TV, radio, series info for UK at Georgia

Kentucky (4-4, 2-4 SEC) at Georgia (5-3, 3-3)

  • When: Saturday, noon
  • Where: Sanford Stadium (92,746)
  • Television: SEC Network with Dave Neal, Matt Stinchcomb and Kayce Smith
  • Satellite radio: 191 (XM) and 145 (Sirius)
  • Series: Georgia leads 54-12-2 and has won eight of the last 10.
  • Last game: Georgia won 63-31 at Commonwealth Stadium
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Q&A: Mark Stoops previews Georgia

MARK STOOPS
“Just like I said postgame this past week, very disappointed and upset with the way we played versus Tennessee. Going back and looking at the film, the frustration is still there. Inconsistent in all phases and that’s not winning football. There were some good things on each side of the ball that we have to take and build from. A lot of winning snaps, a lot of good snaps, but too many explosive plays. In particular when you look at us defending Tennessee, there’s a lot of good plays on first, second down. A majority of the game plan — that’s what I always look at first and foremost — is structurally, were we set up right, what were the problems? Going into the game, you knew they were going to present problems and put stress on you. I thought structurally we were set up pretty good. I thought it was very defining early in the game, we were successful on first, second down and we were getting aggravated on third down. They were converting on third downs, in particular, third and shorts, third and mediums. On third and longs, we were seven of 10, right around 70 percent, which you should be. But the manageable situations, just like we talked about going in to the game, third and medium, third and short, we didn’t win any of those battles. Offensively, same thing. Not a lot of people had a lot of success early in the game in particular against Tennessee and we didn’t either. We found some rhythm. I thought the turning point again was when we had a long, extensive drive, punch it in on fourth down and get a lead and lose it one play later. Can’t do that, can’t give up 75-yard touchdown passes. We had good pressure. We were a fraction off on getting the sack that we’ve got to get there. We were beaten on the coverage for 75 yards, kind of takes the wind out of your sail. After that, again we were battling back and forth. Critical moment again was when we were down 10, third down and five, have them covered, have them in the pocket. Lose contain, breaks contain and breaks on a third down. That was aggravating. Again, third and second, we’re fine. Next third down, we sell the farm, they hit us on the screen and bust it. The next time you’re on the field, they’ve got 52 points on the board. So that pretty much sums up real quick. They hit us on a screen, punt return, kickoff return, interception return, game over. Can’t win that way. So that’s frustrating, but again, there’s no panic. It’s not good enough, it’s not acceptable, but we know there’s plays there we have to build on. There’s good things on both sides of the ball that we can do and will do. It’s a loss, but again, we can’t let that shake us up and worry us as we move forward.

“Looking forward to Georgia, we know, that’s the beautiful thing, what another great challenge going in and playing at Georgia on the road. A team that I’m sure is upset just like us and looking to go out and — the only way you can erase this feeling within your program is to get a victory. I’m sure they feel the same way, just like we do, to go out and play a very good game this week. It will be another tall challenge playing a team as deep and as physical as Georgia. Certainly when you put on the tape, I’m sure when I go watch them in pregame warm up, they will be everything I think they’ll be, which is big, strong and athletic. Very good football team. The coach has been around for a long, long time and has an awful lot of wins and Coach (Mark) Richt has done a great job for a long time. Very storied, very good program that we are excited to go down there and see what we can do. We’re anxious to get back to work. I don’t see one bit of anything within our program, within our players, after watching that film, there’s not one bit of me thinks guys hearts were not in it. Not at all. Our speeds were good, they were flying around, they were playing football. We’ve gotta do a better job in critical situations. A lot of that comes down to third down on both sides of the ball.”

On Boom Williams status: “Boom will be out. Boom has an elbow injury. It will be week-to-week, but he is out right now.”

On if he’s more all-in on playing freshmen in the secondary: “We’ve been—listen, I could’ve very easily listed him a year ago, but I’m not going to do that to Cody (Quinn) and other guys who have been doing a good job. Cody’s battled his tail off for us and he still needs to do that, and will do that. I have a lot of respect for Cody and the work he’s done. A.J. (Stamps), all those guys, they work their tail off and they’re a big part of our program. They’re doing the very best they can. They’ll all continue to play. Based on results you have to go with who’s producing.”

On what went wrong on the kick return and punt return for touchdowns: “The kick return was the kick. We had one guy out of position and it was the kick. We had one guy go the wrong way. Those are good guys with good blockers. We’ve been strong all year. I have 100 percent confidence in what we’re doing on the coverage units. The guys have been busting their tails. Guys are flying around and covering well and take pride in that kick off unit. When it’s a low line drive kick, we’re in trouble. I think it was a 3.1 hang. To a guy that can run and to guys that can block, we had one guy get out of position and then the rest is history. We had a few guys that needed to defeat some blocks and that’s all I’m going to say about it before I get in trouble. But we’ve gotta do some better things. Defeat blocks no matter where they’re at or what they’re doing to you. We’ve gotta do a better job, but we will. Again, I have great confidence in what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. You’ve gotta kick the ball well. Austin has done the very best he can. He’s been solid, he’s been battling a nagging injury. He’s doing the best he can.

“On the punt, same story. Not a great punt. We did have a couple of guys who will be challenged today in the meeting that didn’t produce like we need them to. We need guys who have a very strong burning desire to get to the football. Across the board I felt like we had that in this game, that’s not the issue, but on this particular plays there will be some guys who will be called out. I’m not going to get into who it is.”

On if he’s still happy on the coaching arrangement on special teams: “On special teams I am. Again, everyone’s going to do that the minute you do that. Heck, if we get a good punt that’s hung in the air and it’s no gain, we’re not even having that conversation, right? Protection has been solid, we’ve been covering good, guys have been busting their tail. That’s not an issue. It’s really not. Do we need to do better? Absolutely. Do we look at all things? Absolutely. When the game’s out of hand would you like a hanging punt that gets guys down there? Yes. You certainly don’t want line drives after you’re down a bunch of points. I can promise you that. It’s human nature to not have that same juice as you do when the game is on the line.”

On Joey Herrick’s status: “Yeah, Joey is out. Right now Joey and Boom will be out this game for sure. Joey, he has a bone bruise. We’re glad that it was not a more significant knee injury.”

On if Drew Barker could have played Saturday: “He could not play this past Saturday. He was not able to play. We do anticipate he’ll be able to play this week.”

On if Barker was at full-strength would he have given any thought to playing him:I really can’t even answer that because he wasn’t. I don’t know. I didn’t think about it.”

On if Darius West’s ankle is still bothering him:It is. We’re hoping he can play this week. I’ll let you know more as the week goes on, but we anticipate he’ll be out there. Again, just like a lot of those guys that are in there, they’re practicing, it’s how effective they are. A lot of that goes down to game time and how effective they are moving around in the game and in pregame.”

On if they’ve missed Melvin Lewis more than they thought they would:I don’t think more than I thought. We knew it was significant when it happened, right? But, it is what it is, so you’ve got to move on.”

On if Matt Elam made progress after making an impact in pass rush against Tennessee: He did. You’re correct in that. I know – again, nobody’s proud when you give up 52 points. But what I look at is the structure of things, the first, second downs and what we’re doing and are they just physically pushing you around all over the place, and that’s not the case. There were several things – again, this is what we have to take from it. I’m not trying to make any excuse at all. I deserve any criticism we get. But we know we can get things fixed.

“The first touchdown, we have a guy in position to make the play that misses a tackle, the quarterback runs in. The long run before half, we get a four technique that gets weeded out of his gap, that gets pushed out, and we were rolling the opposite way so our secondary support was none because we were going the other way. But still, we get weeded out. We get beat on a 75-yard pass. Then the third down, the screen pass, that comes from frustration and desperation because you’ve got to sell the farm because we’re not getting off on the other third downs. And the score is what it is, so you need a stop. You sell the farm, they slip the screen out on us and it goes to the house. Those are things that we know we can get figured out. First and second down defense, we were efficient a lot of the times. Not 100 percent, but a lot for as much stress they put on you and how physical they are and how difficult that running back and quarterback are to get down.”

On what to do to address missed tackles:Well, you need more guys around the ball. It’s not uncommon to watch these guys make people miss. We watch a lot of film, and you know the quality of some of the guys we’re talking about. I think you all write about it or certainly should. You know what you’re getting into when you’re playing some super-talented guys, they’re going to make some people miss. You have to be able to overcome that and have secondary support and have guys get there. You certainly can’t give up a 75-yard pass, the long run, the screen. You can’t give those up week in and week out and expect to win. But some missed tackles are gonna happen. You just got to have other guys rallying to the ball.”

On if A.J. Stamps is physically OK after his injury late last season:Yeah. He’s physically OK.”

On if they did different things with Marcus McWilson against Tennessee:We did. We did. With our outside linebacker situation going into last week, and with (Jason) Hatch(er) not being 100 percent and where we’re at and what we had to do schematically against them, and also trying to put our best 11 in position. And that was playing – Mike Edwards is playing very good football. Mike Edwards has earned the right to be on the field almost at all times. And I think with the decision to either play Marcus McWilson or A.J. at free, or rotate them at free and leave Mike at strong, and then with moving Marcus down lower to the ball, it gave us a bigger nickel that we needed against this team. Blake (McClain)’s done some very good things at nickel. Blake covers probably better at nickel, but with the way they were running the ball and what we had to do it put a bigger guy down low, so Marcus and Blake at the nickel.”

On what he’s seen from Edwards:He’s been a very sure tackler. What I love about him is he’s making loose plays where he’s a middle third safety but he made a play, a tackle for a three-yard gain. That’s having the instincts and understanding of what it takes. When it’s run it’s run, and when it’s pass it’s pass. There’s only so many indicators and how fast people trigger and how much they understand that, that’s instincts. And then getting down there with a burning desire to make a tackle. I thought McWilson really did some good things. There’s still some plays that he needs to do better, that we need to coach up and put us in better position and challenge some throws. But, he had a lot of production – let’s put it that way. He had a lot of tackles. He had some PBUs. I think he had the caused fumble. You know, he had a lot of production.”

On using McWilson to put pressure on the quarterback: “Yeah, we did. Again, we sold the farm on the one where we caused the fumble we brought everybody, and he got there and we got the seven points, which was big. You know, that’s the cat and mouse game: We caught them once or twice on the screen when they were blitzing and got a big play in critical moments. You know, it’s going to go back and forth. When we’re sitting there playing coverage they did a nice job of beating us in our coverages. We when had pressure and we had him covered, he did a nice job of buying time and getting the first down. So, that’s where frustration comes in sometimes, where you’ve got to find a way to get it done and get off the field.”

On how problematic it is where you can’t just line up and expect to get pressure without being creative: “It’s huge. It’s huge. I mean, it’s a big, big part of it. I was about to say it’s the whole deal, but, I mean, it’s a pretty darn big thing. You’ve got to have guys that create that pressure when it’s predictable pass and you can get there. Look at our offense: We had a hard time when it was predictable pass. We had a hard time blocking them when it was predictable pass.”

On if the offensive game plan changes at all with a bigger back in Mikel Horton: “Not much. Not much. No. Certain plays, certain things we do to create space for Boom and his skillset, but the running game in general wasn’t bad. I thought if there’s anything as we all look at things, I think Coach Shannon will tell you as we looked at the film and break it down I wish we’d just gone to some of our power running game earlier because we did have success against them without going sideways and getting behind the chains too much. Just running it, some tough yards, we did that at some point in the game. Again, when you’re not dealing with that many possessions, and certainly when they’re scoring on special teams in different ways it gets away from you real quick. Then you’re reaching.”

On if they found something to hang their hat on in power run game: “I do. I think you always look at what you can do on both sides of the ball and never walk in here and have to say, ‘What is your identity or what you are?’ We went into the game plan last week defensively that we wanted our guys to play fast. You had to have your changeups, but you have to have some simplicity to you with all the misdirection they have and with the q-run game. Offensively, the same thing. But when you start the game three-and-out, three-and-out – and I believe those were the only two we had, but when you start it three-and-out, three-and-out, you’re not getting the opportunities, you’re not getting in that rhythm to run a bunch of plays and get going. There’s always things we can do better, but we have a good idea of who we are and what we can do. We just always try to put our guys in the position to be successful against who we’re playing and what they’re doing as well.”

On what he’s confident they’re good at: “Well on offense, we’ve got to be able to run the ball and throw it off the actions. You know what I mean? Because predictable pass is not where you want to live. Third-and-long is not where you want to live against the guys that are rushing against us and all the exotics and everything else you’re going to see with the o-line and everything else. So you have to be able to create – and that’s the fine line that you run into as a play-caller, because what do you do? Take a shot on first down? Because now you’re second-and-10. And if you don’t get yards, now you’re third-and-long and not where we’re very good at. We had the one good drive when the play was on the line, the 15-play drive. That’s who we are. Now, being able to execute that time and time and time again is difficult, but that’s who we are. You have to be able to run the ball, you have to be able to throw it off the action. We have some wide outs that we do get respect from defenses for. What I mean by that is they try to protect against our wide outs sometimes, and when they do that we have to be able to run the ball. If they’re rolling and protecting and covering our wide outs, you have to be able to run the ball. That’s the game. You’ve heard me talk about it forever as a defense: When you load up in the box, and what am I worried about? Shots. What happened Saturday? You’ve got to play with numbers, and they hit a shot. We haven’t given up many shots this year, but when we gave up that shot it hurt, when they gave up the 75-yard bomb. Again, I thought we had a good play call. We had good pressure coming from the boundary, we were blitzing some guys, and we were fractions off. We’ve got to get that sack, or the ball doesn’t get off. Again, give credit to Dobbs. He eluded that pressure, stepped up and still made a play and still threw the ball down the field. Takes a strong guy to do that.”

On if anyone other than Towles can pick up leadership on offense: “Yeah, all of them can pick it up.”

On leadership: “Yeah, yeah, Patrick’s a big guy with the leadership on there. I think a guy like Jon Toth has a lot of respect from his team. Swindle does; he’s played a lot of football. And I think our wideouts are starting to get that – guys that our guys see that are out there play, playing hurt, producing every week. Guys like Garrett Johnson and Dorian (Baker) can get that role.”

On if it’s harder to deal with as a coach a game that snowballs vs. one where they’re just physically beaten: “Yeah, and there was a combination of it, don’t get me wrong. You could see – that’s why you miss tackles and all those things, because they are physical and big, strong guys. So give them credit. I’m not trying to take anything away from them, because they beat us in all areas. They were more physical than us, they were better-coached and they hit the big plays. I’m just trying to say that I know we can get certain things fixed. And if we don’t – if you can’t cover one-on-one, if you can’t cover shots in a three-deep zone – then you’re not going to win a lot of games. You’ve got to be able to (win) when you’ve got a man on a man. You can’t protect guys all the time. You can’t roll under them or over them all the time (with help). You have to win some one-on-one battles. So I think it’s frustrating either way, I guess. I don’t know what makes it any better. I know we have some work to do, both physically and recruiting, and I know we gotta coach better and I know our guys, when we do have our chances, have to make those plays.”

On if his perspective has changed dramatically from two years ago: “No, no. I know right where we’re at. I’m not going to flinch one second.”

On George Asafo-Adjei: “George is dinged up. He is. He’s got a sprain and he should – he’ll be a guy that I’ll update you throughout the week, but they told me this morning that he will be out there practicing at some point this week. Not today.”

On how hard it is to scout UGA’s offense with so many injuries and changes: “It’s not hard, because they are who they are. Again, they’re physical whoever they have. They have extremely talented running backs and a good scheme. They’re different than teams we’ve played the last couple weeks, but the same in that they have very big, talented guys. And no matter who’s in there, it just seems like another big, talented guy comes in. So we’ll have our hands full, but no, it doesn’t change much in who’s playing quarterback or any of that.”

On if he has any fear the players are worried about making a bowl now, needing two wins with four to go: “I’m sure they probably do. I’m sure they think about it. I hope they use any motivation they can. You know I don’t talk about that, because I don’t want to talk about a number. With four games left, I don’t want to say, ‘Hey, let’s get two.’ What, am I just going to give up on two? You know? So we’re going to go try to get this one, and I hope they feel like, as you say, the last four games, like, ‘Let’s go …’ That was the message kind of after the game, like, ‘Don’t hang your head. Don’t question things. Get back to work. It’s not fun. It’s not OK. We’re not happy. Now what are you going to do about it? Get some sleep, take care of your body on Sunday and get back to work on Monday.’ And that’s going to be the message today. I do feel good about it. I think this team will be ready to do that.”

On how good it would be for the team to recapture the feeling they had at South Carolina: “Well, that’s what I told them: The only way you make this feeling go away is go get a victory. That’s it. But we’re not alone. Georgia’s going to feel the same way, right?”

On if UGA is in the same situation: “I don’t know what Georgia’s in, but I know enough about them to know they have pride and I know they’re going to come back and need a victory and want a victory as well, like we do. Because they have prideful players and a prideful coaching staff.”

On Boom getting worked on by trainers earlier in the game, before the injury that ended his night, and if that first one was the same elbow: “It was something different.”

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Elbow injury to keep Williams out at Georgia

Kentucky’s leading running back Boom Williams is not listed on the Monday morning depth chart after leaving the Tennessee game with an elbow injury. Coach Mark Stoops said in his weekly news conference that the sophomore has an elbow injury and will not play against Georgia.

But the one positive for UK is that Williams is listed as week to week for the rest of the season.

The UK depth chart now lists Mikel Horton, who had a career night against Tennessee with 14 carries for 109 yards, as the UK starter with junior Jojo Kemp and true freshman Sihiem King behind them. Williams has had 551 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries in leading the Cats this season.

Other UK depth chart updates include true freshman Derrick Baity taking over the top spot at cornerback with the backup position listed as Kendall Randolph or multiyear starter Cody Quinn.

Khalid Henderson moved ahead of Ryan Flannigan with an “or” still between them at the weakside linebacker spot. Redshirt freshman safety Mike Edwards is now listed ahead of senior A.J. Stamps, sans “or.”

On special teams, Reese Phillips is now officially listed as the Cats’ holder, who has been doing the job for several weeks now.

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Highlights of Kentucky’s 2016 schedule

The Southeastern Conference released the 2016 schedules for its member schools on Thursday night.

Here are some highlights of the UK schedule:

Kentucky will open the season on Sept. 3 against Southern Miss, whom the Cats signed a home-and-home deal with in April.

UK pays the Golden Eagles $200,000 for the game at Commonwealth and then will play at Southern Miss in 2017. The contract replaced the initial deal with Alabama-Birmingham, nullified when that school dropped football (at least temporarily).

Then, similarly to last year, UK goes on the road for an SEC road battle with Florida, which owns a 29-game win streak over the Cats, followed by back-to-back home games with New Mexico State on Sept. 17 and then South Carolina on Sept. 24.

Kentucky will travel to Alabama for a game on Oct. 1 before a two-game league home stand against Vanderbilt (Oct. 8) and Mississippi State (Oct. 22) before heading to Missouri (Oct. 29). Then UK will meet Georgia at Commonwealth Stadium in the first week of November.

Much like this year, the Cats will have an open date in the middle of the season, with the 2016 one falling on Oct. 15 between home games with Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

After traveling to Tennessee on Nov. 12, Kentucky will play its final home game of the season, a guarantee game against Austin Peay on Nov. 19.

That game, originally scheduled to be played on Sept. 10 was moved earlier this year. The date alteration took the one-game payoff to $375,000 per the contract.

 

Sept. 3 — SOUTHERN MISS; 10 — at Florida; 17 — NEW MEXICO STATE; 24 — SOUTH CAROLINA; Oct. 1 — at Alabama; 8 — VANDERBILT; 22 — MISSISSIPPI STATE; 29 — at Missouri; Nov. 5 — GEORGIA; 12 — at Tennessee; 19 — AUSTIN PEAY; 26 — at Louisville.

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2016 schedule released

2016 SCHEDULE

Sept. 3 — SOUTHERN MISS; 10 — at Florida; 17 — NEW MEXICO STATE; 24 — SOUTH CAROLINA; Oct. 1 — at Alabama; 8 — VANDERBILT; 22 — MISSISSIPPI STATE; 29 — at Missouri; Nov. 5 — GEORGIA; 12 — at Tennessee; 19 — AUSTIN PEAY; 26 — at Louisville.

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Q&A: Stoops’ final thoughts before Tennessee

MARK STOOPS
“It’s been a good week of preparation. And again, just excited about another opportunity. We feel like there were certainly a lot of areas to improve from last week to this week. We’ve addressed them and worked hard to have a great week of practice and improve in certain areas. I feel like things went well and I’m excited about this weekend. It’s a big weekend here in town, and we’re looking forward to Saturday night and hosting Tennessee.”

On if depth chart shakeups lead to more intense practices: “I think anybody that has any pride about the work that they do or about how they play will react a certain way and I’ve been pleased with the reactions I’ve seen.”

On making sure players don’t start thinking about last season during this two-game slide: “I don’t make a point of it. I think I was going on about a lot of things on Monday, and I may have briefly said just like I always would, ‘Last year’s last year and this year’s this year.’ And how we prepare and what we do, win or lose. I’ve talked about that all year. Just because we beat a team last year doesn’t mean we’re gonna beat them this year. No matter what the situation is, again, if we can learn from it, fine. But I’m not gonna go on and on about it or anything like that. Yeah.”

On if he usually opens the floor for players to speak:
”No, it’s not a normal practice. No.”

On if he thought that meeting was important:Yeah, I did. I don’t think it was any real big issue, you know what I mean? If it helps, if it was significant in their minds, good. But it was nothing like some big event or anything like that. Is it important to me? Yeah. Anytime a player steps up and shows leadership skills and wants to say something, they can have the floor. Again, if it helps certain people, I’m all for it. It’s not normal, but I don’t think it was anything – there was no panic button hit or anything like that. Some guys just wanted to say, ‘Hey, let’s focus and let’s have a great week of practice and let’s pick it up in certain areas.’ And that’s what I’ve seen.”

On if Jason Hatcher has practiced this week:
“Yes.”

On if Drew Barker has been available:
”Yes, he’s been available. He’ll be out there. It’ll be a gametime decision how good he is or how much velocity is on the ball.”

On who has stepped up in the leadership role with the absence of Melvin Lewis: “A lot of guys have. Josh (Forrest) has been good all year. Josh would be a guy who I would say has really stepped up.”

On if the team did anything differently in practice to stop Joshua Dobbs: “You try to make sure you have a good game plan and you have good discipline in your rush lanes, and have a good plan overall. You just try to have a great plan and stick to it. With some of that is ad libbing and athletic ability. It’s hard to prepare for certain things.”

On who has been Joshua Dobbs on the scout team: “Just our normal quarterbacks have done it. We’ve just gone with our quarterbacks because he’ll run it and throw it very well as you know. We’ve just had normal preparation there.”

On if he feels like there is a rivalry between Kentucky and Tennessee: “Yeah, I think it’s important. They do. I tell you every week, and that’s how they feel: They know we have a big game every week. So, I don’t know if we need any more motivation to go try to win this game.”

On if he practiced in the stadium to get a feel for the turf in wet conditions: “It was. I was going to go outside regardless of what the weather was yesterday. We got a little moisture, which was good just to get used to the quarterbacks throwing and the receivers catching with some wetness, get used to the surface, the whole deal. It just helped.”

On if he has looked at the 2016 schedule and if he has any early thoughts about it: “I did, but I have no idea what it looks like right now, if you ask me. I certainly did at the time. I have no idea who we play after Tennessee. No, I’m teasing. (Laughter). It took me a second.”

On popping up on some lists of potential Miami head-coaching candidates: “What do you say? I mean, come on, let me just try to go win a game. I mean, I hope you have to ask that question as the year goes on; that means you’re winning games. What can I say? I really don’t have any answer other than I’m trying desperately to win a football game this weekend. I certainly don’t need that question brought up and I don’t know because I probably haven’t won enough to have the question like other people have. I gotta find a pat answer, so maybe I’m just gonna comment on this job. I need to win some football games and then I’ll have more experience in answering that question.”

On defensive TDs last year, not this year: “Yeah, we need to make some big plays. When you have opportunities, you gotta make the most of it. Last year, we were presented with some opportunities, some guys made it and we got it in the end zone. And like you said, we had a record number last year for the school and this year, not so much. It’s just we’ve been in a lot of tight games, there’s a lot of people being smart with the football, like you need to be, so hopefully we’ll get some opportunities.”

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Some extras from Elam interview

There’s this story on Matt Elam trying to get comfortable in his new role as starting nose guard and what that means for the Kentucky defense going forward.

sm_Elam_MattThe sophomore discussed a few other interesting things, too, in his quick meeting with the media on Thursday night, including getting his body ready for 50-plus snaps a game, trying to help friend Melvin Lewis through the difficult times since surgery and learning on the fly.

Being there for a friend

It has been an emotional couple of weeks since his close friend and mentor Melvin Lewis went down with a broken leg against Auburn. The sophomore has tried to find ways to support the senior during this difficult time, including spending the night with Lewis the night after he got injured.

“I definitely want to spend time with him and be there for him, because Melvin’s always been there for me and helped me out,” Elam said. “So I’m definitely not just going to let him do that on his own. Because Melvin’s like one of my best friends.”

‘I was dead. I was tired’

At 360 pounds, Elam doesn’t usually play more than 30 or so snaps a game, so playing around 50 at Mississippi State was a physical adjustment for him.

“I was dead. I was tired,” he said. “I was, ‘Aw, man.’ I wasn’t used to that. But I’ve just been practicing and training harder for that, because I know what it takes now.”

Trying to get more involved in the pass rush side of things and having to get down the field when passes are completed has been an adjustment for Elam as well. In many ways, he’s playing his way into better shape.

“One or two plays could feel like 50 sprints because you’re putting so much into it and adrenaline and everything,” he said. “So it’s way overwhelming, but by me playing more, like at the end of the game, I stayed in for a long series and it didn’t feel that bad. But compared to that first series, I was like, ‘Man, that was horrible.’ But now I know what to expect, so it’s going to be better.”

His defensive line coach was impressed by how well Elam held up.

“For a man who’s that big and the things he does, and he plays 50-something snaps in the ball game, I took my hat off to him,” Brumbaugh said.

Figuring things out

It’s not just the physical parts of the game that Elam has had to get used to, he said. There’s the mental part as well. He’s learning a lot on the fly. Sometimes it’s just about getting the repetitions to figure some things out, he said.

But it wasn’t too difficult overall, Elam said.

“Some calls – we went mostly nickel package, so we were running a lot of calls out of that; it was kind of different, but I feel like I got ahold of it at the end and started running that and just felt better in that,” Elam explained. “At first, it was kind of overwhelming and stuff. But after the first series, that was over with and I just felt comfortable and got a hang (of) it.”

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Q&A: D.J. Eliot previews Tennessee

D.J. ELIOT
“We got to practice in the stadium today which is good. Good to be back in that atmosphere and get on that turf and get used to playing on that field again, considering we’re going to play there Saturday. Players had an upbeat practice. We had a full-padded practice. Emphasis when you’re in full pads is being physical and hitting. Went back to fundamentals and working on a few things that you have to continue to get better at as the season goes on. You can’t let go of those fundamental issues. We worked on that and the players had a good attitude, they’ve had a good attitude all week. We’re excited for Saturday and ready to go.”

On how many snaps Elam played and how well he thought he played: “I think he played around 45 or 50 snaps. He was a very good run stopper. I thought he held his gap well and I thought he shut down the middle, which is the job of the nose guard. Obviously he has things he can get better at. As far as stopping the run, I thought he did a good job and did his responsibility.”

On how the defense compensates Elam’s lack of pass rushing: “I think he has to continue to do better at it and there’s certain things he can do well in pass rush. He can push the pocket and he’s big, so he gets in the way of the quarterback. Other guys have to step up and be more effective pass rushers. Melvin was pretty good at it so now we have other guys to have to step up around him and do a better job.”

On if Dak Prescott’s play is worrisome as it relates to Joshua Dobbs: “We have to do better than what we did on Saturday against a similar type of offense. It’s got to improve. We’re more focused on us than concerning ourselves about the opponent. We’re really focusing on us getting better and improving from our mistakes.”

On what happened on Prescott’s 20-yard touchdown run: “They got in an empty backfield, so they didn’t have any running backs back there. We removed and then—you call different coverages and some coverages you’re covering down on all the eligible receivers and some other ones you’re in zone. That particular coverage, we were covering down on all the eligible receivers. Good call, good execution by Dak and good call by their coaching staff.”

On if he thinks the defense took a step back that game: “I think it was our worst game and that’s obvious. I’m not discouraged about our progress and I’m not discouraged about the future.”

On what he liked about the young players in the secondary: “I felt good about them. I felt good about Darius (West), felt good about Mike (Edwards). I think you’re going to see more of Mike. He’s a very athletic player, he covers very well, he’s very good in small spaces. He’s fast. Made a big play down there in the end zone. He knocked the ball away one-on-one. I’m excited about Mike. Baity did some good things too. Derrick Baity got some playing time. There were others.”

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Some backup QB updates

Some updates on Kentucky’s backup quarterbacks have come in the past few days, with offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson confirming that Drew Barker has been limited in practice by a bruised shoulder.  “If he feels good he’ll go,” Dawson said of the redshirt freshman, who saw his first game action at Mississippi State last weekend. “If he doesn’t he won’t. That’s all I can really tell you about him.”

On the Southeastern Conference teleconference, Mark Stoops was asked about the potential availability of third-string quarterback Reese Phillips, who missed all of spring practice and preseason camp after surgery on his Achilles’ tendon. UK’s head coach said Phillips has made a full recovery and is available to play.

“He’s back practicing full-go, and he’s recovered from his injury,” Stoops said of Phillips, who played in part of the game last season at Tennessee as injured Patrick Towles‘ backup. “He’s feeling good and practicing well.”

It hasn’t been noted on the depth chart, but Phillips has been in the game for UK for several games serving as the Cats’ primary holder.

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Q&A: Stoops on SEC teleconference

MARK STOOPS
“Looking forward to getting back home and hosting Tennessee in a big matchup. Got a lot of things to get corrected and get straightened out this week. Disappointed that we did not play our best football this past week against Mississippi State, so looking forward to finishing this week off and having a great week of preparation and having a great game versus Tennessee on Saturday. We’ll need to play a lot better.”

On how important having players show leadership in stepping up to call for more work during team meeting is to building a program: “Yeah, it’s very important to get the leadership from our players. It was a very good and productive meeting we had on Monday. I showed them a lot of things in the game that we did good and a lot of things that we did poorly and some things we all need to be held accountable for. And the players are taking ownership in that and want more out of themselves and their team.”

On how much stress C.J. Conrad puts on defenses with the way he’s been playing recently: “Yeah, we – you’ve heard us talk about him many times. We really think we have a special player in C.J. He’s getting better and better with every rep. He’s a guy that’s doing a lot of good things, whether it’s blocking or catching. So, yeah, he can put a little stress on some people for sure.”

On if Reese Phillips is available to play: “Yeah, he is available. He’s back practicing full-go, and he’s recovered from his injury. He’s feeling good and practicing well.”

On how unique it is not to play a backup QB until the seventh game: “Yeah, it’s been unique. I wished I would have had some better opportunities to get him in the game prior to that, but it was good to get him some reps last week.”

On the adjustment of moving to the practice schedule with a light day on Thursday and full go on Friday: “I think it has a very positive effect on us. We’ve played seven or eight, whatever it’s been, we’ve played every game, we’ve played at 7 or 7:30, so the difference is if we took our last full-speed rep on Thursday at whatever time, 5 p.m., you’re going a heck of a long time without any full-speed reps if you just walk through on Friday. So that’s the theory behind it to get your body moving the day before a game, to get you moving fast, and get the tempo up on both sides of the ball. I think it has helped us. I don’t think it was really too big of an adjustment for us when we first went to it and I think from coaches who have not done it, whether it be Coach (Shannon) Dawson this year or other people, when they come into the program and they see us doing it, they feel that there’s more work getting done throughout the week doing it this way because Thursday is a good up-tempo walkthrough, so you’re getting a lot of work done on Thursday, then Friday, you’re getting another practice. So they feel like you’re getting more practice and getting more work.”

On if he dials it back as season goes on: “We’ll do the same format that we do. If I do dial back practice it might be on our big workload days, which are Tuesday and Wednesday.”

On Josh Dobbs’ evolution: “Well, I just think he’s a very good football player. You see him getting better and better with every game, every rep. I think he has a great command of the offense and what they’re doing and a guy that’s very comfortable back there. He’s throwing the ball extremely accurate when he’s on rhythm and has time and they’re setting up some very good play action with him and he looks very comfortable with it. Certainly he just has a great feel for the pocket and he’s just one of those guys for a defensive guys, he’s very aggravating because he has a great presence back there. He’s strong. He can run it on designed quarterback runs, but he also has good feel for eluding pressure.”

On Tennessee’s Hurd and Kamara: “I think you have to not know a lot about football if you gave any other answer than extremely impressive. Those are some talented guys. They’re good, strong runners and just the whole package. Jalen Hurd is a special football player and so is Alvin. They’re very, very good players and they put a lot of pressure on a defense.”

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