D.J. Eliot previews Tennessee

D.J. ELIOT
“We had a good Wednesday practice. Guys were flying around and staying warm, for the most part, so that’s a good thing, and were into it. We’re harping on fundamentals, and for the most part we were able to do that today.”

On if Blake McClain practiced: “Yes. Blake’s practicing, and things are going good. We got a big week this week getting ready for Tennessee, and we got to have all hands on deck.”

On Tennessee QB Joshua Dobbs: “Anytime you play an athletic quarterback, you got that threat of the Q run game, which is tough to defend, and then on top of that, containing him on pass plays. So he is a talented athlete that can hit you on both those areas.”

On if Za’Darius Smith practiced: “Yes. Yep. We had him out there. We got to make sure that everybody’s ready to go, and we’ve concentrated on fundamentals, and that’s what we’re harping on this week.”

On what the defense’s mood was like after Saturday: “Everybody was disappointed and frustrated from the loss. But you got no other options in this league. You got to get on to next week, so that was our approach.”

On players like Jabari Johnson and Khalid Henderson being demoted: “Week to week we evaluate our players and we — some guys can win jobs at practice, which is what I think you’re referring to — and Flannigan has started for us and he’s earned that starting job and he’s going to continue to get better and doing some good things.”

On if lack of interceptions has been about coverage lapses or something else: “We haven’t had that many lapses in coverage; we’ve had some one-on-ones that we haven’t necessarily won all the time. If we’d won some of those, they would’ve been converted into interceptions.”

On if he’s surprised by tackling struggles vs. Georgia: “Fundamentally we’ve struggled that week on winning one on ones, tackling being one of those, but we’ve put an emphasis on that to get better at.”

On if teams are trying to attack UK on the ground: “I anticipate people will try to attack us in the run game. That’s something we’re harping on getting better every week.”

On if there are specific things you can do vs. run quarterbacks: “There are. You have to be very sound in your pass rush lanes on pass plays. And then on your run plays, you always have to be aware of where he is and be able to get off blocks. Sometimes when the quarterback is involved in the run game, you don’t have enough numbers to stop him, so somebody has to get off a block and make a play.”

On if Dobbs would be similar to Mizzou QB Maty Mauk: “Uh, yes, he’s an athletic quarterback in the pass game. Yep, he is. He’s an athletic quarterback in the pass game that you gotta contain.”

On anyone else from UT jump out: “Well, they’ve got a good amount of players that we’re gonna have to defend, and they’re talented at running back; they’re talented at wide receiver. It’s not just one guy that we’re gonna have to stop.”

On whether Dobbs is dramatically different from last year against UK: “I think that he’s more mature. I think that he feels – or looks like he’s more comfortable. There are some things that he did similar to last year, but he’s grown as a player, too. So there’s a lot of things that he does different, too.”

On if it’s tougher to prepare for a QB who has only really played the last two weeks: “Can be. Can be. You just do what you have and you prepare and then you anticipate things, and you prepare for those, too.”

On UT’s tailback Jalen Hurd: “Like a lot of backs in this league, he has size that goes with speed, goes with change of direction. Those type of running backs, the ones that not only can make you miss or hit you on the long ball but can also run you over, they’re tough to defend.”

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Mark Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“It’s been a good start to the week for us as we’re looking to continue to improve. Looking forward to another great challenge this week as we go on the road and play a Tennessee team this week that I think is a lot like us: working extremely hard to improve. Doing some good things at times and being inconsistent at times. I’m sure it’s frustrating on both of us, but I see a team that is very hungry and plays extremely hard, is a very well coached team. We’ll have our hands full; they’re coming off a bye, so see if we can get down there and improve.”

On play of Patrick Towles: “Like much of our team, a little bit inconsistent. I think he’s done some very good things and some things where he’s a work in progress. So I think inconsistent is what jumps out at you. But overall, if you just look at his whole body of work through the first 10 games, I think he’s done a very good job, just a little bit inconsistent, I’d say. He’s had his moments where he’s looked extremely sharp.”

On if recent games are indicative of injuries, better competition, being tired: “I think it’s a combination of all the things you just touched on. I think it’s the competition level of those teams and what they’re doing offensively. They’re very difficult to stop. I think some of it is matchup issues with us. You know everybody’s banged up. We’re not as deep as we’d like to be. We play guys a lot of snaps throughout the year, sometimes that catches up with you. We’ve got to continue to do a good job of developing our young players and getting more depth in our program, but it is what it is. No excuse there. We need to do some things better and I think some of these teams have a lot to do with it. I think you have to compliment Georgia, offensively last week they really played at an extremely high level and (it) presents some problems. Anytime you can be as physical as they want to be with the talented running backs and the physical front and then throw the ball, and win some one-on-one matchups outside, it’s a bad matchup. That’s part of it. If you look at some of the — Mississippi State and LSU — some of the teams and what they’re doing, a lot of that was about on their average, about what they (average). Obviously, we haven’t played as good as we can or need to, but I think they’re pretty darn good as well.”

On how Demarco Robinson is better this year than last: “He’s a much better player. He’s been much more consistent. He’s one of the guys as we talk about — you hear me talk a lot, you being a local here and around — you hear me talk about the inconsistencies of our team. He is one of the guys on offense (who) you can really count on. You know what you’re getting out of Demarco, and I think that’s the big difference between this year and last year. Last year he was the same way, a little up and a little down. You didn’t know what you were gonna get. With Demarco right now, we what we’re getting out of him, and that I can’t say for a lot of our team. But with him, you know you’re gonna get the effort and the execution, so I’ve been pleased with him and what he’s done.”

On if he’s more proud of Robinson on the field or how he’s grown up off the field: “It’s funny how that works, isn’t it? It correlates the same way. That’s how it works. When you grow up and you mature and you take care of your business of the field, generally you’re more productive on the field. And that’s certainly the case with Demarco, and so I’m very proud of him in both ways, off the field and on. But I guess if you were to ask me, yeah, I’m more proud of what he’s done off the field, because that’s what we’re here for, to help them grow. And he’s really come a long way and really changed his life.”

On if he puts Bud Dupree in a class with some of the best defensive ends he’s coached: “Yeah, I just left Florida State and we had quite a few guys there, Bjorn (Werner) and Tank (Carradine) and Brandon Jenkins and a lot of good players, and of course going back to even some guys at Arizona we had and way back to Miami, I put Bud up there with some of the best I’ve been around and ever had the pleasure to coach or be on their team. I think he is just — if we were just doing what we did at Florida State and he was just putting his hand in the dirt and rushing every snap, his numbers would be through the roof. We are doing an awful lot with him right now because he is versatile. He drops about half the time. He rushes about half the time. So his production as far as sacks and tackles for loss aren’t as high as they would be if we were just playing four down all the time. And I think that will help him at the next level. I think he’s very versatile. I think he’ll be and outside backer. Really, he can do whatever they want him to do at the next level. I really believe that. I think that’s why he’ll be a high pick. And, just very proud of Bud. He’s a pleasure to work with, he always works hard, he has a great attitude, he’s talented and he picks things up very well. So, I wish I had a bunch more like him.”

On his impressions of Hutson Mason: “Yeah, I was just impressed. I think he’s a very good player. I don’t know, just a very good leader, it seems like and just very efficient. So, we had our hands full, that’s for sure.”

On if Georgia’s success was a matchup issue: “I just think they’ve very good. They really are. They won a lot of one-on-ones, and threw the ball well, caught it well, ran it well, did a lot of things well. I was just a little bit disappointed. I think we didn’t make any competitive plays. I want to say we made one, one competitive play. So, again, I think they have a lot to do with that. They played very well. They had a very strong attitude and just executed and played well.”

On if Lorenzo Carter had shown up in scouting Georgia before his big game: “No. Didn’t jump out at me, but I mean, shoot, they got a lot of good guys. It’s hard to keep track of all of them. Didn’t change their scheme much, so.”

On saying his approach last week didn’t work in firing up the team, so what was his approach yesterday when meeting with them: “Well, you know, and the thing is, maybe that’s a little bit out of context. I know what it got to, or who it gets to and who it doesn’t. You know, the bottom line is you gotta get to the whole team. So if you’ve watched us, which I know you have, we come out and we play lights out on one side of the ball or the other. Two weeks ago, everybody was talking about how good the defense played and how poor the offense played, right? At Missouri, right? You know, and played a very good special-teams game against a very good special-teams unit at Missouri. And then we played bad offensively. Then we come back the next week and we play terrible defensively and play pretty efficient offensively and poor on special teams.

“So, you know, if we had the magic formula – if I could wave that magic wand and get to every (one of the) 100 guys, then we’d be ginning. You know what I mean? It’s just – it’s a mystery. It’s frustrating because we’re inconsistent. To beat good football teams, you have to play good – or at least as good as you can – in all phases. We haven’t done that lately, and that’s what gets frustrating. I’m tired of going back and forth where the offense plays well and then the defense and vice versa and all that. We need to be a complete football team, and we haven’t done that. So you’re always reaching for that magic formula. So we’ll see.”

On if he’s using a sixth win and bowl berth as motivation for this team now: “Yeah, I think it’s important. Our team knows it. They know. Our team, they understand that it’s important to get that sixth win. It’s a little bit different this week, because we’re playing a rival. We’re playing Tennessee, we’re on the road, and then we have a bye. So it’s kind of odd to have that bye before your last game of the year, but it is what it is. So I think it’s OK to talk about that. Whatever, by any means necessary, to get our team motivated to go out and play a good game this week, we’ll try it all. Our team knows. They want a sixth win. It’s important. We do discuss it a little bit, but that shouldn’t be your primary motivation. We should be motivated to go out and play because it’s a rival and it’s a big SEC opponent on the road.”

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Neal Brown previews Tennessee

NEAL BROWN
“Happy Veteran’s Day to everybody. Want to thank all veterans there. This goes out to all of John Clay’s followers. No, I want to — In all seriousness, Veteran’s Day, sometimes I think this gets overlooked, but I want to give my appreciation for all the veterans. We talked about it with our players today. Something that definitely in this building we don’t take lightly, so appreciate those who served.

“Wrap up Georgia, some things we did. In the second quarter against Georgia we played as good as we have all year. I thought we did some really good things. We’ve got to figure out a way to get started faster. We kind of had a dull there, a lull there at the first of the game and a lull in the third quarter. I was proud of the kids for fighting at the end. We did finish. Sometimes we have not finished those type games very well, but we did. It’s a sign that we are growing. Obviously we’re inconsistent, not playing as consistent as we would like, but there were some real positives out of that game. Like I said, I thought we did play as good in the (second) quarter as we played all year. The main positive was we were able to run the ball against a team until the Florida game that had played really good against the other opponents running the ball — tripped over myself there. But, I think we ran the ball for 214 yards, which was a positive, something we really felt like we need to do to give us a chance week in and week out. So we ran the ball better. Our o-line played much improved. I think we got credited with three sacks, but two of them were on the tight end so our o-line only had one sack. I was proud of how they protected. Probably as good — and Georgia did a lot of things with their blitzes and all that type stuff — probably as good running back and o-line as we’ve protected in the two years.

“So there were some positives. Sometimes you look at the score and you get lost in what it was, but there were some positives for us. I thought we played improved from where we were at at Missouri. Obviously not pleased with the result at all, but we did make a step last week.

“Tennessee, excited about it, rivalry game. It is. That’s not something we’re trying to hide from. It is a rivalry game. I think it’s up to us to withhold our end of the rivalry. Kentucky has not always done that. But it’s an important game for us. I think Mark talked about it yesterday: we’re 5-5 and the next one we’ve got is Tennessee and then we finish up with another rivalry game against Louisville.

“You look at Tennessee, I think the No. 1 thing that jumps out to me is they’re playing really really hard. I think that’s a credit to their coaching staff. They are. They’re playing hard, and they play aggressive. I think it all starts for them with A.J. Johnson, if not the best player in our conference on defense he’s in the conversation. A guy that will be a high draft pick, and he’s playing with a lot of passion. He not only tackles you, he tries to hurt you. He’s aggressive. He’s been playing — seems like he’s been playing forever. I was hoping he was going to leave and go to the draft last year, but he ended up coming back. But it all starts with him. The other linebacker, No. 34, he’s playing at a really high level also. Interior wise, they’re playing a lot of young guys. No. 9, Derek Barnett, his sack totals are really high. The thing when you’re looking at it as a total on defense, they’ve got a lot of sacks and a lot of tackles for loss. They’re really active up front, and they’ve got a corner, No. 23, that has a lot of length. Some of those long guys have given us issues earlier in the year. So with that, questions.”

On needing to start faster even considering as good as they played offensively vs. Georgia and how nice it would be not to have to play from behind: “I didn’t say good now. I didn’t say good. Better. Better (Laughter). That’s not all defense. That’s us too. We had a chance. We got the ball at 7-0, we had a chance to get back in the game. And that’s been the case. At the start of the year we got off to some really good starts and scored points, got up on people early, and then in the last few weeks we have not started well at the beginning of the game. So we’ve got to figure out — we’ll change some things, how we go about calling the game early and I think that will help.”

On how much of a different it would have made to have a healthy Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet this season: “Well, I mean there’s no question. If we had Alex and Jeff it would have been helpful for sure. You know, and I think you look at the maturation of Demarco (Robinson) in the second year of the offense and how much better he’s gotten, I think you would have seen a similar — you know, I don’t know because Demarco is older, being a senior and all that — but I think you would have seen a similar jump from year one to year two. I’ve been watching our Tennessee game last year, and Jeff Badet played at a high level. I was sitting there watching it last night and I texted him and said, ‘Man, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you. I’m excited about your play. This is your last game last year and you played at a high level.’ So I know this redshirt year will pay off for him. So no doubt it would’ve provided us some depth and we would’ve been able to play some more guys and things like that. In the long run, it will be beneficial to those guys, to get a redshirt. Anytime you can redshirt, it’s a benefit. So when Alex and Jeff get back — hopefully in bowl prep — we’ll see some improvement from those guys.”

On if it was tempting to add Montgomery a couple of weeks ago: “It was. It was and he would have. He would’ve answered the bell, no question. At the end of the day, we just didn’t think it was fair to him. There’d been so many games passed by and he hadn’t gone live, anything live at that point and he still hasn’t. So he’s running around and he’s running full-speed routes and he looks good, but at the same time, it’s a little bit different when people are diving at your legs and stuff. I think it was a smart move to wait until the spring.”

On success with two fullbacks and if he’ll use that in the future: “Yeah, I think so. Jeff Witthuhn came in and did a really good job. He played 19 snaps and graded out really high and we’ll continue to use him. Since Borden’s been out, we’ve been looking for somebody to step up and Jeff did that and gave us some quality snaps. And those two guys, D.J. Warren and Jeff Witthuhn, they cleared some space for those some of those runs, a lot of those runs, actually, especially in the bone set there.”

On Timmons dropping to second team on depth chart: “I think Mark talked about it yesterday. It’s performance based. He can play better. He does some things really well. He does some things really well. When the ball’s in his hands, he’s probably our most elusive guy, he and Boom (Williams) are probably our most elusive guys with the ball in his hands. He’s just got to be consistent. He’s got to catch the ball. He’s had some big drops. I’ve got 100 percent faith in him. He’s lost a little bit of confidence, he can’t do it. He’s got the ability to be a great player. He’s just got to be consistent. He understands that; he understands that. And I think when he gets opportunities this week, he’ll make the most of them.”

On if there’s anything Timmons still needs to figure out: “He can be more detail oriented in his route running. He can. And he’s got to catch the ball more consistently. Those are the two things. He is a lot better player. You can click on the video from last year. I’ve been watching the Tennessee game and he’s a lot better player than he was a year ago. There’s some things he can still do better. He’s playing harder than he was earlier in the year, so that’s coming along. It’s a process. For any great player in high school, they’re only asked to — what we’re asking them to do is totally different than what they’re asked to do in high school — for Ryan and a lot of different people.”

On Joey Herrick: “He plays the game the right way. He plays hard, plays physical, does exactly what he’s coached to do repeatedly and when he’s got opportunities — like the other day, he made a big third-down catch — got straight up the field, got 6 yards after the catch and that’s it. He blocks. He aligns correctly every time. He gives us some stability there.”

On dealing with young players and being able to point to a consistent player: “It’s huge. It’s huge because he’s somebody we can point to and say hey listen, ‘Here’s a guy, he’s a walkon right now. He’s walked on here.’ Look, he plays disciplined. People always wonder what does discipline mean. It means doing what you’re coached to do repeatedly. That’s what it means. He does that. That’s why he’s played a lot of meaningful snaps.”

On if he’s followed what Jalen Whitlow and Dy’Shawn Mobley have done at their new places: “No. No. I wish those guys the best, but no I haven’t really followed them. I know Eastern’s having a good year, that’s about it.”

On Towles staying in pocket: “Yeah, there were three or four times where — two third downs in particular where he jetted out of there — he’s got to trust the protection and it’s got to be blind trust. We’ve had our protection issues at points this year without question, but Saturday wasn’t one of those. We protect the ball, we protected him really well and he got a little antsy and he caught himself looking at the rush and that’s one of the Cardinal sins at quarterback is you can’t look at the rush. And two times, for sure, he glanced down at the rush and got out. And I think it’s a fine line. You don’t want to take that liberty away from him, because a lot of the big plays he’s made are him scrambling around – kind of those, ‘Oh, what are you doing? What are you doing? OK, good, first down. Let’s go.’ So I think you gotta – you want to harness it a little bit, but you also don’t want to take his playmaking ability away. So I think we just point out: ‘Hey, you gotta have trust in the offensive line; you gotta have trust in the running backs. Take your drop, go through your progression; if nothing’s there, then go escape.’ ”

On if this team has the fortitude to come back from four straight losses: “I hope so. I think the question’s there until we do it. I mean, I have faith in them. I like the kids we have. I think we got good kids. I think we got quality individuals in our room. But I think that’s a quality question until we do it. If we bounce back, then yeah, we know the answer to it. If we go out and have a lackluster performance, then the question’s still up in the air. So I want to say yes. I want to believe in my heart yes. But until we do it, I think it’s still a question.”

On what T.V. Williams has to do to play more: “Yeah, there’s just some guys in front of him right now.”

On Jojo Kemp and if the other guys are just playing better: “Yeah, that’s it. And I think Mark talked about that yesterday, too. There’s some guys – Jojo did some really good things in the Wildcat, was playing a lot better at the Wildcat than he was at the natural running back position. And then people have done some things to negate the Wildcat plays that we’ve had. We didn’t use it last week. The two games prior to that, we didn’t have a whole lot of success with it. But no, I’m a fan of Jojo. Right now, (Braylon) Heard and Stanley (Williams) in particular are playing at a little bit higher level.”

On if Kemp is exclusively his Wildcat guy then: “Well, I think it’s a week-to-week (thing). It’s like I said last week: Those running backs are kind of judged each week. I think we were trying to play too many guys early in the year, and I don’t think you can get anybody in a rhythm. So that’s one thing I thought we did a good job of on Saturday; Stanley and Braylon got in a rhythm there. And you’ve gotta feed running backs, and you can’t play four. So that deal is evaluated each week.”

On if he’s had to find roles for the fullbacks or been forced to use them because of tight end struggles: “Well, I think it’s a multitude. We talked about Joey Herrick. Well, D.J. Warren is a kid that’s dependable and he’s accountable and I know exactly what I’m getting. I think I sat in here the other day and talked about, ‘I know what I’m getting from Darrian Miller. I know what I’m getting from Jordan Swindle. I know what I’m getting from D.J. Warren. Joey Herrick’s a guy I know what I’m getting out of. And D.J.’s been consistent. We’ve found ways for him – truthfully, early last year it was because of what our wideout situation was, so we were in a lot more 21 personnel, playing tight ends – Jordan Aumiller and Tyler Robinson and those guys – and a fullback probably more so than I ever had, just because of where we were at with our wide receiver numbers.

“And then D.J. did some really good things. So did Cody Jones, who played a lot last year. And then D.J. had a really good spring, really good fall, and now I’m looking for ways to get him in the game. He’s averaging anywhere from 20 to 30 snaps a game, and that’s probably a good number for him, and he’s been really effective. He’s played physical. He’s got good hands. We tried to leak him out the other day on third-and-1. They covered him. But he’s a guy that I do now – to answer your question – I do, I like for ways to get him in the game. In the Bone set, where we put the fullback, tight end or two fullbacks and the running back, has been one of our better sets.”

On how much UK has missed a reliable tight end this season: “Yeah, well, we need one. We need one. I thought Borden was doing some good things, and then Shields was being effective as the second-team guy getting in there and playing. But we need more productivity out of there. There are some things – I think that’s a priority in recruiting. I think hopefully we’ve addressed that. Darryl Long is a guy that, hopefully we can win this game and get in bowl prep where we can get him (work). That’s huge. That’s the thing that doesn’t get talked about a lot. When you get bowl eligible and you get those guaranteed practices in December, it really helps your program, because all those guys that are redshirting now get a lot – that’s like a whole other spring practice.”

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Third down for what?

There are loads of similarities between the rebuilding effort going on at Tennessee and the one at Kentucky, but another sort of fun similarity in the past few days is that both teams have attracted musical guests.

For UK, it was Kevin Richardson of Backstreet Boys fame singing the national anthem before the Georgia game. For Tennessee, it’s a relationship with rapper Lil Jon.

The Vols’ marketing team took his rap song “Turn Down for What?” and turned it into a “Third Down for What” remake that fills up the stadium on opponents’ third-down plays.

It’s seemingly worked out well for Tennessee, which is holding opponents to 34.8 percent in that stat, 25th in the nation. The hidden stat in that, though, is that the Vols are way better on the road on third down, allowing opponents to convert on 30.9 percent (13th nationally) versus at Neyland Stadium, where opponents are converting on 37.5 percent of their tries on that down, which is 68th in the country.

The rapper visited practice recently, UT Coach Butch Jones said.

“I know our players enjoyed that,” he said. “That’s the power of Tennessee. He was in town and wanted to come over and be a part of practice and all of that. It was great to see.”

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Mark Stoops previews Tennessee

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to another great challenge this week. Heading to Knoxville to play Tennessee, a team that is improving each and every week. Really seemed like they settled in on a quarterback who’s made a big difference. They’ve extremely explosive in the past game and three quarters since he’s taken over. Very well coached team, team that’s hungry, that plays very hard. Had a week off so they will be rested and well prepared. So we’ll have our hands full, looking forward to the great challenge this week.”

On if he decided to throw out the tape of the Georgia game: “No. We obviously as coaches we can never do that. We have to look at the things we do good and the things we did bad and move forward and push to improve. So, we’ll continue to look at those things, and our players will look at pieces of it. The accountability piece has to be there. We’ll watch some of it, but we’ll move on pretty quick.”

On how much of Saturday’s game was Georgia being locked in and how much was their mistakes: “It was a difficult matchup. I said that after the game, and it’s no different after watching the tape. It was a difficult matchup for us. They’ve moved the ball effectively basically on everybody they’ve played. They played extremely well. They were just like you would expect any good team: they came back off a defeat and they were not ‑‑ they were, I’m sure, very mature and good in their approach and came out and played extremely well.

“I think it is fair to say that a good portion of it was them, in that you look at some of the throws that they made and they were some incredible throws to talented wide receivers. I didn’t like our competitive nature. We didn’t make very many competitive plays. When you play a team like that, that are operating the way they are, they’re going to make theirs. We have to make some of ours, and that’s what I was disappointed in but you have to give them credit for a vast majority of the plays because they made some incredible plays with some great throws and catches and they’re always physical and their backs are extremely talented.”

On injury updates for Za’Darius Smith, Blake McClain, Steven Borden and Regie Meant: “Borden has been iffy, he’s tried to come back each week and just hasn’t been ready. Za’Darius, he’s hopeful, he thinks he’ll play. He’s got an ankle sprain. It’s a regular ankle. It’s not high or anything like that, so he should be back. Reggie and Blake are hopeful. They will be out there today. We don’t do much contact on Monday, but they will be out there moving around a little bit.”

On what Regie Meant’s injury is: “He had a shoulder as well.”

On if Ryan Timmons demotion on the depth chart is performance related: “It is. It’s performance related. Ryan does some things extremely well and some things that were a work in progress, so we will continue to work and two and push him.”

On what he’s not getting out of Jojo Kemp lately: “The other guys have run the ball better in practice and in games, and Jojo‑‑ you’ve heard me talk about him quite a bit. You know I really have great feelings for Jojo. I think he’s a team guy at heart and works hard and has a great attitude and really I like Jojo personally. I think he has a positive effect on the team, and he has a role. So the other guys are‑‑ you know, we feel are giving us a better chance in the run game.”

On if in general the sophomores who had to play as true freshmen last year have made the jump he wanted from year one to year two: “It’s hard to just make a general statement about all of them. I think some of them definitely have and some of them are still a work in progress. That’s our job as a coaching staff, and that’s what we’ve got to make sure we’re moving forward as a program and making sure that we will be better this week and we will be better the week after and so on. Gotta keep on pushing forward. We can’t stay the same or take a step back, that’s for sure. You know, I know at times it appears that way, and it is. But I think if you look across the board in college football there is always going to be some up’s and down’s, certainly with a team like ours. We’re not nearly as consistent as I want to be or our fans want to be or our team wants to be. We’re just not a consistent team yet, so we’re going to have some up’s and down’s.”

On if he has to try to keep things in perspective considering five wins is a step up from recent seasons: “Yeah, I do. I do have to find myself sitting back and saying, OK, let’s reevaluate. You guys know the approach I took last week. Obviously it didn’t work, so that’s my problem as a head coach. You can’t continue to do the same thing over and over again and get the same results, that’s for sure. Maybe we’re not to the point where we can ‑‑ I better be careful of my words — not to the point where you can push ‘em through that wall. We’ve got to do the very best we can and find the right mental approach, put them in the right position with coaching and just continue to push and move forward. But you’re right, that’s what I’ve told the team, I told you that after in my postgame, and I’ll tell them again: the fact of the matter is we’re 5-5. We’re a .500 football team and we have two big games left starting with our first rival. We’ve got two big rival games left and let’s put that together this week and go have a great week.”

On if not getting that sixth win would be a big disappointment: “I think you are. You know I’m quite disappointed whenever we lose, no matter who we are playing and what the situation it is. That’s the mentality our team has to have as well. I believe they do. We’re not perfect but we’re going to give it everything we have this week.”

On what concerns you most about Tennessee: “Since they’ve gone to Dobbs as quarterback, they’re putting a lot of pressure on you with the creativity of their run game and he’s thrown it extremely well. They have talented wide receivers as we know. So they’re just doing a nice job, Butch and his staff always offensively have been so creative. They’ve moved the football. Heck, look at the numbers, I want to say 600 and whatever, almost wanna say (650) versus South Carolina and they moved the ball quite well against Alabama when he went in the game. So they’re being very creative with the run game and you’ve heard me talk about it over and over again, anytime the quarterback is involved in run game you’ve got problems. It’s a numbers thing and he can run it and he can throw it, and they’re talented outside so they put up big numbers and created explosive plays.”

On tackling issues from Georgia game: “Yeah, always, tackling is a big part of how you play defensively and position on the ball.

It will be, you know, hard, because they do a nice job of getting the ball in space to some playmakers. You know, even with the running back there, the freshman running back, Hurd, they get him the ball in some space, he’s tough to tackle. They’re a good team and they put some pressure on you with what they’re doing.”

On struggles with tackling and if that’s a frustration: “Sure, yeah. Absolutely. Again, it’s not across the board. Just like we talked about there, you can’t dismiss the improvements that a lot of guys have made, the passion and the energy that some guys are making. We’re not there. We’re not where I want to be or you want to be or anybody else. We’re not a complete football team yet. We’re trying to get there. That is disappointing when you see some plays, whether it’s physical or mental because certain things we can control.”

On the mental makeup of the team after four losses: “It’s a fair question. I don’t know. We’ll see. We address them today and get with them, we’ll see how we respond this week. It will be a challenge, but, heck, just like I said, if you look at it that way, we’re 5‑5 and with two great opportunities left, again, starting with this one. You know me I never talk about two or three or four or five but this week you have the one game and then you have the bye, so it’s a little different with two games left in the three weeks of the season. We’ve really got to get that attitude right and have the a great week and put everything we can into this week and then he we get the bye — the off week — to heal up a little bit and get a little extra preparation time so we’ll see.”

On what tactic you try when challenging manhood didn’t work: “You have to be in the team meeting to see that, they’ll figure it out.”

On if we can or cannot hear it on the street this week: “That’s right, you won’t hear it on the street. But it didn’t ‑‑ I think maybe it did with certain people, maybe it didn’t with others. That’s always the million dollar question, how to get to your team, get to your players. I’ve always felt very comfortable dealing with half of the team, now it’s the whole team, it’s a little different. We’ve been inconsistent that way, it’s been the offense playing well and the defense playing well and trading’ off. We have not put it all together. Of course we’re not a complete team yet, but I think we’re still striving to get there and put it all together and play a complete game.”

On if he changes the road game preparation for this week: “No, no, we really don’t. Again, the record isn’t good. I would like to play with the same mentality we did at the Florida game, just like to see our guys compete at that level across the board. We could all live with the results if we play the very best we can. So that’s what we’re striving to do.”

On Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet and if they’ve healed up well: “Yeah, yeah I contemplated bringing Alex out and playing him but it probably isn’t the right thing to do for him. So ‑‑ just took him a while to get to that point where he could come out and make a difference. He certainly is a guy we’re missing a great deal.”

On when he pondered bringing him back: “It was a few games back where it was getting close. I asked him and to his credit, he was ready to go, whether it’s three games, four games, if I asked him right now I believe he would come play, if he thought it could help us win a game but I don’t think that’s the right thing to do for that young man.”

On Jeff Badet: “He isn’t quite as close. He is back there practicing, but to the point where he can make a difference or play better than the other guys, I don’t know without all the reps.”

On what was concerning and not concerning when he looked at special teams: “That is probably most disappointing to me, because that was the thing that I was talking about — the past couple weeks you’ve heard me talk about — having the toughness and having the attitude to do what you’re asked to do. And I’ve got a certain player out there that did not do that, and that’s a choice. And that’s aggravating. And that’s something that probably bothers me as much as anything, because shoot, man, you know what it comes down to: You’ve got a special teams coach that I’m breathing down his neck. You’ve got all y’all breathing down his neck and my neck and everything else. And everybody’s accountable. We all are, starting with me. It goes right down to the players. And there were some plays there that I thought were not acceptable, and it’s certain guys that I’ve rewarded with scholarships and done some things and put it out there to help him, and he’s making the decision not to help us by doing his own thing.”

On covering Tennessee’s big receivers: “It’s difficult. I think you know, you watch our games, we have some issues out there from time to time with matchups. There is no easy way. There’s teams that can run the ball and they have size outside and can throw it. There’s no way around it. We’ve got to win some one‑on‑ones, we can’t put two guys on all of ‘em. They’ll run it up and down the field until they hit their head on the goalpost. So you’ve got to do what you got to do. You’ve got to win some one‑on‑ones.”

On Jordan Swindle having nine illegal procedure penalties and if there’s a breaking point with that: “There was a breaking point. We pulled him out right after that. You know, thing about that is there is a point. We pulled him out of the game and everything, and he let one play affect the next. He had a bad play the play before, and it was in his mind and it affected him the next play. We just can’t have it.”

On if it’s going to take more than one or two recruiting classes to realistically compete with the kind of teams they’ve played the past four weeks: “Well, I’ll let y’all decide that. I ain’t ever going to make an excuse. It is what it is. We can certainly do things better, starting with me, and that’s the approach we’re always going to take, never going to cave to that. I know this: Those teams have been doing good things for a long time. They’re no dummies. They recruit at a very high level.”

On if some of the tackling issues stem from players playing a lot of downs against such good teams: “It hurts. It hurts. The depth hurts, but we’re trying to get a few more guys in, and we did. Ryan Flannigan played better and we need that.”

On how you handle the freelancer on special teams: “Can’t trust him, can’t play him.”

On why UK hasn’t been as competitive elsewhere on the road as it was in Gainesville: “I can’t put a finger on that. Back to the road again, going back to the last road trip there with Missouri and the approach we took and mentality. Talked about it all week, started on Monday, just talked about ‘We’re going to have a tough mentality. We’re going to create our own energy. We’re going to be prepared and ready to go.’ We were on two sides of the team there, and the third wasn’t. So that’s where it’s back to the inconsistency of a complete team.”

On how Patrick Towles played Saturday: “I thought he did some good things. I think y’all saw that. He got a little antsy at times and got out of the pocket when he maybe didn’t need to. There were some throws in there if he just hangs in there and goes through his progression, he’s going to make some big plays. And I think that’s where he needs to improve and will. We’ve got to continue to teach him and show him those things and just stay in that pocket. Once you get hit a few times, he gets antsy and starts getting out of there, and there were some more plays in there for him.”

On what Boom Williams needs to do better: “Just consistency with Boom, and the mentality with him. He’s a true freshman and he’s got to continue to grow and mature and be disciplined all the time and be disciplined in his runs. We all know he’s talented and can make some things happen, but he’s got to go through his progressions also and makes sure he starts where he needs to start and then let his God‑given ability take off. Sometimes we’re doing our own things right from the start and we can’t do that.”

On if the players are taking responsibility for the struggles: “I think some of them are and I think that’s where we want to push to get everybody. That’s where the frustration comes in and that’s where you got to keep things in perspective. You gotta grab those guys and those coaches and we gotta get some things fixed. But a lot of guys really are trying to do the right thing, we’re just maybe not complete in certain spots. They’re trying to do some good things. I thought overall offensively they responded well, weren’t perfect, but I thought we battled in general against a quality team and moved the ball and gave ourselves a chance. We responded well. Now we just got to get everybody on the same page. So to answer your question, I think some guys are, it’s just that we’re inconsistent again.”

On if he’s talking about J.D. Harmon on special teams: “Yes. You know that’s hard for me to do, too. I have a real hard time singling guys out, but when guys are not doing what we ask them to do consistently and people’s jobs are on the line, that’s not acceptable.”

On if there’s motivation in both teams playing for bowl eligibility: “Not about their end, you know what I mean? It has nothing to do with their end it has to do with our end, not so much to keep them out but more to put us in. So yes, I think if we could use it as motivation ourselves, yeah, I think it should. Again, from our own perspective of winning this game to get six is big for us. What it does to Tennessee I’m not even really concerned about.

“I know they’re – I can see improvement in their team though, the way they recruit and the way they coach, and their teams playin’ hungry, they’re also a good football team even though if you just strictly look at the record you may not understand that but definitely you can see the great improvement in that team, the way they’re coached and the way they play, great energy.”

On if he sees similarities between the two teams: “I do. I do. I think we’ve shown that as well, very energetic, fun‑to‑watch team, team flying around, and then we’ve been inconsistent. I think if you ask them they would probably say the same thing, I don’t know. But, I see a team that’s very, very good, and, again, any compliment to a coach, I see a team that plays hard, you know, a well‑coached team that plays hard.”

On how, as a second-year coach, he’s handling the struggle: “How has it been on me? It’s always a one‑week season. Anytime we lose, you probably sense some frustration. That’s just the competitive nature of all coaches. It’s very hard to swallow, I don’t care who you’re playing and nobody likes defeat. I know our fans don’t. So it’s difficult, but it doesn’t get you down. I mean, I’m – you know, Jen says I walked in here in a good mood today. I’m like, ‘Yeah, I am.’ I’m excited and ready to go and sometimes, I don’t know, you’re not perfect, I was grumpy three, four days last week, I don’t know. It’s hard to swallow but you can’t do that; you gotta rebound, get back at it. I’m excited and optimistic and I hope our team is the same way. We’ve got to go put it all together and have a good week.”

On what now for J.D. Harmon: “We will continue to work with him. You know, at some point you either can’t or won’t.”

On if there’s anyone else on this team in the same boat as Harmon: “I don’t want to get – I don’t want to go there. I don’t want to go there. No, I do like the attitude of our team. Are we perfect? No. Are we going through a tough stretch? Yes. Are we going to start finger pointing and blaming people or are we going to come together and play well. We have choices. That’s what aggravates any coach is when we do have choices. Choices in discipline, choices in how they go about their business. If you’re beat you’re beat, but when you’re doing things and you have mental mistakes and you just choose to be undisciplined, that’s very frustrating.”

On Dobbs for UT: “He’s just playing very well. Number one, he gives you a great athlete. The run game, the Q-run game is obvious, but he’s also throwing the ball exceptionally well. When he led the comeback versus South Carolina, threw some incredible balls in there at the right time and put it in some tight windows and executed very well. I’m sure they’re getting more and more confident with him and I’m sure he’s more confident because he’s played exceptionally well.”

On what he thinks of Tennessee defensively: “They play hard. They’re a good, tough, football team and they just really play hard and it all starts with A.J. (Johnson), their linebacker in the middle, (who) is a war daddy. He’s been around a long time and he’s a very good football player. Love the way he’s played. Talented, plays hard, makes big plays when they need him, physical. Curt Maggitt, known him since high school, recruited him out of high school to go to Florida State. Really like Curt, he’s been around for a while.”

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Stoops: Special teams gaffes, player most disappointing

After a 63-31 drubbing by Georgia, there was plenty of blame to go around.

Mark Stoops was frustrated by tackling problems, by defensive inconsistencies, but the two touchdowns given up by the Kentucky special teams group was hardest to stomach.

“That is probably most disappointing to me, because that was the thing that I was talking about – the past couple weeks you’ve heard me talk about – having the toughness and having the attitude to do what you’re asked to do,” Stoops said.

On the two touchdowns, Isaiah McKenzie’s opening kickoff return that went 90 yards and his 59-yard punt return for a score, Stoops was frustrated with one player.

Initially, Stoops said: “I’ve got a certain player out there that did not do that, and that’s a choice. And that’s aggravating. And that’s something that probably bothers me as much as anything, because shoot, man, you know what it comes down to: You’ve got a special teams coach that I’m breathing down his neck. You’ve got all y’all breathing down his neck and my neck and everything else. And everybody’s accountable. We all are, starting with me. It goes right down to the players.

“There were some plays there that I thought were not acceptable, and it’s certain guys that I’ve rewarded with scholarships and done some things and put it out there to help him, and he’s making the decision not to help us by doing his own thing.”

Stoops failed to name the player the first time it came up, but later, when pressed to offer clarity, he confirmed that it was cornerback J.D. Harmon.

“You know that’s hard for me to do, too,” Stoops said. “I have a real hard time singling guys out, but when guys are not doing what we ask them to do consistently and people’s jobs are on the line, that’s not acceptable.”

Normally the first player to arrive when the ball does, Harmon is the last player chasing down McKenzie on the replays of both scores.

The 6-foot-2 sophomore cornerback, who has played in all 10 games this season and has 28 tackles, doesn’t make it all the way down the field on either play. Kentucky’s defensive players are not available for comments until Wednesday after practice.

When asked what the staff does with Harmon after that, he said, “Can’t trust him, can’t play him.”

Stoops added later: “We’ll continue to work with him. At some point you either can’t or won’t.”

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Stoops’ final thoughts before Georgia

MARK STOOPS
“Good week of practice. Good Thursday. So far so good. We’ll see if we can get out there and improve this week. I like the attitude of the team.”

On Blake McClain’s status: “Yeah, Blake will not play.”

On if McClain has a chance to play the rest of the season: “Yeah. Yeah. I hope that he’ll play next week.”

On how Kendall Randolph played in McClain’s spot last week: “Kendall’s doing some good things. He’ll play well. It hurts a little bit, because they both played in certain dime packages. (McClain’s) a good football player, he’s got some good experience. We’ll miss him, but Kendall will step in and play well.”

On Georgia struggling to stop the run against Florida: “If you watch the game, there was quite a few — much like you’ve heard me talk throughout this year — there was quite a few plays in there where Georgia played lights out. And then there’s some plays where (Florida) got out on them. Anytime you get out on the perimeter, Florida had great backs and a couple times they just got them sealed up downfield and added to some big runs. It’s not like Georgia just sat there and got pushed around, because they did not. I think Florida played very well. Their backs made some great runs. Florida is certainly capable of doing that. I don’t think we’re the same type of team as Florida. You know, to be able to be — they’ve got some very mature, physical backs and some strong guys up front. We’re built a little bit differently. But again, like I always say, we’re always looking for a little bit of balance.

On what his thoughts were when he saw a talent like Bud Dupree when he got here knowing he was inheriting a 2-10 team

Well, yeah we knew about Bud. Coach Eliot recruited him pretty actively at Florida State. So we knew about Bud. Of course, when we got here and started watching all the film we saw the talent in Bud. Obviously, that’s a pleasant surprise to have a player like that. He could play anywhere in the country. He’s been a good leader. It’s very important for him to go out and play well down the stretch. So, just proud of Bud and what he’s done, just like all these seniors. They’ve been a special group to coach.

“It was hard transition for them. They didn’t ask for a coaching change, but they’ve handled it very well. They’ve been very good leaders for us, and they’ve made a very big difference in this year’s team. So hopefully we can go out and play well with their last game here at home.”

On what redshirting players are shining over on the scout team: “Yeah, we like all that group. We’re redshirting, as you know, just about the entire O-line and D-line, which is very helpful. Thaddeus Snodgrass is redshirting; he looks great. He had a chance to play this year as well. So there’s quite a few guys that we’re excited about with that class.

“You know, along with that, we talked about Blake – Drew Barker got hurt as well, so I just wanted to inform you guys of that. He got hurt, was it Tuesday or Wednesday? Tuesday. But he is going to be OK. We were a little concerned with the knee, but it is nothing major. He will miss the next couple, two or three weeks, but he’ll be OK.”

On if Barker will need surgery: “No. We do not anticipate.”

On TE Steven Borden: “Yeah, he tried to come back and he was close and it just kind of reaggravated a little bit, so he won’t be available this week as well.”

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D.J. Eliot previews Georgia

D.J. ELIOT
“We had a good day of practice; kids were into it, flying around, good and physical. It was a good Wednesday, it’s what we’re looking for.”

On how guys responded to last week’s loss: “I think they’ve responded well. They got the message and they came out in practice all week and have focused on being disciplined and doing the little things right, practiced hard and paid attention to detail.”

On what Dupree has meant during rebuilding process: “Bud has been a tremendous leader on top of a great player and an excellent spokesperson for our football team. He’s been the face of our program this year. He’s a guy that is going to be remembered around here for a long time and is a guy we want our players to aspire to be like.”

On other seniors who stand out: “We have plenty of good seniors. I could say an array of names, but we’re very excited about playing in our last home game and hopefully going out with a win for these guys.”

On Jason Hatcher’s development: “I think Jason’s played well at times and sometimes he hasn’t played as well, but he’s progressed and developed at a good rate and I’m expecting big things from him for the rest of the season and into next year, too.”

On Tiller and McClain this week: “McClain has not, but Tiller has been practicing every single snap and has done a fine job.”

On concerns about McClain: “We’re just taking it — we’ll see how it goes. We’re taking it one day at a time and we’ll see how it goes with Blake.”

On if he can miss practices and still play: “I think so, I think that he can get the mental reps and he’s gotten a lot of good reps all season, too.”

On what he wants to see from Elam this season: “Just fundamentals. Matt’s a big body; he’s a good athlete; he’s very mobile for his size, but technique wise he may not be perfect, so this year has been very good for him and the rest of the season I’d like to see him progress in that area.”

On leadership from Josh Forrest: “Josh has, he’s a guy that was not really one of our main players last year and now he plays almost every down, so he leads by example in a lot of ways and he continues to get better every game.”

On biggest change in second half defensively: “The first half, we struggled at third down. We got them in 20 third downs in the entire game, so we got in a lot of third-down situations and then in the first half we didn’t execute them or we didn’t finish plays on third down and then in the second half we did.”

On what changed: “Let me think of something layman here. I know. I know. I think that in the first half there were a few plays that we just didn’t execute on third down, somebody was in the wrong spot. Then there were a couple of other plays in the first half where we didn’t make a play. We were there and they made it and we didn’t and in the second half, we executed every third down call, which was a big part of it. And we made — we didn’t make them all — but we made more in the second half, third down plays.”

On Georgia: “Georgia is very multiple on offense and they can do a lot of things in a lot of different way with different players. So you have to prepare for them and be able to defend them in a lot of different looks and versus a lot of different plays. So that’s quite a challenge.”

On difficulties on first drives: “I think that we’ve been able to get in in all those first drives, like I said with Kyle, in third-down situations. So we’ve got to do a better job early in the game of executing our third downs making plays on our third downs. Our first-down efficiency has been good. It’s our third-down efficiency, especially early in some of those games that hasn’t been well.”

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Neal Brown dissects Missouri, previews Georgia

NEAL BROWN
“I guess we’ll touch base on last week because we have to for a minute. Obviously extremely disappointed in how we played. … Extremely disappointed in how we played. You all watched it. Steal Spurrier’s line: You all watched it. But, it was — we just didn’t play disciplined at all. Really, really inconsistent football. I was hoping — we played well against Mississippi State, we had some issues against LSU. And I really felt like those were some — I didn’t put our kids in the best situations at LSU. We were outmanned at certain positions against LSU, and came back and played really well against the No. 1 team in the country. I thought we were going to kind of be over some of the roller coasters, the ups and downs. Then we just for whatever reason — I’ve been trying to put my thumb on it — we were just really undisciplined at Missouri. It wasn’t necessarily 11 guys at once. It was one guy here on a key play, and (then) another guy. On offense — I think I said this after the game — you’ve got to have 11 guys on the same page doing their job. On defense, sometimes one tremendous player can go make a play. It just doesn’t work that way on offense.

So, we were hard on them yesterday. We’re going to be hard on them all week and probably need to continue being hard on them. Some of that is youth. Some of it is guys just not stepping up and making plays in the moment. We’re going to get through it, and we will play better this week and hopefully this will be the last time that we have to talk about consistency.

But moving on to Georgia, obviously they’re disappointed in how they played, so I think you’ll see two teams playing with a lot of passion on Saturday. They’ve got a ton of great athletes. It’s the same, year in and year out, when you turn them on. Played them at Troy, played them here. Tremendous athletes. Jeremy Pruit does a really good job with their defense. Obviously some similarities to what we do here, similarities to what Alabama does. Our secondary coach, Coach Ansley, has some history with Pruit, and a lot of things we’re doing in the secondary are similar. So there’s some carryover from what we see in preseason camp and what we see in the spring to what they’re going to do.

They’re very talented up front. I think when you talk about the best teams in our league, much like Missouri, the ability of their guys up front. They have length. The Floyd kid is very long. He’s not the heaviest, but he’s explosive. He’s got pressure on the quarterback against everybody they’ve played. The other end, No. 59, is really disruptive. They’re just big, strong guys in the middle. From recruiting that area for a long time, there’s a bunch of strong interior guys in Georgia, and Georgia has done a really good job of getting those. Then maybe two of the best linebackers in our league. A lot of tackles, really active. The kid, No. 5, their nickel — they play him at corner some — he made a lot of plays for them, so they’re doing a really good job. It’s going to be a tremendous challenge. I’m excited to get our kids ready.

We’re only as good as our last game, and unfortunately we weren’t very good the last game. So I’m excited about getting back out there Saturday and proving we’re better than what we showed last week.

On interior offensive line struggles as just a symptom of youth: “Well, you know surprisingly, one of the few bright spots in the game was our two guards really played better. I mean, really did. We got exposed against Mississippi State on some twists and some line movements. We got a lot of hits, and those guys inside played better (against Missouri). Zach West probably played his second-best game. His best game was against South Carolina. Zach West probably played his second-best game, and then (Cole) Mosier and Ramsey Meyers both played better. Now can they play better? Yes, they have to. And ours comes down to technique issues, and it’s still a consistency deal. But when we play with good technique — and I’m talking about the three redshirts, Mosier, (Nick) Haynes and then Ramsey Meyers — when they play with good technique, they block the best people in our league. But when they don’t — because of their lack of experience, maybe they’re not as strong as the guy they’re playing with, maybe their lateral agility’s not as good — when they don’t play with good technique, they get exposed. And for the most part, they’ve played better, but we still got exposed when we played with bad technique.”

On shuffling the depth chart at wide receiver: “No, really, it’s my fault, because I got it (in late). We really made the move going into the Mississippi State game where we moved Javess (Blue) inside, and I didn’t do a good job of getting it in to Tony (Neely) until right before the game against Missouri. But we moved Javess inside to clean it up. He was struggling on some things outside. I thought it would clear it up, and (we were) looking for a little changeup coming off that LSU game. So we moved him inside, he made some big plays against Mississippi State. Made some big plays against Missouri, but he was real inconsistent. He didn’t catch the ball as well. Dropped a couple big balls. And we moved Garrett (Johnson) outside, and I think that’s paying off, too, just to get somebody that could win against man coverage. That’s where we really struggled against LSU, and I think Garrett has the ability to do that.”

On whether he’s surprised that Johnson hasn’t done a little more since his big game at Florida: “Well, he’s shown up at times. His is the same case as a lot of guys that are playing for the first time — whether it’s Stanley (Williams), whether it’s Mikel Horton, whether it’s Dorian Baker, Blake Bone. You were asking about the O-line. When you play freshmen, you got expectations, but also you understand that there’s gonna be some ups and downs. I’m not accepting them, but that’s the way it’s gonna be. And he’s had some ups and downs. He benefited from some things. There’s some things that happened in that Florida game that you can’t dial up. They busted a couple coverages. Now, he made a couple great catches, but they also busted some coverages, and people really haven’t done that since. But he is a guy — he dropped a big ball the other day — but he’s a guy that’s made plays. He made a couple big plays against Mississippi State. He’s continuing to get better. There’s a little bit of transition moving from inside to outside. In general, you’re playing against a better opponent, better man defender, so that’s taken a little bit of time for him, but I do think he’s getting better. I’m not discouraged by him at all.”

On whether he has talked to Patrick Towles about what went wrong and whether Towles has come out of his fog: “I think that’s fair. I think he was in a little bit of a fog. I think he recognizes it. I wish there was a magic pill, and for whatever reason, things didn’t go real well early, and I don’t think he ever really snapped out of it. He was disappointed, I was disappointed. If he would have played better, would we have had a chance? Yes. But a lot of things were out of his control. I’ll give you a couple third-down scenarios. We had a — really a fourth — we had a fourth and 6. We were in really good field position. I think we were on the 34, 35 going in. Receiver’s supposed to take a six-step out cut, he makes a 10-step out cut. Patrick’s sitting there like he’s holding onto the ball. Well, he thinks the guy’s gonna get out of his break at six steps. He does, it’s gonna be a completion and it’s first down, we move on and you say, ‘Man, he really made a good play on third down.’ Another time, backs are supposed to chip. They don’t chip. He moves up, because he has to, gets a sack. He didn’t throw the ball well. I think that’s obvious. I think he had seven or eight what I would call poor throws. Some of them fundamentally, some of them he just lost a little bit of confidence and tried to aim them rather than throwing them. But a lot of times — and this is the case a lot with quarterbacks — when you don’t play very well around them, it’s hard for those guys. And he probably got… too many pats on the back for Mississippi State, because the receivers made some really good plays. And he’s probably getting a little too much of the blame now.”

On whether they’ll try to get Towles and the receivers going early against Georgia: “You know, I think that’s probably been made a little bit bigger than it actually was. I think we had 22 plays in the first half. I think eight of them were passes, two of them were what we call combo plays, that were run/passes that probably should have been (passes). So really 10 of those — 10 out of 22 plays — should have been pass plays. He pulled a couple of those down and ran and then ran the ball on the combo plays, so it kind of skewed the actual numbers a little bit. It’s not gonna be easy, though. They do a good job. They’re gonna disguise coverages. They’re gonna try to put pressure on us. So it’s not gonna be easy, but yeah, we always want to try to get him off to a good start.”

On how much of the problem against Mizzou was that the Tigers could rush four and drop seven in coverage and still get pressure: “It was. And they’re good up front. I know sometimes, y’all are probably sitting there, ‘Well, he says they’re pretty good every week.’ Well, a lot of times — the last three or four weeks — they have been good. They’re really good. That Ray kid, I was reading on Friday night before the game — probably shouldn’t have read this, but — he’s projected to be a top-12 pick in the draft, and he made some plays. I thought Darrian Miller — Darrian was sick, and he’s a kid that I know exactly what I’m getting every week. We need more guys like him. But he played extremely, extremely well in the first half. I don’t know if Ray had any pressures in the first half. The last play of the game, he got a sack on Darrian, but that was just because we had to run so many pass plays in a row and he had our snap count and did a good job. But that was a definite factor in the game, because they did a really good job – they’re grown men inside; they’re strong, they’re fast, they’re extremely well coached. And they were. And they didn’t do anything – and when I say they didn’t do anything, they didn’t do anything that we didn’t expect. They just lined up, beat us up front, and covered us. That’s what they did. And they didn’t need to blitz. We made mistakes. They were going to make us drive the field and make mistakes, and we played right into their hands.”

On whether the players maybe after the MSU game with a … “False sense of confidence? That’s a good question. I don’t know. I hope not. I hope not. I thought Mark answered that question really well in the press conference yesterday. I hope our kids aren’t naïve enough to think that they’ve arrived, because we’ve had a couple reality checks. And by no means does anybody on our staff, within this building, administrative or coaching-wise, think we’ve arrived. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I hope our kids don’t. Because the video doesn’t lie. Even when we were winning games, there were still a lot of mistakes being made. So I hope not. That’s probably human nature to feel a little false confidence, but I hope not.”

On whether he has a go-to player he can count on in those tough situations to get yardage: “I think that’s still a work in progress, honestly. I think there’s some guys on offense that I know what to expect of every week, and there’s a lot of guys that I honestly don’t know what to expect. Some guys that have played really well some weeks and some guys that haven’t. And I’m not surprised by that. That’s not something that I’m caught off guard with. And that’s not an excuse or whatever; I’m just telling you the truth. When you’re playing some young guys, you just don’t know.

“And I talked about Darrian Miller; I know exactly what to expect out of him every week. I know exactly what to expect from Jordan Swindle. I know exactly what to expect from D.J. Warren. The one skill guy that’s been really consistent is Demarco Robinson, and he’s a guy that we can do a better job of getting him the ball when things kind of go bad. That’s something, when we were sitting around talking on Sunday, that’s one point that I think we made and I think we’ll try to do a better job of.”

On how much a running back needs to become that guy: “He does. Our running backs need to play better. That’s not something I’m trying to hide from. Our running backs need to play better, and we’ve struggled the last few weeks. We need to play better. They’re capable of playing better. We talk about a lack of discipline, that position played with an extreme lack of discipline last week – and they’re not the only ones. They’re not the only ones, but we can play better at that position. That’s something that we’re on it; we’re going to get that fixed and hopefully come out and play a lot more consistent and with a lot more discipline at that position.”

On what Boom Williams has done to deserve being No. 1 (and Jojo Kemp to be No. 4) on the depth chart: “That’s a fluid situation. That depth chart could change tomorrow. We’ve got to find a guy that, within a game, can make plays – and can get tough yards. If you look at this league, if you look at the Jones kid or the Taylor kid for Florida, they got tough yards. They rushed for a lot of yards against Georgia, but those were a lot of runs after contact. And we’re not getting that done right now. We missed a lot of cuts the other day. Our run numbers would’ve been a lot better if we’d followed our run reads and played with discipline. So Boom gives us the ability to get big plays. He’s got a lot of ability. But also, to continue to get carries, he’s gotta play with more discipline. That depth chart will be fluid. See how things go this week and how things go early in the game.”

On whether one back needs to step forward: “No, I think the days of one running back are over probably. I think even for the teams that are going to line up in the I-formation. You know, Georgia is a good example. They do a great job in the run game, but they’re not playing just one running back. They’re playing two and three. I think running backs have so many carries in them, and we’re in the position of developing young men (and) I think it’s important that we don’t take all the carries out of them, especially if they’re talented to go on to the next level. So I think the days of just – you want to have a feature back, no question we would like to have one guy rise above the rest and be the starter and be the go-to guy and then have some supplemental pieces off of it, without question. But I think the days of just one guy going out and getting 40 carries, like a Mo Williams did when he was here, I think those are probably in the past.”

On how much missing two weeks (one for suspension, one for concussion) hurt Boom’s development as a true freshman playing: “Yeah, I think that’s a factor, because he missed a lot of practice reps, too, you know? He’s got some ups and downs, and the game on Saturday is a great example. He made some really big-time plays, made a couple huge plays on screens. He gives us the ability to make explosive plays. And Jen asked the question about (go-to) guys; that’s a guy I work to get the ball to. We develop ways each week to get him the ball. Last week, we developed some screens out of the backfield to get him the ball and he made some explosive plays. We had a couple things in the run game that we thought could have been explosive plays and probably would’ve if we’d played more disciplined. But without question, him missing some reps, practice-wise and game-wise, has slowed his development.”

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Kentucky’s departing seniors

It seems early in the season still, but Saturday is Kentucky’s final home game of the season and its last in Commonwealth Stadium as it looks now. The Cats will send off 21 seniors during a pre-game ceremony, including offensive lineman John Gruenschlaeger, who is a junior in eligibility but is forgoing his senior season.

“I love them,” Coach Mark Stoops said. “They’re a special group. They’re a very good group to coach. They’ve been a lot of fun. They really have. I think they’ve really helped us set the tone and change the culture and be great leaders and really trying to do everything they can to help us win.”

Here is the list of honorees before Georgia on Saturday: LB Grant Aumiller, WR Javess Blue, TE Steven Borden, LB Tyler Brause, DT Christian Coleman, S Eric Dixon, DT Mike Douglas, LB Tré Dunn, DE Alvin “Bud” Dupree, OT Teven Eatmon-Nared, OL Max Godby, OL Gruenschlaeger, S Ashely Lowery, OL Darrian Miller, LB TraVaughn Paschal, WR Demarco Robinson, TE Ronnie Shields, LB Miles Simpson, DE Za’Darius Smith, FB D.J. Warren, CB Nate Willis.

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