being said, I think Neal’s done a nice job, and certainly I try to, of instilling a bunch of confidence in him. We believe in his ability and we want him to go out there and throw, and there’s going to be moments when he’s gotta go win us a game, too. It goes with the territory of playing quarterback.


On whether Towles likes or dislikes the ‘game manager’ label:

A: I don’t know. I don’t know what he thinks about that. I’m not going to ask him. I know he’s going to have to throw the ball well for us to win some games. And this week it’s not going to be easy, and he has to be more than a manager in this game. His talent has to show and he’s gotta play confident and he’s gotta throw the ball and he’s gotta play aggressive.


On Boom Williams owning up to his mistake:

A: Yeah, I did not pay attention to what he said. I didn’t see it or hear it. Sorry to offend you guys like that, but I can’t ‑‑ (laughter). I can’t read the good stuff because I know you’re going to get me when it goes bad. Believe me. So I don’t. But I do want him to own up to his mistakes, and that’s what we try to do. Again, we’re far from perfect, but we’re going to hold guys accountable. We did some things amongst the team that holds that accountability at a pretty high level where they had to address the team and talk to the team and not just, hey, I’m sorry or any of that. They came into a team meeting and sat and addressed it with their teammates. So I think, how they are dealt with by their peers is as strong as anything. And we’re trying to teach them some lessons. They’re good kids that made a mistake and I’m glad we’ve put it behind us now and hopefully we’ll learn from it.


On team talking about being able to call each other out now without hurt feelings:

A: Well, there’s no place to hide. There’s accountability at a high level, and we’ve gotta continue to push that higher and higher and that’s what we’re preaching more. We want more, whether it be more effort, more accountability. You know, and players’ self-awareness, too. The players gotta understand they can’t be naive, and that’s what helps with some of the things we’re doing, whether it be peer evaluations and different things. We don’t want to create a culture where they can hide anywhere.


On Stoops managing his emotions on the sidelines and how he does that:

A: Yeah, and again, you know, there’s a balance there. There’s a fine line. We want to be intense, and you know, play with great emotion and great passion, but we have to keep that in control. You know, I’m certainly not perfect in that area. I told you, I think it was after the South Carolina game, (Jordan) Swindle, he said, “Coach, you got too much juice’ (laughter), which means calm down. So we always tease each other about having good energy and having good juice in practice. He told me, smiled at me during the game and said, “coach, too much juice” (laughter). But I think there’s a balance for all of us, and that’s the great thing about sports and that’s the great thing about college football. You gotta go out there and play, and there’s times to be poised and there’s time to be enthusiastic and energetic and all that. You gotta have great emotion and great passion or we’re going to have a difficult time winning some games in this league.


On the closest he’s come to losing emotions on UK sidelines:

A: I’ve been pretty good. I do make a conscious effort to make sure things are in control, and again, I think your team is a reflection of you as well. So there’s times to be passionate and there’s times to be calm, and I’m by no means perfect at any of those, just I am who I am. I think you all know that by now. I really can’t be any other way.


On if he has a get-back coach to keep him off field/officials:

A: Yeah. We got some stories about that. (Laughter). Coach (Corey) Edmond and I go way back, back to Arizona. And he had that job at Arizona, and he will not do that here. He’s done with that (laughter). So we got some other guys.


On players like Swindle feeling comfortable calling him out:

A: Yeah. We have an open relationship. I think there’s great respect amongst the coaching staff and the team, and we’re all in this together, and so I think we have ‑‑ we have a good bond in our locker room and within our program right now.


On whether it’s a challenge to manage the juice in a big game:

A: It is. It always is. Like we talked about last week is if we want the opportunity to play in big games, then you gotta take care of your business, and last week taking care of that business to move on and play in a big game like this one. So for me getting them excited to play this game shouldn’t be too much of a problem.


On how leadership program has helped UK get through difficulties off field recently:

A: It’s helped a bunch. I think it’s helped us all give us some structure and how we manage this situation and communicate about it and hold accountability to all of us in the program.


On UK-Mississippi State being showcase game on CBS and what that means for program:

A: You know, that’s great. Obviously I’m not going to get ahead of myself. But every time you win in this league, you’re going to put yourself in position for a bigger game. So I think it’s a compliment to our team what we’ve done to this point, and every game gets bigger and we have a huge one at LSU this week, and that’s what’s on our mind.


On the balance in Southeastern Conference:

A: I believe so. We’ve commented on it a little bit through some of these press conferences through the year, and I’ve mentioned it before. You don’t see anybody backing up in this league, and I know quite a few of the coaches in this league and their staffs and the commitment from a lot of people. So nobody’s going back, and I believe it does give you a little bit more parity.


On discussing Kentucky’s turnaround with other coaches:

A: We’re all busy and different things. Just congratulations here and there and texts. You know, so we have some ‑‑ I have some friends throughout the conference, like most people. Like a lot of people in this business, just like Coach Peve and all the other guys.


On the best compliment he’s been given about how his team is doing:

A: I don’t want to get into too much, but the bottom line is just about the attitude and how hard we’re playing. You know, if it’s a group that plays hard, then that’s a compliment to me, so they’ve gotta be passionate and hungry and playing hard.


On Javess Blue’s one-handed catch:

A: It was beautiful at the time, you know. I loved it. It was great to see guys make individual efforts. I think as a team it’s well documented, we’re trying to do things necessary to improve, but you gotta have some individual players that make those great plays and that was great to see.

On if he knows Les Miles:

A: I know Les just from the years of coaching. Not on a personal level. I really like him. I think he’s fun to watch. You gotta give him credit. Boy, he wins a lot of close games. And he’s obviously doing something right, and I think, again, going back to the things I just talked about the best compliment you get is your team is tough. They’re always tough and physical and that’s a direct reflection of him.

On difficulties of coaching against someone who goes off script as often as Miles:

A: I don’t know. I don’t know why, but he wins close games, and obviously his team’s belief in him and what they’re doing, because they’re never out of it.

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Stoops: Top CBS game ‘a compliment to our team’

Kentucky’s game against top-ranked Mississippi State has been picked up by CBS as the marquee game on Oct. 25 at 3:30 p.m.

It’s the first time since 2007 against Tennessee that the top CBS game has come to Commonwealth Stadium. UK last appeared in that game in 2008 at Alabama.

The news came out as UK Coach Mark Stoops was wrapping up his weekly Monday news conference.

“That’s great, obviously,” Stoops said, before noting the Cats have an important game at Louisiana State this weekend long before they can think about a game against the top-ranked Bulldogs.

Getting the spotlight game on CBS is important, though.

“Every time you win in this league, you’re gonna put yourself in position for a bigger game,” Stoops said. “So I think it’s a compliment to our team, what we’ve done to this point, and I know every game gets bigger, and we have a huge one at LSU this week, and that’s what’s on our mind.”

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