Monday, November 14, 2016

Video/Transcript: UK Football Coach Mark Stoops Pre-Austin Peay Press Conference Comments

Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening Statement …
“After review of the Tennessee game, again, as I mentioned after the game, there was entirely too many explosive plays. I felt like our team on both sides and special teams did some very good things and then some things that were not good enough to win obviously. We moved the ball very efficiently. We need to get some touchdowns. We cannot turn it over. 

“Defensively, it was all about the explosive plays. There were nine explosive plays in the run game alone. And that is a bad recipe right there. That was a combination of things. There were some new wrinkles and some details we need to fundamentally play better and there were some missed tackles. So all of the above. All of us, whether it is scheme or structure of the defense or missed tackles or the details of the defense, we need to execute better. I think there was nine explosive plays for 272 yards. That is not good. The flip side of that, there was 32 run plays for 104 yards. So it shows that we can do some good things and we have to get back to doing that. When you have massive breakdowns in your defense, again it is a combination of those issues whether it is the structure, the details or missed tackles. We will get those things fixed and get back to work today and really push and grind on the details in all areas of our program. That is why we have improved a great deal. That is why we have gotten better through this season. In this past game, it wasn’t there are particular plays and you are not going to win against a very good team that puts a lot of stress on you anyway as I mentioned. Certainly if they get you in space and you have missed tackles you are going to have issues. 

“Again, the positive is that we did that with them as well with our run game with what we are doing and as physical as we are we did some very good things structurally and our backs made some extremely good runs and our line played very physical. We need to continue to improve in the passing game. Moving on to Austin Peay, we are excited to get back to work today and get that attention to detail that we need and continue to push our program forward. I expect us to have a great practice today and a great week of preparation.”

On any lingering injuries carrying over to this week, particularly Jordan Jones and Jeff Badet …
“There is a good chance they can play this week, I think. That is the where the details can really – we have to be relentless in the way we are doing things and practicing because inexperience in a game like that is also a tough recipe. So we have some guys banged up. We have them. That is just the way it is. It is never good. Mike Edwards has played terrific football for us all year and last week he couldn’t practice one snap and it showed. It showed in the game.” 

On cautioning the team to not look past Austin Peay …
“Again, it gets back to where we are going as a program and what we want to do and it’s about our preparation. That is how I will challenge them. It will be the same every week and today is about them going out there and having that great attention to detail and getting the things fixed that we did wrong. That is how you are going to move forward in the future. So we will challenge them. I don’t anticipate that being a problem. If I have mentioned once, I have mentioned it a 100 times, we are in no position to overlook anybody. We are worried about ourselves and worried about getting better and pushing the program forward. And getting six wins and getting to the bowl game, I said it in the summer and I said it when we were in dire straits, it is very important for us to do that -- for our players and for our recruiting and for the practices.” 

On Saturday being Senior Day … 
“The seniors have been very solid. They are great young men to work with. They have been very good leaders. Again, I said it during the tough times this season, I am not for sure we would have grown if we didn’t have strong seniors. There are not very many of them, but they are good players and they mean a lot to me and this program.” 

On Ryan Timmons …
“Just like you mentioned, through ups and downs, he has been there and out there working and trying to get better. He has made some big plays for us through the years and this year he has been more consistent. You always have part of you that is really a little bit ticked off because you would love to redshirt these guys, you know? It kills me with Marcus McWilson not having another year and Blake (McClain) and Timmons and so on. All the guys. You are really starting to see all of them playing some good football, in particular Marcus. I would love to get him another year, but we weren’t in that situation.” 

On limiting Austin Peay’s explosive plays …
“Structurally we have shown we can play good defense and rush defense. In general, we have to be in great position. That comes down to details. That is executing whether it is run blitz or any type of movement or pressure. When you are getting all the deception in so many different run plays, and Tennessee really did a nice job, I think they had spent some time probably on their bye week getting good runs in there. Anytime you have a quarterback that runs the ball like he (Joshua Dobbs) does and they featured him in our game, it puts a lot of stress on you. So it comes down to execution and doing all the little things right. You get two guys outside in the gap or again we are not spilling when we are supposed to. All the different pressures and all the different looks, it gets hard. When you have explosive (offensive) players you have to be very detailed in your (defensive) assignments.” 

On Jon Toth’s career …
“Jon is everything that you look for in a person in your program. He’s an excellent person. A great student. Solid as a rock, he is there every day. I have mentioned it a bunch this season, he always seems to be the first one in the building and the last one to leave. He is just fun to be around. He has meant an awful lot.” 

On Toth moving to center and why he made that move …
“Again, I think again, you talk about football IQ. He is smart in general, but then I think you can apply that to the football field. That is a big part of it. He is very conscientious. He is going to work and get it done. He is just the anchor that you want.” 

On if the fumble will have any lasting effect on Benny Snell’s confidence …
“No, I do not think so.”

On JD Harmon mentioning there were several times during his career that Coach Stoops could have given up on him and didn’t and what their relationship is like …
“Yeah, again, it is always work. All these guys mean well. JD means well and he has been very versatile. He has been a guy that has done anything we have asked him to do. He can play corner, nickel, dime and safety. You know, you always want everybody to have that detail and play at a higher level. We are never going to stop that. I am going to coach him hard until the last day he is here. And he got it Saturday too.” 

On the senior day list having Alex Montgomery and Ramsey Meyers on it …
“Yeah, Alex had another knee surgery and it was more significant than we thought, so Alex will be in a medical redshirt. He is done playing football. I told him that I would love to keep him in the program. He can come work with us and be a student assistant, in the recruiting room, wherever. He is a wonderful young man and we want to take care of him and have him finish. And Ramsey, I think he is exhausting his eligibility. He will graduate in May. I think he would just assume to let it go at that point.” 

On there being a special connection with this senior class …
“Yeah, there is. Those guys took a leap of faith and jumped in at some very tough times and got thrown into some situations where it was very difficult for them and it has been tough. Again, it is nice to see us be in the position that we have been in. We are not always perfect, but we have come a long way and we are never going to look back. I think those guys have been a big piece of that.”

On the seniors helping the underclassmen ….
“Yeah, it is and they are setting a good example. The nice thing is, as we move forward and I am not sure I don’t have the numbers right in front of me, but I know the difference will be next year’s senior class I am sure more than double. I want to say in the neighborhood of like 25. I don’t know, one of you guys probably know. There are bunch of seniors next year and then our sophomores will be juniors so our next two classes (are big). That is what you want. You want a bunch of experience and some mature players. I am confident we will continue to push and get better and improve in all areas.” 

On what it says about Alex Montgomery that he is still here through that …
“Alex is one of my favorites. He is just a great kid. I have known for a long time. He is a guy that I went to see right away from my years at Florida State and recruiting Ft. Lauderdale. He is just a great young man. I have some stories about his grandma. His grandma was busting my chops when I was recruiting him and one of my favorite recruiting stories. I don’t want to tell you about it, but she was teasing me. She was wonderful. But Alex has had some tough times in his life but he has persevered through a lot of things.” 

On Jojo Kemp …
“It was really good. He really hit a good speed (on his 71-yard TD run at Tennessee). You could tell with some fresh legs that made a difference. I think he ran as fast as he ever has since he has been here to be honest with you, according to his GPS. He hit a high number. It was good to see those fresh legs.” 

On the structural problems defensively against Tennessee…
“It was a combination (of things). There is a lot of misdirection there. A lot. They put stress on you. We talked about it beforehand, they put a lot of stress on you on the perimeter and inside and a lot of it is faking perimeter and coming back and running power plays inside. They influence and do a lot of things. As you’re bringing pressures you’ve got to be very precise. Like I said, there were 32 runs where you’d take (the result) all day. Even with the big runs we had we had 110 yards after missed tackles. You put all that together and you’re not going to win. You take the missed tackles out of there alone and I think you’ve got a good chance. I don’t know what would have happened but I know you can’t have 110 yards after contact.”

On what the poor tackling in the Tennessee game can be attributed to…
“I talked about it last week, a big part of it is position on the football so had we done all the structure things different – and again, you know going into it they’re going to put some stress on you and put you in situations where it’s tough to defend but I think it’s all of the above. If our position on the football was much better we wouldn’t have missed as many tackles and some of it you have to give them credit, they’re very athletic and physical and made us miss.”

On how linebacker Eli Brown played…
“Let me tell you this, it was a tough game for him in general without having that much experience playing that spot. He was put in a bad position. He had some tough things going on with him with a loss in his personal life last week. I love him and he’s a great young man and will be a great player but that was a tough situation for him to have to play significant snaps.”

On how quarterback Stephen Johnson graded out…
“He did some good things. He only made a few really poor decisions so I think he made good decisions. One stuck out that was a poor decision that put us in a bad spot in the red zone but other than that he did some good things. Sure, we’d like to be a little more efficient throwing the ball but that’s a combination of things – giving him some time, getting open and all that.”

On message to wide receiver Garrett Johnson with drop issues…
“Go to work and keep on going. It’s going to happen. Just like the fumbles and all of the above we’ve just got to go back and keep on getting better and keep on grinding. I believe in Garrett. He can play. He’s made big plays for us before and he’s got to get back to doing that.”

On communication with former UK and current Austin Peay player Lloyd Tubman…
“I have had contact with him since he left. I’d really prefer not to comment too much more on that just due to sensitivity to everybody involved.”

On how much improvement Stephen Johnson can still improve throwing this season…
“I think he could make significant improvement. As a team we need to continue to make improvement. We know that in predictable pass situations there are some guys in this league that are tough to block. We’ve got to continue to improve there. We’re run blocking exceptionally well. Pass blocking is still getting better and working at it. Making catches, helping your quarterback out, making difficult catches helps, running the right routes, and Stephen delivering the ball, so it’s always a combination of issues. I think you’ve seen us throw the ball efficiently and we’ll continue to do that. Everybody would like to have perfect balance but I think a lot of people would like to be running the ball like we are and still be able to throw it at a high level as well. That’s what we’ll strive for.”

On running back Sihiem King’s performance at Tennessee and moving forward…
“It was really good to see him get some runs there against a quality team, an SEC opponent, and see him make some big runs and get some reps. I thought we had a nice distribution of snaps for our running backs this past week. It was good to get Jojo in there and Boom have a big day. Hopefully that will bode well for us at the end of the season because we do have some depth at that position. Part of it is our team, we have to get out there and challenge them this week and push for that very reason, you can’t grow weary right now. We’ve got to play our best football down the stretch. We’ve played two tough games in a row and left a lot on the field. Our guys have played extremely hard and competed and come up on the short end but now is the time we’ve really got to push to get better. Everybody is beat up but that’ll be the real challenge, to get them to practice and push and continue to improve.”

On whether he’d like to get backup quarterback Luke Wright some snaps…
“Yeah. I would like to get him some.”

On the 4-4 finish in SEC and progress it shows…
“I think it does (show progress). I told the team after the (Tennessee) game, never will we accept losing but I’m not going to let people take away from the good things we’ve done also. It’s significant I think, right? The fact our players, in losses, were competing at a high level. I know it was very tough as we were building to this point to go on the field where physically it was not a good look. That’s difficult to go coach in that position and I know we’ve closed that gap big time and we’re going to work on that because, as I mentioned, it stood out to me is Tennessee is a big, long, physical team even with the injuries.”

On still fighting in the fourth quarter at Tennessee…
“That’s been our team. We may not be perfect, we all know that, but they’re always striving to get better and work and have that fight. It comes down to execution. Their heart and mind is in the right place, but being detailed, that’s where we’ll continue to grow with good athletes, good players, stronger players as we physically mature and get more depth. Then it comes down to details and execution.”

On whether Alex Montgomery had a third knee surgery recently…
“He had one (surgery) this year, just last week or week before. He’s out right now. We were hoping to go in there and just clean it up a bit but there was another significant tear in there so he had to get his ACL repaired.”

On getting the sixth win and bowl eligibility on Senior Day…
“Absolutely. It’s our next opponent and next opportunity. We wanted to get six two weeks ago but it is important to get six. I’ve never denied that. I said it in the summer and when we were sitting here at 0-2. It’s important. We were never quit fighting or improving and we’ll battle tooth and nail until the season is over.”

On finishing some drives in red zone with touchdowns…
“We’ve got to get back to creating some big plays. That’s what hurt us this past week, they got some big runs and finished them off and we got some big runs and settled for field goals.” 

On changes made in strength and conditioning program…
“I have been happy with (the changes) because I think if you look at us physically, we wouldn’t have been in these last two games and wouldn’t have had a chance to do what we’ve been playing for, to have a winning record in the SEC for the first time in 40 years, if we hadn’t been physical. We lost our quarterback and played physical and we’ve put ourselves in position to win a lot of games. That wouldn’t have happened without being physical. Even defensively, with giving up a rushing total you don’t want to see, a lot of it is not just being pushed around. There is a lot of deception in that run game. Some of it is still just being strong at the point of attack, but some of it is not. We’re in much better position. Are we where we want to be? No. But I think most people would say that. We’ll continue to do that because that’s what our league is.”

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