Coach Mark Stoops – Media Day 2016 from UK Athletics
Transcript from UK Athletics
Friday, August 5, 2016
COACH STOOPS: Alright, we’ll get started. I’m excited to be here. The players are looking good physically and mentally. We’re excited and ready to go. I’ll fire it open for questions. I’m done with the talking season. You know, it gets to this point, we’re ready for practice one. I can’t wait to get out there.
Q. What have you seen from Jordan Bonner? Is he ready to be able to play?
COACH STOOPS: He’s ready to go. He’s only been here a few days. We’ll get out there today and see what kind of shape he’s in.
Q. I know you probably would have loved to have Bonner on campus for summer workouts. But he’s not going to miss camp.
COACH STOOPS: It’s good that he’s here. We wish we had him here all summer to put some weight on him. It is good he’s here day one. He hasn’t missed much. We’ll see what he can do.
Q. How comfortable are you with your punting situation going into the season? What are your expectations for Grant McKinnis?
COACH STOOPS: We’re excited to see what Grant can do. He’s got a strong leg. Again, we’ll see. It’s day one. We’ll see what he can do. We just had a punt install meeting this morning. Hopefully he can get the job done. We have some other options. We’re going to work hard at it, that’s for sure.
Q. Matt Elam looks like a different person.
COACH STOOPS: As I’ve said, you’ve heard me talk about it, he’s worked hard. He wants to be an impact player. He’s lost some weight. He’s trained hard. All of our players have. Coach Edmond and our weight staff have done a really good job. The players have been very consistent and working extremely hard. Matt looks very good. Hopefully that will translate to the field.
I think as you look at Matt, a lot of people have great expectations for him, as we do. But he’s a different kind of player. He’s a guy that’s very good over the center in a zero technique which we play quite a bit of. He does a really good job in there. What he does and what we ask him to do, he’s not always going to be that guy behind the line of scrimmage playing those flashy plays. But he’s played some very good football for us. He needs to be more consistent with the weight loss, playing more, being lighter on his feet, playing more snaps. That will help all of us. He needs to continue to improve and have a great summer.
He’s done well. Sometimes it goes unnoticed. So we have to keep the expectations in check for him. Again, one of the most unselfish players on our team are some of the D-linemen and guys up front. You’re not always going to see the flash, but he’s played some good football and we’re looking for him to play much better this year.
Q. What are you most excited about and what is your biggest fear, not including injuries?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I’m most excited, our team, as we get in there, everything has gone relatively smoothly. We’ve moved into the new building. There’s some kinks to work out there. But I’m most excited about our team. We had a great meeting last night.
I touched on all the things you’ve heard me touch on all summer. That’s basically being able to handle more and do more and practice more. Like last night, we go through quite a bit of administrative meetings. Sitting up on the edge of their seat for two, two and a half hours, whatever it takes, and getting the job done in our football meetings, paying attention to detail, improving the fine strokes that it takes to win at a high level.
I’m tired of working on the broad strokes. Our team has the foundation to handle more, to practice longer, to have good, detailed practices. We’re physically and mentally better. That’s what I’m most excited about. It gives us the opportunity to grind them, to work, to have a camp that we need to have. We’ve had the off-season, we had the winter, we had the spring. We’ve done it. Now we have to have a great camp. That’s what I’m most excited about because they can handle what we’re going to put in front of them. I can’t wait to get out there.
What I fear? I fear nothing. I don’t know. You always have your concerns. You wish you had some depth. You watch football, and sometimes you’re sitting there saying, Oh, no, oh, no. Oh yes. Somebody makes a play. You have to make sure you have enough play-makers and guys that can do things that are between them and God.
Q. Not to be redundant, you talked about depth. That’s one of the things I was curious about. Is that one of the things that you’re going to be trying to work extremely hard on this fall?
COACH STOOPS: It is. We’ve worked on depth, like you know. We’re always going to do that. But everybody is. So we’re no different. We’re really no different than any team in the country. Some have more depth than us, we realize that. Again, you’ve heard me talk about it. You never have enough. You always want more. You always want more strength, more play-makers, more depth. That’s always a work in progress.
Again, we’re better than we’ve been. We’ll continue to build that depth. We will play some young guys in certain spots. We’ll see how that goes.
Q. Leadership on this football team?
COACH STOOPS: The leadership is there. We worked extremely hard at developing the leadership and training them to be leaders. Sometimes it comes natural. When you have the great leaders that have been here in the past in Avery (Williamson). Had a chance to work with him. Danny Trevathan, from what I’ve heard, special guys. Jacob Tamme. Many great leaders that have been through here.
Sometimes it comes naturally, sometimes it doesn’t. Our players, we worked directly with Jason Cummins that works hard with our staff to develop that leadership. Guys are getting better. Just last night we had a great meeting. When I was done, some of the players said they wanted players only. Don’t make too big about it, don’t ask them about it, they just wanted to talk to each other before camp started, before issues arose. I love that. That’s the kind of leadership we need.
Sometimes when you walk into a locker room, we’re not playing as well as we should at halftime, you need guys to be able to jump up and push the right buttons. So we talked a lot about that. I think there’s more of them. We’ll see how it goes.
Q. Mark, have you been around a guy like Courtney Love before who seems to have had such an impact before he’s ever made a play on the field? Also the statue that’s going to go outside the training facility, do your players have any sense of history?
COACH STOOPS: Courtney, he is a special leader. He is a guy that it does come naturally to because he lives it every day. He’s not afraid to be unpopular. He challenges guys the right way. He lives the right way. He’s special. I have seen him for a long time and known him for a long time. That’s documented. You’ve heard me touch on it. But he’s a great kid and a great leader. He’s what you want in the middle of your defense. Let’s hope he plays at a high level and we’ll see. He’s got to prove himself and he knows that. He’s not shying away from that.
With the history, our players know that. Every year we have Wilbur (Hackett) and the guys come back and talk to our team, explain the history, how proud we are of the four players that did make a stand and start and break the color barrier in the SEC. That’s something that we should embrace here in Kentucky. We’re proud of those guys. It’s the right way to honor them. We’re excited about that, our players getting to know those guys more and more every year.
Q. There’s some debate on the national stage about eliminating kickoffs. Where do you stand on that?
COACH STOOPS: I don’t know if that will happen. I don’t think it will happen. But we’ll see. As much as I would like to have that the past couple years on some plays (laughter).
In general, I’m a traditionalist and like the game the way it is, so we’ll see. I don’t have any opinion on it right now till it really gets serious. But I like the game the way it is. You always ask me, Would you do something over? I certainly would if you go back a couple times, yeah.
Q. With that depth that you have this year that’s maybe new, with all the new facilities and different things like that, do you notice a heightened sense of ownership or more of a sense of eagerness from your players?
COACH STOOPS: I do. I believe that was something that I touched on briefly. I don’t want to make a big issue of it, but it is a fresh start for us. We’re in a new building. We’re going to start right now with what we can control. I like that.
But as I told the team, we’re excited about that. They deserve that. Once again, couldn’t be done without Mitch who was in here earlier, Dr. Capilouto and the generous donors here in town. We’ve worked hard to build relationships, I’ve worked hard to build relationships with people in this town. They’ve delivered. That wouldn’t be done if it wasn’t for the generous support of people like Joe Craft and Kelly, in particular who done so much for this university, and many others.
I just had a big fundraiser the other day for the Children’s Hospital. There were 500 men there that I’ve gotten to know in this community that are outstanding members, leaders in this community, and I consider friends. It is a fresh start. We appreciate all the effort that so many people did, the people that worked so hard to get this building done. Like I said, the administration for making it happen, the generous people and the donations that it took to get it done.
It’s a fresh start. We’re excited about that. But none of that matters except what goes on between the white lines. That’s what we’ve got to take care of starting today.
Q. In Louisville a week or two ago, D.J. (Eliot) said the secondary is the strength of the defense. Heading into the camp, what is the strength of the offense?
COACH STOOPS: We have experience. We have some guys that have grown up and played at a young age. We have some running backs that have touched the ball. We have some receivers that have played a lot of football. We have some O-linemen with four returning starters. I feel like we have great depth in the interior in the O-line. We need to continue to develop depth at tackle.
I think that’s the strength. There’s a bunch of guys that have played a lot of football. We’ve taken our lumps, as you know, for three years. Those guys have gained some valuable experience and there’s no replacing that.
Q. Drew Barker, now that he’s the quarterback, how do you make sure that he doesn’t try to put too much pressure on himself or try to do too much, just be comfortable and settle into that role?
COACH STOOPS: I like what I’ve seen so far. Again, we talk a lot about that. Control what you can control, take care of your business, lead by example. He’s done that.
I see a calmness about him. He’s done that way all through spring. He was that way when he was in the competition for another position at the beginning of spring. He was calm and confident. He’s done that all summer. We have higher expectations. He has higher expectations than being the starting quarterback here. He wants to be the starting quarterback and produce and make plays and help lead us.
I see a calmness about him and a confidence about him. That’s just part of the process.
Q. The new corners and safeties that you brought in, the freshman recruits, how can they impact moving forward? What are your expectations of those guys?
COACH STOOPS: I’m very excited about those guys. I really think that when you go out and recruit corners, they’re exactly what you’re looking for. Jordan Griffin, we talked a lot about. I hate to talk too much about incoming guys until I’ve seen them. I’ve seen enough in the summer, I see their work ethic, I know they’re going to be very good players.
Davonte (Robinson) as well. Davonte is a good-looking player that works hard. They have the right mindset. Tobias (Gilliam) as well. I’m excited about the incoming secondary guys. Again, they have the measurables that you’re looking for. They can run. They have size. They play explosive football. But more importantly, they have a great mentality.
Q. I know your expectations are high for all your players. One guy that’s getting a lot of preseason accolade praise is Boom (Williams). Can you talk about going into a third year for him, where you set the expectations for him?
COACH STOOPS: Quite honestly, just consistency. He’s been super explosive. We’ve all seen that in this stadium. He’s shown flashes. A big part of being a running back and having numbers is staying healthy. We have good depth. That’s the nice thing about that position. He’s a guy, as he becomes more mature, as he physically is able to handle it, he can handle more reps. He had to work very hard at conditioning.
Again, capacity. He needs to be able to handle the ball and have a long run and get right back in line and do it again. I think he’s trained to build some endurance and, of course, strength. A big part of strength is injury prevention. Hopefully he can stay healthy.
Q. If you could remember, the first time you felt confident that Drew can do that. Are you concerned about depth behind him at that position this year?
COACH STOOPS: You’re always concerned about depth. I feel good about Stephen Johnson. He really had a good spring. We’re glad we have him. He brings a little different skill set at times, if we wanted to dabble in some different parts of the game.
You saw flashes in Drew from day one. I was there in high school and watched him play. The game I was there, it was a back-and-forth game. You just saw him have that ability to create plays. Those are things that I was talking about earlier that you have to have some special players with instincts, that make things happen.
Essential you have to have great structure, great scheme offense and defense. You have to have some guys that have the ability to make plays. You see it all over the place, whether it’s pro, high school or college, there’s guys that ad-lib, have that ability to scramble when they need to scramble, scramble to buy time, throw the ball down the field and make plays. He has that ability.
He needs reps, needs to stay within the framework of the offense and execute what is there, then do what God gave him the ability to do, which is play football. I’ve seen it since high school. I saw it every year since he’s been here, just hasn’t been consistent enough. Been through that a hundred times. He won the job when he was ready to win the job.
Q. Back in the spring game, you said it was sort of a wait and see with Kash Daniel. What do you see now with him going into camp?
COACH STOOPS: He improved. It was nice he was here for the spring semester because he certainly improved. He’s worked really hard. Work is not a problem for that guy. He has a great work ethic, great attitude. He’s going to be a great asset to this team.
We’ll see where he fits in. He’s still a freshman. He did have the advantage of going through spring, all summer. He looks really good. He’s really loosened up his body. He’s always been strong, physically you could see it, know he has great size and great strength. But I think he’s really loosened himself up and moves around better, which is going to help him. He needs to continue to pick up all the schemes. It’s quite different, as you know, for a freshman.
You never can tell. We have quite a few practices. We have 29 practices before our first game. We’ll see how it goes. I’m excited about him. He’s going to be a very good football player. When? I’m not sure.
Q. Other new guys at linebacker that can add something to that mix.
COACH STOOPS: Eli (Brown) is the big guy. Of course, they’re all new because Courtney has played college football, but he had to sit out last year. De’Niro Laster played football college, had to sit out last year. Eli redshirted. He needs to continue to get some strength and size. He’s an explosive guy.
Again, he needs the reps. He’s a freshman. But those guys are certainly guys that will help us athletically.
Q. Ryan Timmons last season only had 12 catches, which was significantly less than his first two seasons here. Pretty good spring. What are you expecting out of him this season?
COACH STOOPS: The same thing I said every year since I sat here in the pre-season meetings, right? I expect him to have a good year, I really do. Maybe he did not have as good a year as he would have liked, I would have liked a year ago. But this is a new year.
I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s worked really hard. I believe he’ll have a good year. So I hope he proves me right.
Q. Are you missing anybody in camp, whether it’s health or academics or anything?
COACH STOOPS: We’re at full strength. We’re good to go. Academically, summer school just ended. You’re always watching a few guys. By and large, our team has really done a good job academically and physically we’re ready to go as well. Alex (Montgomery) is going to be the only guy. He’s close, but he will not start camp with us in the 105.
Q. You have been recruiting against some of the big-time powers in college since you’ve been here. Now that you have the facilities, stadium, what is the message to high school kids why they should turn down major programs with decades of tradition to come to Kentucky?
COACH STOOPS: We all know you’re going to fight history to some extent. That’s always going to be there. That’s not going to go away.
We embrace what we have here, what we’ve done, what we’ve invested, who we are, who our people are. It’s the same message as it always is: it’s about relationships, it’s about the product we put on the field, how we develop players on and off the field. Now we beautiful facilities to go with it.
As I told them all along, you can have the nicest facilities in the world; it’s about what goes on inside the building, it’s about what goes on inside the white lines.
Q. Talk about what Kobie Walker brings to the table for you.
COACH STOOPS: Talking about Kobie Walker. Kobie is a guy I’m excited to see. He’s healthy. He’s eligible to play, ready to go. Hopefully he’ll help us.
He’s another guy that needs to be more consistent in everything that he does in his life. We’re going to constantly work with him and bring him along. He has some really good talent. Hopefully he’ll continue to be consistent and improve in all areas of his life.
Q. Are you more comfortable now that you’ve been four years here as a head football coach in the Southeastern Conference?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, definitely. I think you’re always more comfortable the longer you’re in a situation. As you know, when you’re involved in an organization this big, there’s so many moving parts all the time. As you’re here, you move into year four, the pieces fall in place and you learn.
There’s always going to be things you wish you could do a little better or you could do better, there’s always things you can learn from. That will never change whether you’re head coach for four years, one year or 20. You’re constantly trying to do the best you can.
I think it’s fair to say comfortable moving forward.
Q. Still have passion moving forward, right?
COACH STOOPS: No (laughter). Give me a break. You should have been in the meeting last night.
Q. You touched on when you were recruiting Drew Barker, going into one of his games. Seems like Kentucky quarterbacks that have played in high school in Kentucky and come to college here have added pressure because the whole state has watched them grow up and develop. Do you think Drew is ready to handle that pressure of being the hometown hero of this college team?
COACH STOOPS: You could label him how you want to label him. I don’t think he wants that label. He wants to be labeled as a quality football player, as a quarterback that’s going to lead this team. I think he’s ready to do that. All the other stuff, that’s for y’all to write and for him not to read (laughter).
The last thing to say, it’s nice this evening and tomorrow, we’ve invited back a bunch of the past players. I believe there’s going to be between 150, 125 alumni. They’re going to come in and see the new facilities, have lunch with our players tomorrow.
I’m very proud of the building. One of the aspects of the building we don’t touch on a lot is the history we’ve really tried to embrace and bring back. We appreciate all the past players, all their efforts, the past teams, the winning teams, the coaches that have done so well. We’ve really tried to embrace that history. We have those players coming back tonight. We want to welcome them. It will be a fun weekend.
Again, I’m really excited to get back out on the practice field. I really enjoy spending time with y’all in all these media events, but it’s really exciting for our team after a year and a half of going through the building, building a team, building a program, it’s really exciting to get out on the field today and start with a fresh beginning and a new start.
I really believe this team has what it takes physically and mentally to take us to the next level. We’re up for the challenge, ready to get started today.
I thank you.