Mark Stoops pre CMU


Transcript from UK Athletics

Mark Stoops

Media Conference Transcript

August 27, 2018

Introductory Statement …

“Good to be here. Obviously, exciting time. Ready to get the season going. Excited about the opportunity to play at home in the opener against Central. Very good football team, and we’re anxious and excited to get going. The team has worked exceptionally hard. As you guys know, you heard about Landon’s injury last Friday. Very disappointed for Landon (Young). It was a non-contact injury. He was just working with O-linemen, so non-contact, O-linemen on O-linemen. Working just fit, hands, basic things. Had a weird, don’t know if put his foot in a divot, got hit awkwardly and got a knee injury. Really disappointed for Landon and for our football team. Two years in a row to lose your starting left tackle is disappointing. Again, you guys know, we’ve talked about our depth, and I’m pleased that we have some guys to step up and replace him, but it’s hard to take away that experience. Again, for the young man and for how hard he’s worked, and what a great leader he is, so he’s going to be missed. Just like last year, it hurts your overall depth. You go from feeling pretty darn good about nine-ten guys, to just taking that one spot away and having to move some of the tackles around. Darian (Kinnard) was looking so good at guard, but we’ll put him back at tackle, but the first options at left (tackle) will be with Naasir (Watkins) and with E.J. (Price). We’ll take a look at those two guys to replace Landon at left tackle, so it was a disappointing injury so late in camp. 

“Also, I want to get you an update on Josh Paschal. Josh is getting treatment. He has a meeting this week with his treatment team, and he’s out indefinitely until we tell you otherwise. Also, Coach (John) Schlarman is dealing with some very serious medical issues, as you know, we’ve talked about that before. At this point, John has gone through two rounds of chemotherapy and is handling things with a very strong attitude and strong mindset and is getting the very best treatment he can. Again, just continue to pray for him and our thoughts and prayers are with John and his family, but he is definitely battling a very serious illness. To John’s credit, he’s been at work every day. Just walking over here just now, I saw John walking out of the building with one of our other coaches to go for a little walk and get some exercise. Last Friday, he had chemo all morning, and he was at practice in the afternoon. He’s been a warrior with this, and again, we’re just thinking and praying for him and his family. 

“Also, other big news that you all have been waiting for is the starting quarterback position, and Terry Wilson will open game one as the starter. He’s won the quarterback battle. It’s been an ongoing battle, as you know. I have great respect for all of our quarterbacks. I feel like we have a great quarterback room, and with the other quarterbacks with Gunnar (Hoak) and Danny (Clark), in particular. They have put up a great fight, and they’ve done a lot of things in a lot of ways. They’ve done things to win the job as well. Ultimately, with all of the things that we’ve looked at, we’ve decided on Terry, and we’re excited about Terry and what he’s going to do this week. Again, I would like to thank all of those guys, and those guys have been unbelievable teammates and unbelievable competitors, so that’s where it stands right now.”

On why Terry Wilson was picked as starter …

“I don’t really want to get into all of the specifics what we looked at because more than anything, I don’t want to look at the negatives of the other guys because I have a lot of respect for our players and what they’ve done. There’s a lot of things that we look at. We looked at targets, accuracy, decision making, yards, leadership. There’s many things we look at, and we’re very excited about Terry. But again, I have a lot of confidence in the other guys as well.”

On whether or not he will play more than one quarterback …

“I don’t know. I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I cannot say that right now or to them. Those players understand that. I’d like both guys to play. I think both guys have earned the right to get an opportunity to play, but you understand, and I understand, and they understand that sometimes that’s not a possibility, so we’ll see. I’ve also been very loyal to the starting quarterbacks here, and they have not been on a short leash, and we’ve been very supportive of that until it gets to a point where we feel like we absolutely have to make a change or take another look. I want to be loyal to the starting quarterback and give him every opportunity and not have him looking over his shoulder as well.”

On which freshmen will make an impact this season …

“With the kickers, Miles (Butler) is going to start at kicker, and Chance Poore is a guy that I want to keep ready at all times as well and travel. With this new rule, he has a very strong leg, so should we need a game-winner and possibly to end the half long kick, we could use Chance at that point, and he could keep on working because he’s looked impressive during camp as well with all field goals and PATs. But, DeAndre Square and Chris Oates will play, possibly Marquan McCall, we’ll see about him. Marquan will be one of those guys that we will just have ready and depending on injuries, we’ll see or see how he progresses as well. So, not positive about him. Offensively, Akeem Hayes and Allen Dailey will play, and then a couple of guys we’ll keep warm in that same boat, Keaton Upshaw and Brenden Bates. They’re both guys that will develop and keep up. There’s other guys as well. We’ll see what happens with injuries week to week. It’s nice, like we talked about, just to keep guys active and if we can get them in certain games, we will.”

On when the starting quarterback decision was made …

“We made the decision over the weekend. I brought both quarterbacks in Friday after practice, and I had a face-to-face with them and what I was thinking, and when I was going to make that decision just so they understood where we were at. I told them I would call them over the weekend and bring them back to the office and tell them face-to-face. So, made that decision over the weekend. I think already mentioned that also with the freshmen, Darian Kinnard will play as well. He had been moving some at guard, and now we’ll move him to right tackle, give us some options at tackle.”

On how Terry Wilson makes the offense more dynamic …

“That’s yet to be seen. I think we all know Terry is very athletic guy, and as I told those guys, now it’s about let’s see how we play. We have to go in games and play very well and make good decisions. A lot of times that’s just instinctual. You watch football, and you see guys pull it down and run and not get too antsy. Play within the offense, but then at the right moments, pulling it down and scrambling to buy time to throw the ball, scrambling to make yards. He’s a dynamic guy, but we haven’t seen him full go because he hasn’t been live (in practice) since he’s been here. I’m kind of interested to see how that gear goes in myself, and see what he can kick that thing up to and how fast he can run when he gets in the open field because he’s definitely an explosive guy, but it’s not about that. It wasn’t just about the legs at all. It’s always a piece of it, but it’s about operating within the offense, and you’ve heard me talk for a year now about being improved and trying to build on the passing game as well.”

On if Gunnar Hoak could play Saturday …

“I think I mentioned that already. We’ll see. I’m not going to sit here and say that, and it doesn’t work out and get questioned, question him. It’s not fair to him. He’s gone through a long battle. We’ll see. I think if you watch enough football, at some point in time, he’s going to get his opportunity, and when he does, what he does with it is up to him. We’ve gone through a lot of things. You can look at the last time we went through a quarterback battle. I think it was the second game, and Stephen Johnson went in when Drew got hurt, and he didn’t really give the job back the rest of his time, so you don’t know how these things are going to play out. I’d just encourage all of our players to keep on having a great team attitude. They’re unbelievable kids. The quarterback room right now is incredible, going all the way down to Walker Wood, incredible young man. He’s excited to get some opportunity. He’s on scout team right now because we’re so deep at that position, but that’s good for him because he’s over there throwing the ball and getting a bunch of work done to get better. I’m impressed with all of those guys, and I’d like to see them continue to have that positive attitude.”

On how you’re handling Coach Scharman’s situation, watching him…

“One hundred percent. His family and his health is absolutely first and foremost, and he knows that. We have had conversations along the way, every step of the way. Just last night we talked about his plan and his treatment plan through the year. I absolutely am more cautious than he wants to be because he wants to live a normal life. Fortunately for him, he has been responding very well to the medicine. But, you do not know how that is going to go. That is what I do talk to him about because our season beats you down. We are in here seven days a week, all day and night. I do not want that to affect his health. You have to manage that. He knows that. He has great comfort in knowing there are people here that can pick up the slack. I talked to him about that last night. I will force him to go home and get a little rest or some sleep. But, we will see. Right now, he has been very strong and very fortunate in the way that his body is responding to the medicine and he really hasn’t missed a bit.”

On quarterback qualities…

“I think you see a lot of things during the practices and all the time through the summer. You see characteristics that all of our quarterbacks have. They have great leadership characteristics and our players respect them and they have done things right. As far as the intangibles and the decision making in games, I think you have to see that in games. I have said that to them all along and they understand that as well. Stephen (Johnson) is a great example of that. Maybe not all the time in practice he looked like the best quarterback. But, when we went in the games, he gave us an opportunity to win games and he was a winner and I expect these guys to be the same.”

On advantages and disadvantages of picking a quarterback this close to the beginning of the season…

“It is what it is. Whether it is an advantage or disadvantage, I really don’t spend much time dwelling on that to be honest with you. Just very matter-of-fact with it. We have done the best that we can and I have a lot of confidence in the work that these guys have gotten done and I think it is in the players’ best interest to make sure you do your due diligence and really think it through because these kids put an awful lot into this and it also affects a bunch of people, not just them.”

On an update on EJ Price…

“Well, you guys were at the open practice and he was banged up and that is why he was not out there. Through camp, a lot of players have had a few nagging injuries here or there, but he should be full go this week.”

On Watkins and Price handling the development stage…

“I feel good. I mean, it is hard to replace experience. You know that. Landon (Young) has a bunch of snaps and I am confident in their ability. I am confident in the work that they have done. It is nice that we have a solid experienced group around them. So, we will move on.”

On the tickets sold this year…

“Like always, I am always super appreciative of the people that are coming because we need them and we need the atmosphere and I encourage all folks because we need all hands on deck. It makes a difference. You have heard me say it. It is not just some silly cliché, but it takes all of us all the time. We need a bunch of people to build this program the way that we want to be. So, just take a look around at the Southeastern Conference. Take a look at the venues that we step into. It helps. It helps with recruiting. It helps with a lot of things. We need some people there and I appreciate the people that are coming. I realize that it takes a lot. I understand the complaints and it is expensive and it takes a long time and it is hard to park. There’s a lot of things, so I greatly appreciate it. If you’re coming to a football game, you better be fully invested because it is a long day. It is a lot to do and I greatly appreciate the support.”

On Central Michigan winning bowl games the last few years…

“You know, they finished second in their division in the MAC. They are winning a bunch of games in the MAC and those are good teams. We have been watching them and heck, you watch them and just their crossovers and who they played last year. You watch them on film and they are good, well-coached teams. They have beaten two power-five (teams) in the past two or three years. So, it is not a big deal to them. Believe me. They went up to Kansas last year and put a beating on Kansas. They are used to playing power fives. They are used to playing very good football teams. They are a winning program. I believe they won eight last year, 8-5 last year. So, they are a good football team that is well coached. That is probably what stands out to me as you watch them and you watch a lot of the MAC, they do a very good job of not beating themselves and sticking to what they do and they play it well.”

On his longevity, the challenges of coaching in the SEC, and new coaches coming in …

“It’s the conference.  I think we know. The conference is what it is.  Might as well be the AFC East (laughter).  There’s nobody, I promise you, there’s a bunch of people – athletic departments, administrators, coaches – people that aren’t looking to go backwards. They invest and put an awful lot into this league and I think that’s a reflection of that.”

On team injuries and Coach Schlarman’s method of coaching…
“I think John, you know he is very bright. But, I think you all know him personally and his demeanor and his relationship with players. It is really hard not to like John (Schlarman) and I think that is really important, particularly with the O-line group. I think the O-line in a lot of ways, a lot of times, that kind of sets the tone for your football team and those are big guys and there is a bunch of them and really, nobody messes with the O-line. But, I think John has a great mentality and he is bright in the way he teaches. They understand it. He is very demanding, but he can do it in his own way. He has great comfort in that and he has been very successful. He has been very good. We have a nickname for him on our staff. He is “The Great American.” (laughter) But, he is just a great guy. He is a great person. I think players see that and respect that as well. That goes back years.”

On how the offensive line is dealing with Coach Schlarman’s situation and Young’s injury…

“The group is a bunch of guys that are good leaders. They are an experienced group. That’s the nice thing. That room is very much player lead, we all know John is exceptional and I have gone in there and talked to them a bit. We have kept the group updated with what the plan is, what John is going through. They have been the first to know a lot of these things and I’ve just tried to be upfront and honest with them and John has a great relationship with them. I think they can certainly be inspired by the way John is handling this and the way he is going about his business. How can you be a player out there feeling sorry for yourself when you have a man that’s just gone through five, six hours of chemo and is sitting out there on the practice field coaching the same way he does every day? That’s pretty inspirational to me and I would assume to the players as well.”

On if there is an updated prognosis on Josh Paschal…

“He is meeting this week with his treatment team. He is out indefinitely. I will update you if I have more information on that.”

On if he believes in the cliché “Win one for the Gipper”…

“No I don’t. Here’s the deal. Our players love coach (John) Schlarman and Josh (Paschal). I can tell you this, going back to the first meetings and telling these guys and talking through that you could definitely hear a pin drop. They definitely really want to rally around these guys, and they do. That’s a cliché thing that I’ll let our football team do what they do. We try not to get into too much of that. But I promise you there’s a bunch of love for those guys. We are going to recognize them a bit this season because we’re thinking about them.”

On if Josh (Paschal) is around the team…

“He’s around a bunch. Mostly in the training room getting his treatment. He has been dealing with the surgeries. The most recent one was a skin graft, that wasn’t as invasive as the previous one, but helps heal the bottom of the foot. He is kind of getting through all of that. I think he’ll be more excited when he can be up moving getting around. They are telling him as soon as that heals up he can get in there and lift weights and things like that. I know he’s excited about that.”

On if Miles Butler will do the place kicking and kickoff…

“Actually Grant (McKinniss) may do the kickoffs. Grant has done a really nice job with kickoffs. He has a strong leg.”

On what happens to his walk-on program when he has walk-on players earn scholarships…

“Yeah, absolutely I think it does. We have been pleased, I don’t have all those numbers directly in front of me. Tony (Neely) will probably scratch those up sometime here, but I am proud that we have had quite a few guys who have been walk-ons and have earned scholarships and have contributed to the football team.”

On if he has ever encountered a quarterback (receiver and quarterback) like Central Michigan’s…

“Well, he’s a dual guy. He’s played both. He also played quarterback. I think that’s one of those situations where they had a very good quarterback a year ago, and they had some experience, very talented guy. When he was a backup they felt like he was too athletic to not play him at all. Try to give him another look. But there are also examples of him playing quarterback last year. He’s a dual threat guy, big kid six-foot-seven. He’s a big guy.”

On if they have to pay extra attention to Central Michigan’s running back since they use him in different ways…

“Yeah. He’s a big time player, he really is. Running back, number five, very, very good football player. Jonathan Ward, he’s dynamic. He will play football for a long time. He has great vision, great patience, he’s strong, he’s explosive. He’s a very good football player.”

On how he feels about Boogie Watson taking over the starting role at strongside linebacker…

“Yeah I feel good about Boogie. Boogie is a guy with very good instincts, he’s explosive, and he is a good rusher, also good on his feet. He’s really good at that spot. It’s really a more natural spot for him to play. We’ll see and put Josh (Allen) back to Jack (linebacker/end), but Jack is probably a more natural spot for Josh.”

On helping the players understand how good Central Michigan is …

“Absolutely. 100 percent. Our players know that. I could beat them over the head with words this afternoon, at Monday meeting but it has to come from them. They have to have this sense of urgency and the importance to prepare and play that way. I totally expect that. All scenarios, just like the scenario we will deal with next Monday, the scenario we deal with now, it’s always year to year. This is this year’s football team. We always do learn from our history, learn from good things/bad things we’ve done. We’re always going to be in an environment to learn, so that will be talked about, but this is a new year. This is a new football team and so that’s what my message will be.”

On if he will be more cautious with Jordan Jones because of how long it took him to get back last year…

“It’s time to go now. I know Jordan wants that, so he’s just had a few nagging, frustrating things. Not only the shoulder but then some other issues popping up on him. From what I’ve seen in the past three, four, five days, I expect him to be full tilt this week. I have to be somewhat cautious of reps in the first game. So we do have to have those young guys ready to go.”

On how he is doing with all of the medical issues with people he is close with…

“I’m doing fine. It absolutely does because I care about everybody in our program. I think anybody that personally knows me I think understands that. But I do feel very good about my relationships with these people that you are talking about that are going through issues. That is part of this job. You are going to deal with a lot of good things, a lot of bad things. I think it’s about leading this team and being very steady like I always try to be. I personally am doing great, very excited about this year. Of course the personal piece again just saying prayers for these guys.”

Is anyone helping Schlarman coach the offensive line…

“Yeah. All of our guys are kind of all hands on deck with our offensive staff because we all do understand that there could be a situation where he may need time away. So we’re dealing with it day to day, but coach Gran, obviously being the offensive coordinator and the running back coach, is in on every single protection and every bit of the run game. So that helps as far as everybody being on the same page.”

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