Info to know before Vanderbilt game

UK (4-5, 2-5 SEC) at Vanderbilt (3-6, 1-4)

  • When: Saturday, 4 p.m.
  • Where: Vanderbilt Stadium (40,550)
  • Television: SEC Network with Tom Hart, Andrew Ware and Laura Rutledge
  • Satellite radio: 190 (XM) and 83 (Sirius)
  • Series: Kentucky leads 42-41-4
  • Last game: Kentucky won 17-7 at Commonwealth Stadium
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Q&A: Stoops previews Vanderbilt

“OK, like I said in postgame, not much has changed on my thoughts after the Georgia game. Clearly not happy with the way we played. We need to do a lot better job. That was the case. I felt like that throughout this year and the times you guys hear me talk about opponents and what we’re going up against and what we’re going to do, one thing I always applaud and talk about with other teams when I see it, and with our own team, is playing with that great passion, energy, desire and fundamentally trying to get better with everything that we do. That was not the case this past week. That is the frustrating part of it for myself and I’m sure for the fanbase. I felt like we did at times, certainly defensively. Our cover units are trying like heck. Special teams we’re having our issues, but the cover units are busting their tails. We have to kick better. We have to make better decisions on catching the ball and getting out of the end zone and a lot of things we need to clean up. But the effort was there, but not across the board. That’s what is frustrating. We’ll get that fixed and we’ll move on.

“There’s a lot of things to address. I anticipate that we’ll have a good meeting today and we’ll have good practices and we’ll move forward. With that being said, we’re very excited about the challenge of going into Vanderbilt and getting a victory. As I said a week ago, the only time you can move on as a program and make the bad feeling of losses go away is by going and getting a victory. I anticipate a great week of preparation this week and all hands on deck to go play a great game at Vanderbilt and try to get our fifth victory of the year.”

On if they’ll handle quarterback reps any differently: “Slightly different. Think we’ll handle it slightly different with the quarterback reps. Drew (Barker) gets quite a few snaps throughout practices anyway. In the way we rotate guys, he’s in there quite a bit with the ones anyway because with the receivers, a lot of times we just sub them in and continuously rotate them. It’ll be slightly different, yeah.”

On if Boom Williams will be able to play against Vanderbilt: “He should be good to go. We’ll see how the week goes. He’s cleared to practice today.”

On how he’ll address the quarterbacks going into this week: “Yeah, we’ve addressed it with Patrick and he understands that. He accepts that. He’s got to go out and perform and produce just like everybody else on our team.”

On where he feels Patrick is mentally going into the Vanderbilt game: “I think Patrick will be fine. I think one thing about him is he’s been resilient and he’s had some good games and some bad games. Again, it’s not all on him. We need to play better around him. Certainly offensively when you put on that film and look at the play of the other 10 guys, it was not up to par as well.”

On what he does about the drops at this point: “Yeah, it does come back in critical moments. We’ve gotta have guys step up and make plays. We’ve gotta look at other guys and look at the rotation. Mentally our players need to step up and accept the challenge as well. They’re plenty capable of doing it. That’s what you hear me talk about quite a bit throughout the seasons, about being mentally tough and being strong enough. That’s where you need to grow as a program. You don’t go down to Georgia and not play your very best and have a strong mindset. I’m not sure that was our best effort in that area.”

On how frustrating drops are for a player like Dorian Baker: “I think it is focus. I think it’s a focus about him and attention to detail. That’s an area where he needs to grow. It’s not acceptable. He needs to get better. He’s 10 games into his sophomore season and he needs to play better than that.”

On where Boom’s head is right now: “Boom’s fine, he was injured. He should be fine. I haven’t seen him today. We’ll see, but he was injured last week but in good spirits and just needs—he’s going to have to play with some form of brace on his elbow. Hopefully he’ll be able to handle that and protect the football and play like we need him to.”

On if Ryan Timmons will continue to handle punt returns this week:We’re looking at some other options there. We’ll look at Charles Walker and possibly Garrett Johnson.”

On what his message to the fanbase is to keep them from jumping ship:I can’t control whether they jump ship or not. That’s up to them. Everybody has a choice and I certainly understand that. I think frustration is a word you’ve heard me use a little bit. Of course, I’d be lying if we didn’t say there was some frustration. You’re always looking at ways to get better and eliminate mistakes and get your players to play at the highest level they possibly can. That’s what I’m gonna do and that’s what we’re gonna do as an organization. Like I said last week, like I’ve said many times, I very clearly understand what we need to do. And there’s no panic button. Not happy. Not happy with some things and some of the results, but absolutely not panicked one second.”

On if he still thinks his team believes it can win:I think that’s a fair question and I don’t think that was the case last Saturday, that we did go into that game believing we could win. No. I don’t think we did. And I don’t lie to you and I ain’t gonna lie to the players. I didn’t see that belief.”

On if he thinks they believe they can win this Saturday:They better. I haven’t seen that all year. He asked me a question, I answered it. Do I believe that we’ll – I have no reason to believe that they would have no doubt that every time we take the field we have an opportunity to win. He asked me if I saw that last week and I didn’t.”

On the last time he saw his team not believe it could win a game:In the past. Prior to this year.”

On what Vanderbilt does on defense to be so effective:I think the first thing you look at, again, to compliment them and Coach (Derek) Mason, is you see a bunch of guys that are playing hard, that are flying around and playing energized. Again, you have seen us do that in spurts. You need to do that consistently, and I think they’re doing a very, very good job of that. They shorten the games. They’re running the ball, using clock, playing good defense, trying to play field position, creating turnovers, and it’s a good recipe for them. They obviously had a great chance to win this past Saturday doing that.”

On if it would be hard to change quarterbacks against such a good defense:It’s crossed our mind. It’s difficult. We’ll see how the week goes. Whoever gives us the best chance to go into Vandy and win will take the first snaps. And if both guys are – if we feel confident in both guys, or if one’s struggling, we’ll go to the other.”

On Vanderbilt’s defense:
 ”They’re multiple in what they do. As far as fronts and alignments and things like that, there’s a lot of carryover in what we do. There’s 3-down, there’s 4-down. They mix it up quite a bit in different packages with droppers and different things. But there’s a variety of things that they do.”

On how Vanderbilt’s defense is athletically: “They’re athletic. I’m impressed with some of their outside backers in particular. Very good looking guys. Long and athletic and play extremely hard. They’re good. They’re good and they’re back to where they were a couple years ago when you saw a Vandy team that was capable of winning a whole heck of a lot of games. I think Coach Mason’s done a great job. You can see the passion and the energy in their team, and on their defense in particular. No matter what their record is, they’re out there playing extremely hard.”

On if mental fatigue plays into a lack of mental toughness:Sure it does. Yes. It does, but there’s no excuse for it because everybody goes through it. You’ve heard me say it, and I don’t want to get too much like a cliche or whatever, but you have to be a man. You have to be grown to endure the schedule, the practice, the monotony of it, the physical nature of this game and the mental stress that it puts on you. You have to be able to handle it. When we handle those situations, we’ll win at a higher level.”

On if they have changed anything schematically with Melvin Lewis out: “We have a variety of packages that we use, and when we’re in what we call our big package our big man is in there. Big Matt is in there in our big package. Then we have a couple of other packages where we could put a couple other defensive linemen in there.”

On how much the offensive problems can be attributed to the offensive line: “That was our worst game, this past week, offensive line wise. I thought we got handled up front. I said it in postgame, I second-guessed myself in going for it on fourth-and-two, and after watching the film it’s frustrating because – I get tired of hearing, ‘You had it, you could have done this, you could have done that,’ but we flat got whooped on one block or its creased. And that…pisses you off.”

On how they get better on the offensive line this deep in the season when personnel won’t change: “There’s no quick recipe, there’s no quick fix. You get back, you work, you fundamentally get better. I have not cut really practice at all. We’ve done the things necessary. We’ve still gone good against good to fundamentally get better. That’s something that a year ago I didn’t do, and it obviously didn’t work. We didn’t play very good down the stretch, and you’re not developing your players when you’re cutting back and you’re not going as much good against good. So, we’ve continued to do that. We’ve got to continue to do that. We have to put our best players in a position in practice against each other to fundamentally grow and get better. Now, that’s the balance of physically how much can they handle?”

On if he agrees with Butch Jones’ comments that it takes five to seven years to rebuild an SEC program: “Well, I know this. I don’t want to divulge all the things that myself and other head coaches talk about all the time or whatever, but let me tell you, there’s some growing pains when you’re trying to rebuild a program in this league in particular. So, those are some big, physical dudes.”

On if he changes anything in practice this week: “Slightly. Not much, as I just talked about with the practice schedule. We fundamentally need to continue to get our best players on offense and defense to go against each other. In certain phases of the practice we obviously need a lot of scout work. We’re not going to quit doing what we’re doing. I did grab about five practice schedules from the week from different coaches and people I know. I’ve looked at two or three practice schedules from people in our conference and two or three out of conference to see exactly what they’re doing, how many reps they’re doing, how much good on good they’re doing, just to make sure, just to look at all options to make sure we’re putting our players in the best position to play.”

On if he’s addressed players about still having a chance to go to a bowl: “Well, of course. You know I’ve never said those words out of my mouth, but I know I’ve read some quotes and had some things told to me that it was bowl game or bust or whatever they were saying. Well, I’m going to ask them about that today. I’m going to ask them to get up and say what they believe, and if that’s important to them then they better start with a one-week season this week.”

On if the difficulty of building a program in this league factors into his comments about the defense no being built to succeed in as much time on the field as at Georgia and if he anticipates eventually getting to that point: “Well, of course you try to be, but I think if you look at the elite teams in our league they’re good on all sides. They’re not just elite teams in our league, right? They’re elite teams nationally. So, I think as you’re growing you try to play the very best you can in all sides, and if you do that and play with a great passion, energy and discipline that we want to have then you have a chance to win. If you don’t, then you’ve got no chance.”

On defensive substitutions looking smoother with D.J. Eliot in the booth Saturday, and if he was pleased with how that move has worked: “We’re trying to put our players in the best position possible. When teams are running tempo and they’re changing personnel and we’re changing in I know sometimes that looks a little bit like a Chinese fire drill, but we do the best we can to matchup the best we can. There’s game that are being played. There’s some deception in that that’s totally legal, but I’m saying when they’re subbing a bunch of guys you’re trying to get your matchups in there. So, again, we need to be big when they’re in big people. We need to have skill and DBs on the field when they’re spread out.

“So certain teams create more problems. Other teams just want to line up and play and fundamentally do what they do. But yeah, I think it did; I thought it went fine.”

On if he and Shannon Dawson have been on the same page this season and if they are now: “Yeah, I definitely feel like we’re on the same page. I mean, there’s difficulties in every situation, as you know, and it’s tough at times to do the very best you can to put your players in a position to win. And I think that gets difficult. I think it gets difficult as an offensive play caller and understanding when to be aggressive and when to back off and all those things. When things aren’t going well, it’s tough, on all sides. I’ve been there as a defensive coordinator calling plays when things weren’t going well— and other times when you could call just about anything and things go well. It’s very difficult on offense as well when nothing’s working. You may get good, positive yards on first down – you get a 5-yard run on first down against some of these teams, that’s a darn good play – but when you can’t finish it off with second or third down, you’re back to square one. It’s frustrating.”

On if there’s a divide in the locker room: “They asked me about that (on the radio) and I said, ‘No.’ No, I absolutely don’t think there’s one bit of a divide. I think I just – if somebody asked me, if you asked every (one of the) 110 people in our locker room if everybody was on the exact same page, I wouldn’t’ expect them to be. There’s 110 guys in there. They have different opinions. There’s no problem whatsoever. Zero. Are there frustrations? I would hope so. I hope some guys are frustrated. That doesn’t mean you’re starting to point fingers.”

On if UK has an offensive identity: “I understand that (question). I think it’s a fair question. You could say the same thing about the defense, too. And I work directly with the defense every day. We’re trying to find a clear identity. I think we know what we want to be and who we want to be, and then sometimes you try to do things to put yourself in a position to be successful and it doesn’t work. You might, just talking defensively now, try to protect a guy and not just leave him on an island all day, roll one way, and they run it out the other side. There are stresses that go hand in hand. As you build and as you get better and better, you can do a lot of things easier. But I think offensively, we want to have some balance. Coach Dawson has always believed in that since the moment he got here. It gets difficult to run against some of these teams. And then we would like to throw the ball on play-action off of that, which we’ve had some success and done that. When you keep people off balance, it’s a nice, clear identity. When you’re not doing anything very good, there’s frustrations in your identity. I think he would be the first to admit that. I would, too, and so would our players. But as better and as you’re moving the ball, things get fun – and for your players as well. When you’re not getting as many snaps because you’re not getting a bunch of first downs, that makes it very difficult to do anything. We’re not getting to some of the plays because we just didn’t move the ball well enough to get to those plays.”

On mental fatigue or mental toughness issues on second and third downs: “I don’t know about that. I think that comes down to fundamentally being able to do things and blocking and running. I think it’s execution, making sure we’re putting our guys in a position for successful plays. We’re all accountable to doing the very best we can, whether it’s play calling, blocking, running and catching. All those things. There’s a lot of things we can do better and we understand.”

On if kicking struggles change how he manages roster and if they bring in more competition in future: “Yes. Yes. Yeah. We have to. Yes, we have to have some options.”

On if he’s pondered open tryouts to bring in walk-on kicker, maybe a soccer player, who can kick it out of end zone on kickoffs: “Well, if there’s anyone out there — y’all can publicize this — that can do it. If there’s somebody that can kick the ball out of the back of the end zone, I would certainly take him on this team. That’s for sure. But Miles (Butler) does a nice job. He does as good as he can. I think he’s getting more and more confidence with extra points and field goals and he’s trying the best he can on kickoffs. Austin was close last week. He wasn’t 100 percent on the kickoffs. Shorter field goals and all that, I think he was good. He says he’ll be ready this week, so let’s hope he can.”

On if it’s still his groin issues from before: “It’s his groin. It’s just aggravated and as you’ve got to kick and prepare throughout the week, sometimes he just has little setbacks here and there.”

On the accidental pooch kick: “What do you mean? That was a great call. If it was a great call, we would’ve had our guys onsides. I’ve learned that lesson year one. With onside kicks you have to be be completely behind. On kickoffs they give you a little latitude here and there. But on anything that’s a surprise onside, you’ve got to clearly be behind. And so we were ahead there and because the guys didn’t know and the way we were kicking it, the set up for the kicker was different. We tried to keep on teaching them because we were trying to sky it. That slows the kicker down, so we were a touch offsides there.”

On any guys sticking out playing well even when the struggles have been difficult: “Yeah. There are a number of guys who — a guy you have to give some credit to is a guy like Khalid Henderson, who he and Ryan have had a great battle for two years. They both have done some very good things at times and some things not so well. Both of them have kept a good attitude and worked extremely hard and gone out and played hard. Josh Forrest is playing extremely hard. Farrington (Huguenin). I thought Garrett Johnson is giving us everything. He didn’t have his best game last week, but he’s been banged up. He hasn’t been able to practice but he’s gone out and played injured, given us everything he’s had. He’s made some extremely difficult catches. So there’s a number of guys, a bunch of our guys are battling and I said that before. I’ve said it in the opening statement: We need to get back to playing with that great passion and energy that we all want and that we all will be proud of that when our team plays that way. We just haven’t been consistent enough in that area and we haven’t been consistent in a lot of areas.”

On developing offensive line: “You need to continue to have those big bodies. A guy like George (Asafo-Adjei) helps, but George has been out for a couple weeks as well. But the more big bodies you have, the more physical you can be day to day in practice on both sides of the ball. When you have — when you’re two deep across the board on the d-line and the o-line, you can bang heads every day and then you fundamentally get better. And I think that’s where we have stayed the course on practices and all that. But that’s where as you get deeper and more physical, physically mature and things like that, you can endure them.”

On if George Asafo-Adjei will be back and Darius West: “Darius, I’m not sure about. George will be back. George has been cleared to go out there today. We’ll see how he looks and how he feels.”

On if he feels good about how Drew Barker’s preparation: “I do and I feel more and more comfortable with him, I really do. I think he’s handled it very well and it was good for him to finally get some snaps at Mississippi State, then he got the shoulder and was out for a week. Last week he came back. He wasn’t at full strength with the zip on the football last week, but he was ready to play. This week, I expect him to be further along physically and ready to go. I think he’s handled it very well. He’s worked hard. He looks comfortable at practice. He’s still learning and growing just like the whole team.”

On what Barker can add to offense if he plays: “Quick decisions. We all know that’s important and I think one thing you see from him at times you really like is he’s decisive in what he’s doing.”

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RB Boom Williams cleared to practice

Kentucky likely will have leading rusher Boom Williams back on Saturday at Vanderbilt. The sophomore has been cleared to practice this week after suffering an elbow injury against Tennessee.

“He should be good to go; we’ll see how the week goes,” Coach Mark Stoops said on Monday at his weekly news conference.

Williams, who has 85 runs for 563 yards and three touchdowns this season, will wear some sort of protective apparatus on his injured elbow.

“He’s going to have to play with some form of brace on his elbow,” the coach said of Williams, who averages 80.4 yards a game and 6.6 yards per carry. “Hopefully he’ll be able to handle that and protect the football and play like we need him to.”

In the two games that Williams didn’t play for UK this season, the Cats failed to crack 80 yards on the ground, rushing for just 55 yards against Eastern Kentucky and then 79 yards at Georgia with no rushing touchdowns.

Last week, Stoops said that Williams is one of the few home run type players on UK roster.

“Boom was certainly one of the few guys that we have that we feel are complete game changers and can hit the big play,” Stoops said before the loss to the Bulldogs.

UK will need all of the potential home runs it can get at Vanderbilt, which is 15th in the nation in rushing defense, holding opponents to 112.4 yards a game.

Against Vandy last season, Williams had just five carries for 27 yards and three catches for 39 yards.

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Boom could be back next week, other injury updates

One of Kentucky’s team doctors re-evaluated the elbow injury to star running back Boom Williams and it is possible the sophomore could return to game action as early as next week at Vanderbilt.

“He has a good chance. He has a chance,” Mark Stoops said on Saturday of Williams, who made the trip but wasn’t dressed for the game. Williams has 563 yards this season, including 428 yards against Southeastern Conference opponents this season.

  • Linebacker Jason Hatcher is still working his way back from a high ankle sprain that limited him to just a few snaps on Saturday. “Those take a long time to heal from,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “Have we been playing him? Yes. Has he been practicing? Yes. But he’s not full speed.”
  • Kicker Austin MacGinnis still continues to be hampered by a groin injury that kept him from kickoff duties again on Saturday. The one kickoff he did attempt, what most thought was a called onsides kick, actually was one he mishit, Stoops said.
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Coaches hint QB change could be coming

For the first time this season, Kentucky’s coaches strongly hinted that it might be time for a change at the quarterback position.

“You do got to look at some options,” Coach Mark Stoops said when asked if the Cats have to think about making a switch at quarterback after a 27-3 drubbing at Georgia on Saturday. “Yeah, you do. You have to. In fairness to the team, I think you have to look at everybody.”

For the first time in 21 starts, Kentucky junior Patrick Towles passed for fewer than 100 yards, finishing the game with 96 before UK brought in Drew Barker midway through the fourth quarter.

Towles’ 96 yards were a career low as a starter and his eight completions (on 21 throws) were tied for his lowest.

His 38.1 percent completion rate was second worst in his career behind only the Florida game earlier this season when the junior hit on 33 percent of his throws.

“I can’t say I blame them,” Towles said. “I want to win football games, and if I’m not getting it done we need to play somebody else.”

In the last two games, Towles has completed just 51.1 percent of his passes. He’s had six interceptions and just two touchdowns in his past four games.

On what specifically went wrong on Saturday, Towles said: “Just kind of being a little hesitant. Not necessarily putting everything I had into the football. I think I made good decisions today. I just don’t think I threw the football well.

“There’s a lot to that, and I’ve got to go back to work and figure it out and become a better football player.”

And the coaches have to work to figure out how to make Kentucky’s offense, better, too. That may come with a position switch.

“We’re gonna watch it close and then we’ll meet and we’ll make decisions, but I mean, he’s not the only one out there,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “I will say that. Typically, it’s one guy here, one guy there. But that guy does make it work. Everybody does understand that. We’ll look at it. We’ll make decisions.”

And that decision might be to play Barker, who has played in just two games this season in mop up duty. At Georgia, the redshirt freshman completed one of his two pass attempts for five yards.

“You’ve seen us change the depth chart at a lot of positions all the way through the season on who is playing well, and I think it’s fair to say that we have to look at the quarterback position,” Stoops said.

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RB Williams will not play versus Georgia

Mark Stoops ended any speculation about whether or not his star running back will be able to play against the school he was once briefly committed to, saying that Boom Williams will miss the game with an elbow injury.

“Yeah. He won’t play. He won’t play,” Stoops said of the sophomore, who had 10 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns last season against the Bulldogs.

Stoops also said that safety Darius West and wide receiver Joey Herrick will not be able to play either.

Linebacker Jason Hatcher, who has been limited at practice and saw limited action last week against Tennessee, 
likely will be able to play against the Bulldogs.

“He’s much better now,” Stoops said of Hatcher, who didn’t play at Mississippi State two weeks ago. “He’s much, much better. He played Saturday, as you know. It was close last week, but didn’t get the week of practice. Got much more practice this week.”

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Q&A: Stoops wraps up Georgia week

“It’s been a good week of practice so far. One more run through tomorrow, so hopefully we’ll continue to have good, crisp practices. It’s been a beautiful week. I think we may get a little rain down there, so either way we’ll be ready to go and see what happens. But we’re excited about it. We’re excited to play. Guys have had a good attitude, worked hard, and just trying to put together the best game plan we can to go play a good football game.”

On how he keeps his own players from putting too much stock in what’s going on at Georgia this week: “I really doubt that our players know anything very much what’s being talked about down there. It really shouldn’t be any concern of ours. It’s always about, ‘What are we doing?’ or ‘Are we putting our guys in the best position we can to be successful?’ and ‘Are our players doing whatever they can to make sure they’re mentally and physically ready to play?’.”

On how he prevents any division in the team: “Fortunately, knock on wood, I haven’t really felt any of that since I’ve been the head coach that, with any division. I think there’s always—if you go back to year one and year two, there’s frustrations, certainly. On our team, since I’ve been here, we’ve played some good defensive games and some good offense and vice versa. We’re always trying to put it together and play the very best we can as a team. That’s always our goal. I just talk about it and understand that if you do win on one side or the other, it’ll surely come around the other way sooner or later. Be careful about what you talk about. What we talk about here.”

On the biggest thing that has jumped out to him about his team this week: “I think just making sure we have a mindset and good energy and having a good attitude with our preparation. That’s all you can do. I felt like guys, really we had a good Tuesday, Wednesday—and I know, I think Coach (Steve) Spurrier joked that one day when he came back and said ‘oh it was terrible’ and all that. No coach really wants to stand here at the end of the week and tell you you’ve we had a miserable week. But I think you know enough about me now that I wear certain emotions on my sleeves. I do tell the team and I tell you the truth on how I feel. If I felt like it was a cruddy week of preparation or if the enthusiasm, the energy wasn’t there I’d tell you. But I felt like that’s the biggest thing we could do is control how we prepare. I really feel like that’s been that way. You guys talk to the players. I certainly don’t read everything y’all say and write, but you could ask them. I’m not here to lie or to tell you stories. I feel like our guys work hard, and we’re trying to do the very best we can.”

On how they recapture the first half of the South Carolina game:I don’t know. (Laughs) I don’t know.”

On Boom Williams:Yeah. He won’t play. He won’t play.”

On if anyone else won’t play: “Darius (West) will not play. Joey Herrick will not play. And Boom. I believe that’s it.”

On if Hatcher got the day off yesterday:No.”

On Andy Buh talking about giving Hatcher a break:He didn’t practice – Monday’s a light day anyway. He didn’t practice, but he practiced Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.”

On if Hatcher will be full strength on Saturday:Yeah, I think he’s much better now. Yeah. I think he’s much, much better. He played Saturday, as you know. It was close last week, but didn’t get the week of practice. Got much more practice this week.”

On if D.J. Eliot in the booth changes what he does on the sidelines:Not much. Not much. I have to get back out there and manage the game should we need a timeout or something. As far as making adjustments we got Andy (Buh) and Jimmy (Brumbaugh) down on the sidelines and can make the adjustments. I may make a couple quick adjustments then get out there and manage what the offense – again, should we need a timeout or see what’s going or listening on that side. Not too much.”

On if he was a sideline or press-box coordinator: “I was on the sideline. I was in the booth a long time ago as a secondary coach, and I really liked it as a secondary coach. But I was on the field as a coordinator, yeah. As a secondary coach, it was good just to see the whole picture and see our position on the football.”

On the value of a secondary coach being on the field in UK’s case with so much youth, being able to see them face-to-face: “There is. That’s always the balance. As you can tell, offensively, all of our guys are on the sidelines and I brought that up and talked with Shannon several times. That’s the way the staffs he’s been with have always done it. I’m making sure that’s what they want to do because I want to make sure we’re getting a good vision of the entire picture. We’re staying with it, the way we’ve been doing it, offensively. We made that change defensively and I think after one game, Coach Eliot liked it and hopefully it’ll work out and we’re going to do it again that way this week.”

On having grad assistants in the box for the offensive staff: “Yeah, we do, yep.”

On if he’s trying to encourage Dawson to get someone up in the box: “I’m just making sure. If I wanted to encourage him, I would tell him to do it. (Laughter). Just making sure that we’re rethinking that and putting people in position to be successful, our players and our coaches and, so like I said, we’ve talked about it twice and we’ll leave it the way it is right now.”

On preparing for two QB system: “Really doesn’t effect us much at all. They do what they do. Their identity is with their offense and with their offensive coordinator. I don’t think things change much. Maybe internally as far as experience and things like that, but it’s nothing that jumps out at you that’s systematically much different.”

On how well he knows Georgia offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: “Not much. Not personally. Just through friends that know him and I hear good things about him. He seems like a great coach. Comes from a coaching family and the whole bit.”

On facing a different style of offense that what UK has seen in last couple of games: “Yeah. Definitely does. It will be different, and with Georgia, just like it’s been, it starts with being physical and running the ball with their talented backs and then play action off of it. You’ve heard. Each offense presents different challenges. But that much is the same: very talented players who are physical that can hurt you in the run game then puts pressure on you to add numbers and then throw the ball down the field.”

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Q&A: Stoops on SEC teleconference

“Looking forward to another great challenge, going on the road to play Georgia in Athens. It will be a real challenge for us. Certainly our team is in great need to go on the road and play a very good football game, better than we have the past couple of weeks. Disappointed in the outcome this past week versus Tennessee, but we’ve had a great week of practice so far and looking forward to finishing up this week and, like I said, getting on the road, going down there and playing well.”

On the performance offensive line as a whole: “Yeah, it’s hard for us when we get behind the chains and when we get behind in the score. It’s not what we’re built to do right now, just to try to get into drop-back pass situations. We probably put them in some tough blocking assignments and we didn’t hold up as well as we’d like to. We’re at our best when we have balance and when we’re in closer games and not getting behind obviously, because we’re not built, again, to just drop-back pass. I think when we keep people off balance and run the ball effectively and have our run-pass options off of it, that’s when we’re most effective. So, I think our o-line is a lot like much of our team: a little bit more inconsistent than we want it to be.”

On how much stock he puts in players-only meetings: “I think sometimes – I hope it has a positive effect. It’s nothing earth-shattering, no panic button. Those guys had talked to me. I saw Josh (Forrest) in the building on Sunday, and we were just having a great conversation. Guys were good, in good spirits, and he just said he had a few things to talk to the team. Patrick (Towles) had class on Monday before our meeting, so they waited until Tuesday. Just wanted to talk to the team, so I don’t think it’s anything major or anything like that.”

On Georgia offense’s rough patch: “You know it’s hard for me to put a finger on it. Certainly when I watch them and I see them, I know we’ll have our hands full because they still have the physicality about them that you always identify with them offensively. Probably, I guess quarterback would be the one thing they’d probably admit changing some quarterbacks and I’m not sure what they’re going to do this week. I would expect them to go back with Lambert, but anyway, I think they still, the big thing that jumps out at me always is the running backs that they have, big, physical, strong guys that are capable of ripping off big plays at anytime. So anytime you can run the ball, it sets up some play action pass.”

On loss of Boom Williams this week: “It’s one of the guys we have — that’s the issue when you’re playing these talented SEC teams is they still have some guys that can hit the home run all the time — and Boom was certainly one of the few guys that we have that we feel are complete game changers and can hit the big play and Boom was a big-play guy for us and we’re going to have to have somebody else step up.”

On his feelings on UK’s run defense: “It’s been a different style with the running quarterbacks the past couple weeks, been a different style, but obviously it hasn’t been as good as we’d like it to be in any area. A lot of times it comes down to making that tackle in the one-on-one situations and we’ll certainly need to improve this week heading into Georgia this week because their running backs are still very talented.”

On if Mikel Horton is back to 100 percent mentally, physically after injury South Carolina: “Yeah, I would hope he’s back at full strength and feeling good. He did struggle a little bit and you could tell mentally and physically he was a little off. But he seems back at full strength right now. And I’m anxious to see how he does this week because I thought he really filled in well last week when Boom went down. I’m anxious to see him be the guy this week, and get the bulk of the carries.”

On Boom Williams’ status for Georgia game: “I’m not sure where he’s at. In my mind, we have to prepare like he won’t be available for the Georgia game, but we’ll see how the week progresses. I would still list him as doubtful for this week.”

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Stoops discusses Boom Williams’ status

The elbow injury to Boom Williams looked gruesome at first, but the running back is recovering quickly, his position coach said on Tuesday night.

The sophomore and UK’s leading rusher has been upgraded from week to week to day to day, Chad Scott said on Tuesday night.

“It initially looked really, really bad and now it’s gotten to the point where they’re saying it’s day to day and he’s moving around a whole lot better,” the running backs coach said. “The pain isn’t as bad as it was before. I think it’s day to day.”

On Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, Coach Mark Stoops said UK is preparing like Williams won’t be available for the Georgia game, listing him as doubtful, but couched it with “we’ll see how the week progresses.”

Losing a player like Williams is a big blow.

“It’s one of the guys we have — that’s the issue when you’re playing these talented SEC teams is they still have some guys that can hit the home run all the time — and Boom was certainly one of the few guys that we have that we feel are complete game changers and can hit the big play,” Stoops said. “Boom was a big-play guy for us and we’re going to have to have somebody else step up.”


  • Backup quarterback Drew Barker confirmed that he was unable to practice last week because of a shoulder sprain. “It progressed pretty quickly, but the first few days, I couldn’t move it or anything,” the redshirt freshman said of the injury. Barker’s short passes on the sideline before the Tennessee game were his first of the week. He was able to go through a full practice on Tuesday and said he’s back to 100 percent.
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Q&A: Shannon Dawson previews Georgia

On what stood out on the holding penalties against Tennessee: “I don’t know. It’s a good question. Penalties are penalties, gotta coach them better. We had a lot of them, they didn’t have many.”

On what worked in the power run game against Tennessee: “We were running the ball well. Everything that we schemed in our running game was well. I thought we blocked it well, I thought we ran the ball well. You always go back and second guess things, it’s easy to do. At the beginning of the game, just studying the film—nobody has moved the ball on them early. There were a couple of teams that didn’t move it past the 50 until the third quarter. I knew they were going to be hard to move the ball on and hard to move the ball early. I was going out there with the mindset of trying to create some diversion really to get some chunk yards at the beginning. It would’ve happened, we really had one guy here and there, different guys, but it was really more one guy not doing his job at the beginning of the two three-and-outs. We had two three-and-outs, it just so happens they were the first two drives of the game.

“Once we got on track, we had a 15 play drive then we started moving the ball. Obviously I’ll go back and look at every game and there’s things I wish I wouldn’t have done and there’s things i wish I would’ve done earlier. That’s 100 percent true in every game I’ve ever coached. It’s going to be the same way Tuesday when we talk about the game Saturday.”

On the approach he takes to players when trying to get them to execute: “I stay consistent. We don’t change much in our scheme and we don’t change much in our approach. To me, there’s flaws in changing your approach. I stay the course. The people that panic in my opinion are the people that don’t do very well. Me, I want to stay the course and push forward and keep doing the things we’re doing. Obviously you reevaluate week to week on what you’re doing good. But there’s not a lot of things that we’re doing that we’re really doing that bad. We’re just making some critical errors at times that kill us. It’s nothing schematically. When we ran laser and threw the interception that set up the touchdown that really put it a little bit—then we went down and scored and made it a 10 point game. That deal right there, if we wait a split second longer, it’s a 30 or 40, maybe a touchdown. That’s just something we’ve gotta work on. It’s just simple execution. It’s frustrating at times but to have little things like that happen that affect the whole mentality of the sideline is tough. You’re going to make great plays in the game and you’re going to make errors in the game. We have to minimize those errors, especially in critical situations.”

On what he’s seeing from Mikel Horton that are better: “He’s just playing better to be honest with you. He’s like a lot of our guys that are young guys, at times they’re inconsistent. Probably the same with me. It’s just harder when you’re younger. Hopefully he plays like that. If he plays like that we’re a better football team.”

On if he calls plays any different with Horton instead of Boom Williams:Nah. We just call it, let them play. Put the ball in play.”

On if there’s things either of them do better than the other:Well, there’s things that everybody does better. There aren’t 11 robots out there. But schematically, we call the same play. It might look different when Boom’s in there than (when) Mikel’s in there, but we’re just trying to create gaps in the defense and hand it to them, or get it to them in space. What we do with it after we hand it to them, it’s typically God-given ability, then that’s going to look a little different, obviously.”

On how important players-only meetings are for morale in his experience:I think it’s a good thing. Our kids care. I don’t think it’s bad or good. I think at times everybody, including myself, needs to be set straight. So I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having meetings and having leaders stand up and voice their opinion, not just on a team but in every sector of society. That probably works to the benefit of the group.”

On what Georgia looks like to him defensively:About the same as everybody else. (Laughs) You’ve been following us. Doesn’t get any easier. They’re big, they’re long, they’re fast, they rush the passer real good. What else? That’s about it.”

On if they do anything different to prepare the team for a noon kickoff:I do have one thing to say to you. OK? We got a 40-yard run called back. Can I add that to the stats? (Laughter) (Dawson fist bumps reporter, laughs) Nah. I mean, you just got to get their engines going earlier. There’s going to be things that we do different on the last two days of the week, no doubt. You got to get their clock pushed back a little bit. I was just playing with you.”

On the progression of the offensive line over the season:Thought it’s been good. I’m just gonna tell you: I knew that pass protection was going to be tough versus those guys. And it’s not just when we play ’em; it’s when every other team plays them. You can go watch. Pass protection in this league is not the easiest thing. I have to do a better job of protecting those guys. I thought Saturday that I did a poor job of putting them in situations to be successful. I got to reevaluate my approach in certain things and I got to do better. It has nothing to do really with them or their effort and their want-to. Those guys have been battling. We got a group of guys that we’re playing with at every position that’s played a lot of snaps, so to sit here to think that the season don’t wear on you, you’re a little bit naive. But I have to do a better job of putting them in situations of getting in manageable situations where there’s a little more evenness to the calls, where you can run or pass. When you get in situations where the defensive ends know you’re going to throw the football, you’re typically gonna – I don’t care what league you’re playing in. It’s a problem in today’s football game. I have to do a better job. In my opinion we were in too many third and longs on Saturday. That’s the bottom line. We have to get in some more manageable third down situations. We can’t be effective in those situations. I can do better with that. In the run game, I’ll be honest with you, we targeted the and blocked them in the run game as good as anyone did all year. I went back and watched it the last two days and just reevaluating what we’re doing good and what we’re doing bad and I went back and watched their defense against other people just to see what we could do different and I thought our o-line in the run game targeted them and opened up bigger holes than had been opened all year. I thought they did a great job in that.”

On if anything else stood out from his evaluation: “About our team? Yeah. A lot of that is about game planning and you don’t want me to tell you the game plan, do you?”

On if there are guys playing well for them right now that are going unnoticed because team isn’t winning: “Well, I mean, there are guys who are making plays and guys that, I think we’re dropping a few too many balls in critical situations. Windows are tight and at times we make hard catches look really easy and I think at some point those plays have to become routine for us to be a really good football team. It’s not just on them. There’s ups and downs at every position, at every position group. There’s times we look like a really good football team and there’s times when we look like we haven’t practiced, so I can’t answer that one.”

On more designed run plays and/or scrambles for Towles: “Yeah, no doubt. I like for him to extend plays and you watch football today and typically the teams that are really good on offense, when it breaks down, you can extend the play a little bit. He has the ability to do that and he does it at times. I think that if you look at — how many sacks did we give up Saturday, do y’all know off the top of your head? — it was a couple I know. But he saved us a couple times, too. He saved us and got the first down. Saved us and got the first down, so I mean, the more he can do that, the better. His overall comfort level with everything, he’ll start to do that kind of thing more, the more comfortable he gets.”

On worries about wear and tear on Garrett Johnson taking as many hits as he takes in middle of field: “Well, I worry about a lot of things. That’s one of them. But that kid, he’s playing his heart out. That position’s a tough position because he takes a lot of hits, but he makes a lot of big plays for us, too. I worry about him; we try to rest him. We try to do everything we can do to get him fresh for the game, but he’s no different than guys like Toth and other guys. They’re banged up, too. It’s the way football is at this time of year. There’s not many teams that aren’t. So you’ve got to push through. You can use it as an excuse or plow forward and go to work. The theme is everybody’s beat up. That’s the way life is.”

On third down issues and if it’s about being better on first and second down or something else: “Yeah, at times. I think at times, especially when you get to third-and-long, you can typically revert back to what are you doing at third-and-long? Typically you want to do better on first and second down. So back and forth. We’ve had games where we were really good on third down. Even in the Mississippi State game, we were 50 percent on third down, so that was the worst we were on third down. I think it was just a product a combination of me and a combination of Tennessee’s defense being pretty good in those situations. Really I think their pass rush was really good, their coverage was really good, and I think that probably my plan wasn’t the best, especially on third-and-long. But I don’t know many offensive coordinators that ever have a great plan on third-and-long. You know? It’s just third-and-long is something that if you get 25 percent on third-and-long or 30 percent that’s really, really good. So if you’re in third-and-long eight times and you get it two or three, that’s pretty good. That’s at every level. That’s just the way it is. That’s why third-and-medium and third-and-short are a little easier to convert. So, you want to get in those situations more. The more you get in third-and-long, obviously the more you’re going to be punting.”

On if he felt OK about third-and-short situations: “We were just 0 for 1 on third-and-short, but we went for it on fourth down and got it. So, really if you look at our third-down percentage I think we were 2 of something, 15 or 14, but we made three or four fourth downs. So a lot of them were kind of skewed because there are times on third down where Coach Stoops tells me, ‘You’ve got two plays.’ So I’m not necessarily trying to get it on third down. I’m just trying to get it close enough to try to get it on fourth down. Then on fourth down we were like 80 percent, so we were a little better if you look at the whole picture. But still we’re not good enough. We were just in those long-distance situations too much to me. I think that comes back on me, and I’ve got to do a better job of getting us in better situations.”

On if fourth-down percentage says anything about team’s sense of urgency: “I don’t know. I guess you could say that, but I think if you look at just the game in general the fact that we have a 15-play drive, the fact that we fight back — in both of the last two games when we come out from halftime we have a lot of things going against us and we still managed to move the ball. If you look at last week, I think it was 24-14 at halftime. Is that right? 21-14 or something? Then we come out, and I think the first drive we get like 20 or 30 yards, that’s when I think we throw the laser that gets intercepted. Right? I think so. Just trying to remember. Then the next drive we go 90 yards and score. If you substitute those two drives it’s a three-point game. You know? That’s how easy games get flipped. You make a critical mistake right there, and then it flips the game and gives them the ball on the 1-yard line. Then consistently after the first two drives of the game, which we went three-and-out – then the next five drives we move the ball every time. So, why is that? Well, I don’t know.

“You look at games and every game goes like that. Why did Green Bay have 70 yards passing the other night? Well, Aaron Rodgers is pretty good, so I can’t answer that other than the fact that there’s times when execution is really good and there’s times when it’s really bad and some of it has to do with the team that’s lining up across from you. So, you know, ultimately we strive for a level of consistency where we move the ball every time. That’s what we want. I think my point with that whole spiel was if you look at everything together we moved the ball decent at times then we shot ourselves in the foot, whether it be penalties or whether it be critical errors. We’ve got to clean up those to be successful, to keep the game close.”

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