An Interview With:
COACH STOOPS: We enjoyed last night’s meetings. Players look really good. They look excited. They look like they’re in great shape. Excited about the newcomers. It’s nice to be in there with a full room, to have our full contingent. Again, just excited about the newcomers. A couple of announcements, Alvonte Bell and Justin Day are not going to report and probably not going to make it to enroll here at UK. We’re waiting on two more, Nate Willis and Melvin Lewis; we’re waiting on those two. We expect them to be here shortly, how long that takes, we’ll see. Again, a lot of excitement in the air; our players look good.
Q. On Alvonte Bell …
COACH STOOPS: Alvonte is not going to quality to enroll at UK so we’re going to help him get to another place.
Q. On freshmen making an immediate impact …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we’ll see how it goes but I would anticipate, we certainly need them, they make us better right away just with depth, just with practicing and all those things. We’ll see who jumps out at us right away and see how the process goes, I’m excited to see them develop and I know you all want to hear about them and really I can’t wait to coach them to be honest with you. We all want to see how much progress the upper classmen made throughout the summer but we’re excited to be out here and see what they can do
Q. On if there is a certain amount of freshmen that can be expected to contribute …
COACH STOOPS: I really can’t, I mean certain positions were very low in numbers. Certainly wide receiver is one that jumps out at us right away that you would hope some of those guys could come in and contribute. Javess is here, Javess Blue is here and he’ll go through practice today so it will be good to see what he can do.
Q. On Ashely Lowery …
COACH STOOPS: He’s cleared to practice right now so he’s recovering and he’s in a good position to practice, he’ll go through everything, normal activity right now. We’re going to work through that right now; I’m not ready to name a penalty here today. He’s gone through an awful lot. We need to continue to go through the legal process, see what happens. I’m just trying to gather as much information as I can before we make any decision on his future, or suspension or anything like that.
Q. On goals he has set for this season …
COACH STOOPS: To embrace the process. We talked a lot last night and throughout the summer, throughout camp, the message is just simply to embrace the process of getting better. I know that’s boring to here sometimes but it’s true. We can’t determine, the only thing we can do is go out there today and perform well and improve our football team. That’s all they need to concentrate on, is getting better, embracing that process, working extremely hard and laying that foundation.
Q. On what the Davis twins add …
COACH STOOPS: They give us some depth and give us some guys that are good athletes, good players, versatile so we’ll see where they fit in. They won’t be able to play this year as of right now.
Q. On the Louisville area being a focal point recruiting wise …
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, the whole state is important to us and certainly Louisville. We’ll be in there recruiting extremely hard. There is very good coaching and very good football in Louisville so yes it is important for us to get in there and recruit.
Q. On what will make this first season successful …
COACH STOOPS: Just improvement, drastic improvement. I don't know exactly where we're at, we'll see. We are going to go out there and we are going to get to practice today, and we're going to go about our business and we're going to grind hard each and every day to make this team better, and we'll see where that goes. We'll talk about that at the end of the year.
Q. You had to kind of hang up your whistle this summer, being a keynote speaker. When you woke up today, it's football season, what did you think?
COACH STOOPS: I was excited, I really was. To be honest with you, I didn't sleep very good last night. I was ready to go. I think that excitement, that anticipation, we had a great meeting last night with our players, very attentive, and they are excited to get going, coaches are excited. So you know, we're ready to get out there.
Q. Are you seeing good leadership?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I am. I am. I'm seeing good leadership, and one guy that jumps out at me in particular is Avery (Williamson), that really jumps out as a very strong leader and there's others, as well, but there's others. But he's a guy that he's a cut above right now as far as leadership, and that's a good guy to start with.
Q. What about the positivity that this does for the program?
COACH STOOPS: That's a good point. I have been proud of our guys for the most part. We are not perfect by any stretch, but our guys have done a good job of trying to stay out of trouble. When you have 105 guys in that room, we are not going to be perfect. But the guys have done a good job.
There has been a positive buzz. Yeah, again, I think our players, again, they feel that. They feel the positive energy. They know there's a lot of people that have great interest in what they are doing. They feel the support throughout the state and they are excited. They want to go out and produce for the people of this state, for themselves, for this university so we can have a lot of pride in what we're doing. So I think that's a good part of what's going on.
Q. On the tight end position …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it is a good position and we have some depth. A couple of those guys are banged up or had issues in the past with backs and so on, and so it's good that we have good number there, and it gives us a chance to be a little more versatile. Neal will be up here in a little bit; you can grill him on that.
But it gives us a chance to do some different things. You know, we will do that and we will do that as a football team. We will adapt to the best players we have and be able to be multiple in what we're doing.
Q. Talk about in general being happy to have a full room and is Tommy Mainord the happiest guy? How does that affect your ability to practice?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it will, it will affect our ability to practice and it's great to have that depth. And with the practice, you guys will get in there at some point and be able to see that, but we are going to do two separate practices. We call it two spots. Basically ones and threes will be on one field, and twos and fours will be on another, so there's a whole bunch of reps going on, so we need that depth.
Q. What have the quarterbacks done since the last time you saw them ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: I think just managing the offense, being in command of that huddle; the operation, the speed at which we are doing things and obviously leadership.
Q. Will you make changes in the spring about how much time you spend on the defensive end, offense end or special teams?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it will change a little bit. I will be more involved with the defense as far as defensive meetings, the preparation, and being out on the field and being involved. I will certainly have my presence in the special teams meetings and in the offensive meetings, as well, but I will ‑‑ I will be involved.
Q. On the talk about possible rule changes with hurry-up offenses …
COACH STOOPS: My staff has been ‑‑ the rules are what they are. So we are going to play by the rules that we have.
You know, obviously it's a little bit interesting for myself, being a defensive coach my whole career and hiring a person offensively who is going to run the tempo.
So I understand the good and the bad that goes with it, and it's our decision to go with that style because it gives us the best opportunity to move the football and to ultimately win games.
The bad is just when it doesn't go well that your defense is going to be out there more. That's a fact. And you know, so sometimes the numbers lean that way, but we are in a winning business. The bottom line is to try to win games.
So the rules are what they are. So I certainly don't have the time or the staff to do a bunch of research to see with injuries and all that. That's for somebody else to make that decision, not me.
Q. Can you talk about letting some of the veteran guys know that they are your guys now? How do you go about doing that and how do you go about building relationships with the guys?
COACH STOOPS: It's just about trust and the only way you build trust is you earn it, and by the work that we do and what we're doing and the relationships that we are building.
We are not there yet. We are not perfect. We are still working on that but we'll get closer as this camp goes on.
Q. On Nate Willis eligibility …
COACH STOOPS: He has finished up all his classes. So we're waiting on that, yeah. Hopefully soon. Hopefully soon.
Q. As a first time head coach do you have any experience about being patient with yourself, knowing you can only do so much?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, daily, it is, it's hard. We have preached that to the players, and it's true. You know, we are going to build this program brick by brick, and we have to lay the foundation. We have to do our work each and every day. There's no shortcuts. I said that from day one. And you know, we want to go to work every day, give an honest day's work and we expect our players to do the same thing and just lay the foundation and get better. That's all we can control.
Q. What kind of look do you think your defense will have?
COACH STOOPS: Well, you know, we'd better have some toughness about us and we'd better player hard. It's very important, defense, but you can overcome a lot of things. It doesn't take any talent to know what you're doing and to play hard and to play relentless. You put that together and you can do some good things.
Q. Early in your career, you worked a lot with the secondary and had some profound turnarounds. What are the keys there ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: I don't know if there's any one specific area that you can get into detail about what I'm doing with the secondary, but I think a lot of that has to do with the system and what you're doing to put them in a position to be successful.
Q. On Jason Hatcher …
COACH STOOPS: Well, he looks very good, and from everything I've heard from our strength coaches is he had a great summer. He looks very good right now. He's in great shape and just watching the film and knowing the type of competitive person he is, I would expect him to come in and contribute this year.
Q. Are there any guys that you saw last night that you haven’t seen in a while and made you say, ‘Wow.’ ‑‑
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, they all looked good, they really did. They looked good. I liked the way they went about their business this summer and you could see the results. You'll get a chance to see them here shortly. But yeah, I don't know if there's any one person, because there's really a lot of them looked a lot better.
Q. Does Neal Brown have full authority with the quarterback position, or do you make that call?
COACH STOOPS: No, I'll make that call. Of course, I trust Neal and he's ‑‑ I think as we go through camp, we'll work together on that. But ultimately, it will have to be my decision with great input from Neal.
Q. On keeping it from being a quarterback controversy …
COACH STOOPS: I think as we go through camp and we build what we are doing here, there's a trust factor there. Our players need to trust that we are going to put every one of them in a position to be successful and they have to trust and be confident that whoever is behind center can lead this team and help us win.
And that goes for any position. You know, there's going to be injuries and there's going to be things happen; there's already been attrition, and it's got to be the‑next‑man‑up mentality.
Q. Are you comfortable running multiple quarterbacks, or do you like one guy?
COACH STOOPS: I think anybody would like to have one guy. But again you have to make the right choice and if it takes game reps, then that's what we're going to do.
Q. With Blue not being here during the summer, how much does that impact or set him back … Will that not be a factor?
COACH STOOPS: It will certainly hurt him a little bit, set him back a little bit. Yeah, we'd prefer to have him here all summer so he can just get acclimated to the conditioning if nothing else. Yeah, the good news is that we have quite a few practices before the first game.
Q. On Za’Darius Smith and Bud Dupree and how they compare to other defensive ends he has coached …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, they are, we'll see if their production will be up there like some of the guys that we've been around, but they really are, ability‑wise and I really like the way they go about their business. They are very sincere and they are competitive guys by nature and so you know, I like where they are at.
Q. Coach, do you like four‑down linemen or three?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we are four down for the most part. We'll get multiple on some third downers and certain teams there are spread packs and we can mix it up, and we have the ability to mix it up, but we are primarily a four down.
Q. Last year's defensive only caused 10 turnovers, what can you do in practice to help that?
COACH STOOPS: Well, you have to emphasize it. And I've been on both ends of that. I've been around some defenses that we have gotten all kinds of turnovers and sometimes it doesn't go your way.
But the bottom line is, is that you do have to emphasize it and you have to practice that, and so on. We'll do all those things necessary.
Q. Are you more concerned with depth, or what would it be?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, of course, I think it's fair to say that depth would be the first thing and then the second thing would be explosive playmakers.
Q. On how he feels JUCO guys the previous staff brought in look …
COACH STOOPS: Well, Kory (Brown), really in our system, we have some spots for him, as well. So if you're a good football player, we'll find a position to help us. We need every player we can get and Kory is a guy that will be doing some of those multiple things for us, as well.
Q. On the quarterback competition and what the guys need to improve on …
COACH STOOPS: Well, to this point, it's been just an understanding, because everything was so new to them. You know, even just the operation of getting the ball out quicker and just fundamentally, let alone the scheme.
So there was a lot for them to take in in the spring. That's why it will be interesting to see who progressed through the summer and then who jumps out at us through this fall camp.
So they have quite a bit on their plate for the first 15 practices, so you could understand why I would be hesitant to try to name a starter and force that issue when we weren't ready to do that.
Q. Talk about how you go about the offensive line and do any of the new guys look to be able to compete this season?
COACH STOOPS: I hope so. Sometimes it's hard for O‑linemen. Sometimes that's one position where you prefer to let them grow up a little bit and let them gain some strength. Some decent D‑Linemen in this league.
Q. On getting back to coaching and handling all the offseason stuff …
COACH STOOPS: Well, I just think that's where us coaches are most comfortable, at least I am. I'm comfortable out there working with the guys and you feel like you're making progress with your team and with our program. And so that's why it's exciting for me to get out there and to just be around those guys is to help them get better and become a better football team.
Q. You mentioned the quarterback having reps and seeing how they progressed over the summer. Will it will be the same thing on the defense side of the ball seeing how they have done in the spring and progressed?
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, yes, I think it's definitely the same thing. We feel like, again, we have had good leadership with Avery and some guys through the summer. They did some good work with seven‑on‑seven on their own from what I understand and we'll see how much they did and how much they progressed. But it will be interesting to see.
Q. On Coach Stoops being more involved with the defensive backs …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I will be more involved than I was in the spring. In the spring, it was just getting to know all of our players and managing the whole team and of course I still need to do that.
But I will get in there and meet with the defensive backs and coach the defensive backs and assist with Coach Eliot and all of the defensive coaches and helping. It's all‑hands‑on‑deck for us and we need everybody we can to help us get better.
Q. On Austin MacGinnis …
COACH STOOPS: Possibly. Austin is a great young man. He's a hard worker, and we'll see. You know, we'll see where he's at. But yes, he could help us.
Q. What's the status on Melvin Lewis?
COACH STOOPS: He's finished and he's got one class he's finishing up now.
Q. So do you think he'll be eligible for this year?
COACH STOOPS: That's what the plan is.
Q. On the defensive line being full of upperclassmen and guys stepping up around them …
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, you're right, that was an area for us, that's one of the reasons we went after Melvin. The nice thing for him is he is three‑for‑two, as well, so if he misses a great deal of camp and can't get caught up, we'll see where he's at. But he will be needed in the future, for sure.
Q. Any concerns about the expectations of the fans?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think we're all excited. I want the fans excited about what we're doing. I want the fans excited about the hard work that these players have done.
Again, I've said that before. I think that, you know, most people understand where we're at as a program and where we want to get to. We have a lot of work to do, and we're excited about doing it.