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April 16, 2016

Mark Stoops

Lexington, Kentucky

Kentucky Blue - 31, Kentucky White - 20

COACH STOOPS: As I mentioned to you after practice, from time to time I feel like we made a lot of growth. I feel like our team has grown up a bunch. We have had a longer winter and more strenuous spring and they really worked hard to keep their concentration and work hard. I thought we wrapped it up with a good clean game today.

Q. How would you assess how the quarterbacks played today?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think Stephen (Johnson) wasn't his usual self today. I thought that he has had some really good days in the spring. I thought we were a little tight early across the board offensively. That's where it gets difficult on who you're playing with and guys making plays for them and getting them started. But it was really good to see Drew (Barker) bounce back after the interception, come back, and really throw some really nice throws and some tight windows to make some explosive plays.

But Stephen has had a really good spring and just seems like he had a hard time getting started a little bit today. But he made some good runs and you could see the threat he has with his legs as well.

Q. Was he pushing Drew at all?
COACH STOOPS: He was pushing him all spring. There's no doubt. I thought the last week of spring, as I mentioned, I feel like Drew was starting to pull away and really -- that's the nice thing to see about Drew is I thought he was very, very consistent this spring and really this whole offseason. So he needs to continue to stay the course there and stay consistent with his approach in just the way he's handling everything, off the field, academically, being a leader of this team and the offense, and I'm pleased with his growth.

Q. Are you ready to name him the starter?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, he will be the starting quarterback back right now. Yeah, he came out of spring as the No. 1 quarterback.

Q. He ran the ball pretty effectively. Do you think that was more what the offense was doing or problems with the defense?
COACH STOOPS: Well some of the -- we ran the ball good, but why I wasn't too bent out of shape about it is I thought we were good in -- when we were in our four-down front and with the quarterbacks, the zone reads, some of the perimeter stuff has hurt us before and you don't like seeing that. It's great for us to see it. But we had no game plan on it. We were just playing very vanilla on it today.

So some of the perimeter run game I wasn't real bent out of shape about it. I thought we did some good things fundamentally inside when they were running gaps, game plays, and as far as the physicality of the defensive run game I thought we really made some improvements, honestly. A lot of the yards were perimeter stuff that we would have to the to game plan some different things.

Q. How have your linebackers developed this spring?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I thought they have been very good this spring. Denzil (Ware) really had some good rushes. That's what you like to see when it's predictable pass and we're playing it straight we're rushing four and no games and you just need to win a one-on-one. He won several of those today. That's good to see. Jordan Jones has been, honestly, he's been playing like that every day. He brings great energy, great passion. He has very good instincts for a guy that hasn't played a whole bunch. He really has very good instincts and he's very explosive as you can see. He can really run.

Q. How much of a boost did Jeff Badet's touchdown give the offense?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it was really good right there because we were sputtering a little bit, if I remember right, but that was a good drive starter. And getting him the ball and in some space and then letting him do his thing, because he can run as we all know, and it's been really nice to see. Jeff has had by far his best spring and by far the most consistent 15 days of practice in really five weeks if you count the off days and really doing things right. That was good to see. And (Ryan) Timmons, as you guys have heard me talk about, Ryan, through the course of this spring and that, it was good to see him do it on the field today, in a game situation. Because Ryan's really done some good things.

Now you're getting some guys that are seniors that are starting to make some plays that have some experience and they also have the talent and that's what we need.

Q. How much confidence do you have in Chris Westry?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Chris, from what I could see, again, I have a lot of confidence in. When I see the ball going down the field on his side, like immediately I'm like, that's not going to be complete. Because I feel like it's just not going to happen. I know a couple times as I was standing behind the quarterbacks and watching them challenge him down the field, I thought that was a very low percentage that we were going to complete that. And that was true.

Q. What does Chris Westry need to do this offseason?
COACH STOOPS: He needs to continue to work, and I mentioned that through spring because he's such a big guy, he's so long, it's uncommon for a guy to be 6-4 and play corner. He's got to constantly work his fundamentals. When he gets out there in game like situation, he just can't -- through the course of spring, I, we have to really stay on him and push him because he fundamentally has to play good to play at that elite level and to get him to play like he's capable of. So he's got a long way to go, but I like his work ethic and he takes the coaching and he takes hard coaching and we just got to stay on him and he's got to have a great summer. Because he's just so darn big, I don't want him to grow into a linebacker.

Q. What's the No. 1 thing that concerns you between now and when the kids get back together?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I think you always have to worry as a coach when I have 85 little babies over there that they handle themselves off the field the right way. That's what I told them I was very proud of the work that they have done this winter and this spring. We have been very consistent in our approach. I thought we were definitely growing up. We have to stay the course that way right now. I told them, you have some time off, they have Sunday off and it's Monday back in the weight room. So they were pleased to hear that.

But we can't afford to take any time off. they have to get back in there. But they will have more time, as we know, socially and things like that. But that always worries you that they continue to handle themselves the right way off the field when you have so many guys and this weather's breaking and the town's packed right now and a lot of things are going on. So, we definitely warned them about that, just to stay the course and be ready to go back to work on Monday.

Q. Do you think you're Strong enough in the Southeastern Conference now to compete?
COACH STOOPS: I think we're much improved. To say that you're ever strong enough, I mean, that's like being -- I can't be any prettier or have too much money, you know what I mean? You know.


So, I don't know if we're strong enough yet. We're going to play some awfully physical teams.

Q. You're pretty enough.
COACH STOOPS: Oh, yeah, I definitely am pretty.

(Laughter.) We know that's not true.

Q. What did you see this spring from Sihiem King?
COACH STOOPS: What I really like about him is he's really got good vision. We know he has some ability in the open field when he gets some space and you saw that today. But I thought his vision on inside runs was really good to see. So, again, I just see growth. He's a nice complement to some of the other backs.

Q. How impressed are you that he's able to get that done now and how valuable is that down there in the red zone to have that kind of guy?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, that was very big. It was nice to see him just on the simple bootleg earlier, too, where he had to get his head around quick and the play happened so fast, tight to the sideline. He's had a few drops on those, as you know. But just to see the routine plays being made and then to make the big play in the end zone -- that was a third down, if I'm not mistaken. It was great coverage and thrown in traffic, but to come down with seven points instead of three is big. He's a nice target and I know the more and more plays he makes like that, the quarterbacks will get will comfortable with him.

Q. How much more consistent has Ryan Timmons been this spring?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we need him to. As you know. He's just been solid. He's fundamentally getting better and better each day.

Q. Is Ryan Timmons the No. 1 punt returner?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, he is right now. We'll see. We'll continue to work guys and have a lot of options there, but, yeah, I mean as long as Ryan keeps on producing and doing the right things, then he'll have that opportunity. I have a lot of confidence in Ryan, and I said that going into, as I mentioned before, I think that I know I've said it before, but I still believe in him and I think he's going to have a big year.

Q. Are you more confident in the offense this year?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I don't know if I want to say I'm more confident in the offense that was installed, but I'm more confident in our team as we should be. As we move into year four, like I said earlier, I think we have some players with some skill and some experience. That makes a big difference. So I'm more confident in our team and we better be, as you move on and you get more and more guys and I feel like we're getting our quality of player is getting better and better and we keep on adding depth to this team, we're moving in the right direction. It's just like his question earlier, you could never have enough talent either. You got competition that breeds success and you need a bunch of football players. It's a long year and we need 60, 70 guys that look the part. We're probably half that right now.

Q. How much have the wide receivers improved in making contested catches?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I didn't see that today. I had seen it throughout the spring. I was excited about going into the game because I wanted to see us make a giant step there and I just saw some routine plays today. I saw us doing some good things with the ball after we caught it, but I do feel like we're growing in that area. We made more competitive catches this spring, but not so much today. I thought that part of it maybe was a little bit, I expected a little bit more.

Q. Can you talk about your offensive tackles and specifically Tate Leavitt?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we're struggling a little bit. The game is fast. He's playing some very, some talented guys and he and Mason (Wolfe), we need to continue to bring along and get some depth at tackle. We feel like we're getting some really good bodies inside. Tackle, you know, we need to keep on building our depth and bringing those guys along. But Tate will be a very good player. It was a tough spring, but he'll go back to work and get in great shape this summer and he'll have a bunch of practices next fall before the first game.

Q. How will Erik Korem's departure affect the team and will he be replaced?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it won't change us much. It really won't change us much. We have some guys in our program that are very in tune with what we're doing there. Coach (Corey) Ed(mond) will just move up into that role. But Coach Ed will have the main voice with what we're doing in the weight room and will continue to work with the sports science. To what extent, we'll re-evaluate all of it and see what's been very useful to us and what we want to do moving forward, but it will certainly still be in our program.

Q. How much has Marcus Walker improved this spring?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, he's gotten better and he needs to continue to get better. So, Marcus needs to have a really good summer and continue to get in great shape and move around better. But I loved him coming out of high school, and we redshirted him a year ago and I really have high hopes for him. But he's got to continue to progress.

Q. Anybody else we haven't talked about that jumped out to you?
COACH STOOPS: We didn't see Mike out there today, Edwards, and I mentioned it, because I thought (Derrick) Baity also -- Westry, talked about Westry a little bit -- but Derrick Baity has had a phenomenal spring. He is a really good player. Did I say it in the media or I was talking to somebody the other day and I'm like, people don't talk about Baity, but if you didn't have Westry on other side, you would look at Baity and say, man, that's one of the most pretty corners you could sign. But then there's a guy 6-4 opposite him. Derrick is 6-2 and can move and athletic and he's really played well. And then, like I said, Mike was playing exceptionally well and really high on those three guys, amongst others, in the secondary. I think overall in the secondary we're playing better. You see the depth. Blake McClain is really doing some good things and really playing well, and again he's one of those guys going into his senior year that really looks good and is playing well. And Kendall Randolph is a guy -- we could go with that combination, it's going to be the best five. If Kendall is playing really good, then he'll play nickel and Blake will play safety. Now you really got a bunch of cover guys out there.

Q. How much better do you feel about your defensive backs considering your background as a secondary coach?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, definitely. Definitely feels a lot better. Yeah, definitely it does. I've been happy with them, I feel like there's some really good talent there but they all have good attitudes and work hard and they want to be good players. They're fun to work with.

Q. You said to get back in the weight room on Monday. Is your summer program much different than the program that you had before?
COACH STOOPS: No, no. Not much different. You always evaluate things and look at things and Coach Ed and I will sit down and visit, but as I've been preaching all offseason, there's going to be more. You know what I mean? And we have to work harder and smarter and continue to be able to handle some high volume because you got to look at all aspects of your program. I know a lot's been talked about and I'll answer it before you ask me, but again, it's like we have to look at what we're doing and the maturity will help, but you have to play good for a long time in that season. It's a long season. So we have to prepare for that. That's part of it. And that's what we're trying to do is just increase all the work through out the whole year.

Q. How much did the early enrollees get out of the spring?
COACH STOOPS: Well, it was, it did an awful lot for them. You're always proud of those guys because they could be sitting there hanging out in high school for another semester and they come mere and they go through the grueling offseason and go through the spring, and I really think it's very helpful to those guys because you do install at a much slower pace in the spring. So in the fall, you're just drinking with a fire hose. In the spring at least it's every other day and you have a chance to look at the film and try and get your feet on the ground in between the practices. In the fall it's full steam ahead. So I'm really proud of those guys. I thought they did really good.

Q. How much defensive evaluation can you do off a scrimmage like this?
COACH STOOPS: I think you could do a good amount. I think that again, like some things. I'm not going to get -- I like the way the game played out. I think you want to have some offense. You want to have some fun. You want your fans encouraged walking off the field. But that's always tough for me because early in the scrimmage I was proud of the defense and fundamentally doing some good things and making some plays and as you hear me talk about from time to time, you want competitive plays. I don't want one side having success because the other's inept. I thought there was some good competitive plays and the offense had to earn their yards and we did stay vanilla.

So I don't get bent out of shape about certain yards like I talked about earlier, but, fundamentally, you could certainly evaluate everything and look at our core calls, our base calls and see how guys play. See what their steps are like, see how they're tackling, see what we're doing in space, see if we're covering. there's a lot of things you could look at.

Q. I think there a few guys on the second team offensive line that did some good things.
COACH STOOPS: I thought so, too. I think we're getting really good depth at certain positions, as I mentioned. I thought the tackles struggled in predictable pass, but I was glad to see us finally get some good rushes from the other side as well. =So, it's always a little give and take.

Q. You touched on this earlier, but as a whole, how do you feel about your linebacking unit?
COACH STOOPS: I feel very good. We need to continue to get better. We need to continue to get depth. that's never going to change. But Jordan Jones has really played some good football. Courtney Love has really played well and he's a solid guy. You've heard us talk about his character and his leadership and then he can play. Guys rally around guys like that. So it's been good to see Denzil really step up. And Josh Allen is getting better and better. So, I think overall we're improving.

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