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Football Coach Mark Stoops Speaks to Media

KENTUCKY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE KROGER FIELD – LEXINGTON, KY. MONDAY, MARCH 4, 2019 MARK STOOPS


Head Coach Mark Stoops


Opening Statement:

“It’s been a really solid off-season for us. To this point, I am really impressed with the work that our strength and conditioning guys have done in the weight room. Guys look bigger, stronger and they’ve worked hard. Guys have been moving around, they were in great shape today. For the first spring practice, they look efficient. I liked the way we practiced and moved around, we looked much more efficient than we were a year ago, which is a good sign. Overall, I feel good. We have a lot of work to do. There are quite a few players that we have to replace, but I feel good about what we have on campus and the talent we have here, and their work ethic and their attitude. So I’m very encouraged, we know there is an awful lot of work to do. It’s good that we have a lot of time, 14 more spring practices and look to improve each and every day. We’ll get back at it (Tuesday), quick turnaround here, this is the only time we go back-to-back all spring, so we go right back at it tomorrow. We’ll get two more practices in before spring break, then we’ll have spring break off, and come back and finish up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, so we’ll have a solid month when we get back. We’ll have a lot of time to be efficient at what we’re doing.”


On whether a depth chart is prepared or not in the secondary…

We do, it’s not worth discussing or telling you who starts. It doesn’t matter, you know there’s going to be a lot of work to do between now and then. They [the players] have a lot of work to do, so there are some guys who have had some experience. With Jordan [Griffin] and Davonte [Robinson], those guys played some quality snaps. Aside from that, in particular at corner, there is a lot of work to do, a lot of inexperience. Same with Tyrell [Ajian], he ended up playing a lot for us last year. I feel good about Yusuf [Corker], and you got (freshman) Mo Douglass in here at midterm, which is good. The corners, they’re the ones that have a lot of inexperience. Cedrick Dort played a little bit as a freshman and ended up getting injured last year. We ended up redshirting him, so he obviously has some experience.”


On the learning curve for newcomers …

“There’s going to be a learning curve. We have a lot of ground to make up. You can’t replace that experience in playing. There’s no replacing game reps, however, we have to do the best we can at putting a lot of pressure on them during this spring. I will say, the nice thing for these players and our team, as I mentioned in one of my earlier press conferences, I notice our team, the habits are better. We’re cleaner, they saw what it looked like to have success and I’m encouraged by that.”


On Jordan Griffin’s position…

“He’s playing safety, but he can move around a little bit. He’s played just safety, but he always could play nickel as well.”


On the possibility of letting down after the success of last season…

“I think it’s pretty easy for us to want more. We lose so many defensive players and offensively we know we want to improve. I think defensively, the hunger is there because these players have a lot to prove. Many of them haven’t done much to this point. They’ve contributed, but not to the point that we’re going to count on them this year. That should be easy for us. It really doesn’t enter my mind, complacency, because we have so much to do. Hopefully, it won’t seep into them and believe me, I’ll continue to pound it through their head, and we’ll be very hard on them, so they won’t get complacent. They have a lot to prove. Offensively, we’re just looking to execute better, we’re looking to throw the ball better. We’re looking for new playmakers to emerge. Weneed that. I am encouraged by what I have seen so far. Defensively, like I said, there’s a lot of guys with a lot to prove.”

On personnel who are emerging as leaders…

“I’m hesitant to talk about that yet. We’ll see how we go through spring. I don’t want to empower somebody that hasn’t earned it at this point. There are some guys that are working through that.”


On Benny Snell setting the tone for the offensive for the past couple years and how it changes moving forward …

“It comes authentically by guys working and players respecting what’s going on and what’s happening. You’re seeing that with the (quarterback) position, with Terry (Wilson), taking over having a full year under his belt, he’s working extremely hard this off-season. He looks much more efficient already and that’s encouraging. “


On the coaching changes on the defensive staff and how that affects the defensive scheme …

“That’s one of the reasons why you look at promoting from within because you want to continue to build on the good things we’ve done, keep that consistency with our staff, with our defensive staff and defensive players. It was a relatively easy transition, because our players have so much respect for Brad (White) and what he’s done and the way he can coach and how detailed he is. It’s a lot of fun. It’s just like when Coach (Matt) House took over, he and I sifting through everything, recalibrating and resetting things. It’s the same way now. That doesn’t mean drastic change with Brad taking over, him putting in the way he sees things and packaging it and the way he teaches it. So, we have a lot of confidence in that and what we’re doing and a lot of confidence in him. It’s been an easy transition to this point. “


On what is the hardest thing about transitioning for a position coach to coordinator …

“It’s just making sure everything starts from the inside out. If you’re a great coach, you’re going to work extremely hard to make sure your unit performs. You don’t let down people within the defense or within the team, so you’re working extremely hard to develop your unit. Also, schematically helping, having a big picture mind as I’ve mentioned many times, he has that and he’s done that and has helped this past year with scheme. For me, just because he hasn’t done it, we know what we want to do, and we have a lot of confidence in him and I’m there. It’s not anything we do that I’m not tuned into, for the past two years, with building the defense. I like it when we have coaches where I can be heavily involved in the big picture things, but they can execute it. That’s the way it is now. With Jon (Sumrall), very pleased to add Jon to the staff, he brings great passion, great energy, once again he’s a guy who is a very good position coach but also has big picture ideas and can see the whole field, and we needed that.”


On what Sumrall brings in terms of recruiting …

“He brings a lot to the table. Again, he’s a guy that can relate to anybody and you can see that. He has high energy and works exceptionally hard to it. He’ll bring us a very experienced, good recruiter.”


On if Coach White will have another potential top-five NFL Draft Pick at outside linebacker …

“We will see, we’ll see. It’s our job to try to develop one.”


On the coaching staff’s job …

“We work really hard. We go back and study ourselves last year and break it down and watch all of our cut-ups and things we were efficient at, things we need to improve and things to complement plays that we had. We are constantly doing that and working to improve. I think you all know that, we do that daily, in season we do it, offseason, we do it. So, we’re constantly trying to find ways to be creative, put our players in a position to be successful what that recipe is going to be. Offensively, I feel very good about what we’ve done and how we’ve done it. Obviously, we need to improve in certain areas and but I feel good about the whole system and the way that we’ve already looked at things to complement our team and be more efficient offensively. If you look at Stephen Johnson between year one and year two, the improvement you can make at that (quarterback) position can be very drastic and then after that it becomes gradual. But I think we can make a huge jump just by being more efficient in the quarterback position and I feel very good about doing that.”


On Landon Young …

"He was practicing. He was out there full go today. We were just in helmets. We will be cautious with him, but he’s out there practicing and looks good."


On the offensive line...

"It is very important. You have heard me talk for years, to be consistent in this league, you have to have a physicality about you. You just do. So, with having a good group of offensive linemen that have played a lot back and with our defensive line and linebackers, our inside linebackers in particular, we feel good about that group. So, that is a good place to start."


On getting three inside linebackers on the field together...

"You are going to need all those guys, plus one or two more. So, that is not an issue. With Deandre (Square) and Chris (Oats), both of them being young, and Kash (Daniel), he got beat up as the year went on, that is a tough position to play. So, we need depth in there. That will be a steady rotation."


On Josh Pascal...

"He is back looking good. He is inside."


On the four-game rule with redshirts helping in spring practice ...

"I think it does (help). I think it keeps guys involved. They are up there working and not just on scout team the whole time. So, I think it helps and just to get a few game reps under their belt also helps. They will have just experience. You hear me talk about many times. Just reps and game reps matter."


On any position changes from last year or changes in spring practices...

"Yeah. I think so. Everybody is in there. No drastic moves on guys as far as position changes. I will keep you updated. Clevan (Thomas Jr.) is the one, I guess. He has gone back and forth and been trying a little bit at defensive back and he is back at wide out right now. So, he is versatile and just moving around. Just trying to find the right spot for him."


On the difference in Ahmad Wagner...

"He is out a little bit right now. He has got a strained hamstring. So, he did not practice today. Hopefully, I don't think he will practice all week. Hopefully, he will be back after spring break."


On what Stoops is looking for out of Terry Wilson...

"Just improvement in all areas fundamentally for him. It starts with him fundamentally playing the game and studying fundamentals and being more efficient and more accurate. They have worked hard. Coach Hinshaw and him have watched a lot of film and were out there today really working on fundamentals. I think being more comfortable in the offense year two and having a full year under his belt is growth. We want that in all positions, but I think you understand the importance of that at quarterback. I think getting the reps under your belt and seeing it and winning 10 games in the SEC is a pretty big deal. We as coaches, we constantly seem to talk about that positions because we know how important it is, but every player, that is what we constantly talk about is just getting better and growth and taking that medicine. I just said that to the team and Josh Allen happened to be out there and I didn't bring it up, but I think they all could see him over my shoulder. But, just talk about getting better. Just incrementally getting better each and every day. Sometimes, I think you hear me talk and think it is just coach speak, but it is the absolute truth. You have to get better each and every day and take the coaching and take the medicine and take the strength and conditioning and the nutrition. Do things right every day and put it on top of another day and have a solid week and the next thing you know, you have a solid spring and now you are going to see growth. That is what we are constantly trying to work on."


On Lynn Bowden Jr.'s versatility...

"I think you are going to see a jump across the board with our wide receiver play. That is a position, we have challenged those guys. But, Lynn coming back going into his junior year, again growth. You want to see that. We would like to get him the ball more and I believe we will, but you also need other guys to step up. You have heard me talk about that and the outside wide receiver position, we have to improve. We have quite a few guys there. They have some experience. At least they were here a year and I think all those guys need to step up. You see some of it. You see Josh Ali. You see Isiah Epps. Bryce Oliver has a chance, Marvin Alexander. DeMarcus Harris is here early. I mentioned Clevan (Thomas Jr.), Allen Dailey, Jr. What I have seen so far is, I have seen some improvement. They have to come back tomorrow and do the same thing. It is like I just went on that rant but same thing. They have to have a good day. tomorrow. They have to have a good week. Then, they have to go on spring break and come back and have a good spring, a solid month. We will talk about it more at the end of the spring, but I think we have some guys that have some talent and we have their attention and I believe they are working at it and hopefully we will see continued growth."


On if he’s had time to celebrate the previous season …

“No, you really don’t. I’m uncomfortable with that to be honest with you. It’s just not the way we’re wired, I guess. It’s just time to focus on what you’re going to do next. Of course, I enjoyed it. I’m never going to take that for granted. I try to enjoy it and appreciate the coaches and players and tell them all the time, but then it’s what are we going to do next and how we’re going to improve. That’s really where your attention needs to be.”


On enjoying the season during the season rather than after …

“I think most coaches will tell you that they enjoy what it takes to put you in a position to win those games. Don’t get me wrong, you’ve seen the postgame celebrations. Those are fun, but they’re short lived. That’s why I do enjoy that. They team deserves it, the coaches do. I think most people will tell you they enjoy what it takes to get there and the amount of work and the respect that we have for what we do. To put your team in a position to be successful is what motivates us.”


On the goal for spring practices…

“Yeah, just trying to continue to improve. Josh [Allen] and I were just talking about that on the field. He said we have to win 11 next year. I said that’s right. If he comes back for another year, that would help.”


On Kash Daniel’s energy …

“He’s authentic. I’ve been fortunate to be around a lot of them and good teams have those type of players and have that type of energy. He certainly does.”


On Jon Sumrall…

“Yeah, I didn’t know much about him. We really had no relationship prior to discussing this job. I’ll leave that between him and me, as far as how it first started.”


On the running back position …

“I feel good about that position. Once again, they had a great example in Benny [Snell, Jr.]. They watched a guy and how tough and how passionate he was about running the football. A.J. has been around, as you know. Kavosiey and Rodriguez are relatively new with a year under their belt and they had a good year. They got some snaps, which was good. Going back to the question John asked, just those carries they had, they were few but I think they help give them some confidence as they head in to this year.”


On progress made from the redshirt players and how to measure that …

“Just think, again, just those reps. Just those few reps. You can probably go to Kavosiey and he didn’t have very many carries, but even those few carries, and those few runs helps. Same with Chris, I think that helps. It really does, because they were in a game. We try to simulate the game situations and put pressure on them as much as we can. That’s hard to do. I think game reps matter so I think it helps. To what extent, I don’t know. I’ve been through this before. You see the carryover.”


On who looks most ready for the spring

“Again, I want to just slow down a little bit. I’ve mentioned a bunch of guys that I believe have ability and I like the way they’re working right now. So, we’ll see. Once again, I don’t want to entitle somebody until they earn it a little bit. I like the attitude of the group. We need some consistency there. Michael Smith came back, and he had a few opportunities to leave and didn’t and chose to be here. That’s important as we continue to develop this group. I think we’re off to a good start.


On Marquez Bembry … “Marquez Bembry is out for the spring, he had surgery on his knee. Sorry if I didn’t mention that earlier, I wasn’t trying to hide it, but I haven’t been in front of you all too much.”


Photo by Jamie H. Vaught

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