April 13, 2013
Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops
COACH STOOPS: Thought it was a great night for the program. Really appreciate the fan support, just an unbelievable atmosphere. I thought the players played hard. Made some mistakes, but overall, pretty clean game. So, very excited.
Q. Re: Jalen Whitlow
COACH STOOPS: Jalen (Whitlow) did a nice job, he has that dimension to run the football and pull it down when something is not there and create. He did a nice job tonight. I was impressed with the way Jalen played.
Q. I know you knew the number (of tickets that) have been distributed but when you come through that catwalk and see that many people what does that tell you?
COACH STOOPS: I was amazed. You felt that, you heard these numbers for the past couple weeks, and you know, you never know who is going to show up. It was overwhelming. It was fantastic.
Our players really felt that, the energy of the catwalk. And just to see the stadium and they were energetic and into the game, it was a great feeling. So it really helps. It will help our program.
Q. They couldn't get many sacks because of no contact on the quarterbacks -- looks like you have something from the two ends (Dupree and Smith), what did you see from those two guys?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I thought so, as well, if it was a live game and we were live on the quarterbacks, I think they could have created some havoc. I thought they did a nice job, they are very active and have been very solid all spring.
Q. If you're going to have one solid building block up front --
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, I do, I think you have to be physical up front on both sides of the ball. Been very pleased with both lines. You know, we know we need to get bigger and stronger, but that is a good foundation. I thought with Mister (Cobble) inside, he's very unselfish and you need to be very unselfish as an interior defensive lineman. So Mister doesn't get a lot of credit but he's very solid inside.
Q. What does that do?
COACH STOOPS: It does an awful lot, because if you can get some pressure with four guys, then you can put another guy in the coverage.
So that's a big part of it and also in the run game, if you can learn to play the run game without numbers all the time, then that helps your defense, as well.
Q. What about the other quarterbacks?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I thought we were solid again. You know, I have to go back and look at the film. It was really hard for me to tell but I thought each of them had their moments and were consistent. We need more playmakers around them, and so it's not always on the quarterbacks. It's on the other ten guys that are out there playing with them.
Q. Talking about Josh Clemons.
COACH STOOPS: He's done a nice job. He's been very solid and he's going to have a nice little wrinkle for us.
Q. How representative was the performance we saw tonight of the spring as a whole?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I don't think you saw our offense at its full strength. We are not -- as you split the teams, you water it down a little bit. Our tempo wasn't what it has been. And I think part of that is just numbers and being thin when we split up the teams. But when we get everybody together and get a full complement of players on the offensive side, they can mix up their personnel better and play at a higher tempo.
So we weren't as fast as we normally were.
Q. re: Ashely Lowery
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I was pleased, I've been pleased with Ashley. He's coming along. I was standing back there in the secondary, saw him and just watching him and I like the way he's moving around and he's getting better each and every day.
Q. The playmakers you're talking about, having to get better --
COACH STOOPS: Well, it's both, it's both. We are going to work hard to get better with the guys that are here. And our incoming guys are going to help, as well, but no, our players will get better. They will continue to get better. They have gotten better and we need them to get better.
Q. What was the night like for you, just your first night as head coach, what did that feel like?
COACH STOOPS: It took me a few series. I didn't know what to do there for a while, I was just watching both sides. I couldn't figure out my headset going from offense to defense and all that. I have to get used to that. Somebody gave me a little lesson before we went out there. Once I figured out the head set I was able to listen to both sides, so that worked out pretty good (Laughter).
No, I was very pleased. Again, you know, great coaches, and we try to be very organized, have good plan for what we're doing. I just wanted to see the overall operation. I did not want to see sloppy football.
And it wasn't exactly always pretty, but for the most part, I was very pleased with the way that the game went and the flow of the game and just with the calls with the substitutions, just not too many penalties. I believe only one turnover. So overall, I was pleased.
Q. The recruits, what do you think they will take away?
COACH STOOPS: Well, I think, I hope they just enjoyed that experience. I just visited with quite a few of them, and you know, I hope they see the passion of this state; they see the passion of the people here, and they see a great group of guys in our locker room, both players and coaches that are going to work extremely hard to get this program turned in the right direction.
Q. re: fans
COACH STOOPS: It's remarkable, it really is. I've said it a few times, but again, I really thank them for their support and their belief and their passion for this program. It's tremendous.
It does nothing but help us, and it also, you know, makes us want to do better. As players and coaches, we feel that passion and energy and we want to deliver. Nobody wants it more than that group of guys down there in the locker room, so we want to get this done and deliver for this state because we deserve to have a great program.
Q. re: how much does spring game count in player evaluation
COACH STOOPS: No, it does, it weighs in more, because you know, under the lights, in a game setting, we want to see how they respond, how they play, and so you need those playmakers to make plays when the lights come on.
Q. When you deal with your staff to start planning for the fall, are there going to be one or two things, what you've seen in the spring -- where you say, we have to really focus or zero in on one or two things?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, we have a good idea of who we are right now and we have to adapt to that, on both sides of the ball, to put our players in a position to be successful.
Obviously in the fall, we'll come back and hopefully our players are working extremely hard and our newcomers come in and can help. We have quite a few practices before our first game there.
Yeah, we'll go back and look at the spring and as a staff, we need to -- we are going to stay on track. We are going to do what we do, but we also have to tailor that to our players.
Q. Tweaking scheme --
COACH STOOPS: Correct.
Q. Any specific change has to happen between now and September?
COACH STOOPS: Oh, we've got an awful lot of work to do. There's a lot of things we need to do, and we will. We will change significantly. Our players will get quite a bit of work in this summer. They need to do a lot of work on their own, because we can't work with them to a certain extent.
So with the football end of it, they are going to have to do a lot of work and we are going to have to have great leadership. With the strength and conditioning, we have a great plan of seeing our guys get bigger and stronger between now and the fall.
Q. What do you want to see from the quarterbacks?
COACH STOOPS: They have got to work and they have got to get with the receivers and we have got to get on the same page and they have got to be leaders on the field.
Q. You didn't work with Jalen Whitlow last season -- but in here with us, he was a much different guy last fall, he spoke differently (today) and sounded like a guy who is confident -- said Peyton Manning didn't carry himself like an ordinary Joe.
COACH STOOPS: Great comment, he's right. I want our guys to feel good about ourselves, but it can't be fake. I haven't seen that from him or any of our other players this year. Our guys have been -- they have been humbled, as you know. They know we have a lot to do, and they know we are going to work hard to get better.
Q. The confidence Whitlow shows --
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think he's earned the right to feel good about himself and get to a starting point of where we have a foundation of where we're at and where we're going to go.
Q. Do you feel that the players are hungry?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I guess so. I want them more hungry to be honest with you but they are good kids. Again, I talked to y'all several times throughout spring and talked about how they were feeling their way through things and trying to get a grasp of the offense or defense or special teams and just getting a feel.
I felt as spring was going on, practice on11, 12, 13 -- I started seeing guys step up, little by little and gain more confidence. So that helps.
Q. You say you have a sense of who and what your team is --
COACH STOOPS: Oh, we're a team that's just getting a foundation of who we are. So we know we have got a long way to go. But they have got the right attitudes and we have a coaching staff that has a great plan and has coached and been around a lot of successful people.
We have got a long way to go.
Q. Creating leaders on the field -- has that happened and if so, who are some of those players?
COACH STOOPS: Some leadership has emerged. I think guys like Ashley, guys like Avery (Williamson), they have stepped up. Jalen, at times; Raymond Sanders, even though he's a quiet guy at times, he plays big. So we're getting some.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, certainly. I got to Florida State and Arizona, they were very similar. So I hope we can make the improvement that we did there. Obviously players will help.
I think just continue to grind, bigger, stronger players we need to recruit, but we need to continue to work with these players and put them in a position to be successful. That's been my motto since I've been here. It's our job to put them in a position to be successful and get them to do things we need them to do.
Q. When you were hired as head coach -- recruiting and signing days and spring practice, what's next for you?
COACH STOOPS: 2014 recruiting. We'll be on the road next week with a couple days to go out and do some junior college evaluations. Our staff will be -- as you know the rules, they don't let the head coaches go out, but we will be getting all that information into our system and (inaudible) so that coaches and myself that are off the road will be getting data and film and the names for 2014-2015.
So the next phase is spring recruiting and obviously wrapping up this spring, having some player meetings and doing some evaluations with our players and sitting down and talking to them about the things, the areas that we expect them to improve before they show up in the fall.
Q. re: Rashad Cunningham.
COACH STOOPS: He did. You know what, this is the best he's played and that's good to see. Again with the fans out here and the media out here and all that, to see him step up and make some big catches was good to see.
Q. Were there any other playmakers that really stood out to you?
COACH STOOPS: Raymond's been solid all spring. He's just a really good back. (inaudible) is a big, physical guy that can make some plays, as well. I think AJ had some good catches, as well. Cody Quinn I thought did a decent job at times covering. I talked about Za'Darius, but Avery and Ashley are some guys.
FastScripts by ASAP Sports ...
Kentucky Student-Athlete Quotes
#13, Jalen Whitlow, QB
On if he has an idea of how much they are going to integrate the quarterback run into the offense ...
"I have an idea, as you saw, it's quite a bit and we're installing some stuff that we didn't run today so it's quite a bit."
On who he thought played the best of the quarterbacks ...
"I think we all did pretty well. We did some good things but we have a ways to go as far as some little technique things and the offense of course, just keep grasping it. There is a lot of stuff we put in, stuff pretty much daily so I think we all did OK."
On if he thinks he has a leg up since he played well tonight ...
"I don't know. I don't know. That's up to the coaches. I just tried to go out there and play my best."
On if he was looking forward to the opportunity to play today ...
"I just tried to come out here and play my best. You try to play like you have a chip on your shoulder. Sleep like that, eat like that, so you have to come out and show what you can do."
On if he felt like he was counted out of the competition ...
"I don't really look into all the blogs and all that stuff. I just study my plays."
On the biggest difference between him now and last fall ...
"Maturity. Last fall I was a little 18 year old just trying to grasp everything, everything was moving so fast. But now, the college life, it's not a big thing anymore so just coming in and focusing on football and school and being grounded is the biggest thing. Like I said, maturity."
On him carrying himself a little different ...
"If you have confidence you make plays. You have to carry with confidence. Players carry themselves with confidence. You will never see Peyton Manning carrying himself like a 'Regular Joe.'"
On what it was like seeing so many fans ...
"It was great. There were more people in the stands than the Vanderbilt game. It was great. I love the Big Blue Nation. I'm happy to be here. I appreciate all the fans coming out and giving us support."
#16, Cody Quinn, CB
On having a bigger crowd than against Georgia last season ...
"I wouldn't believe it, especially after the year that we had last year. Coach Stoops has got a good thing going here, and we're just looking to work on that and build on that."
On the fan support ...
"I mean it's real exciting to know that you have a great fan base behind you and to know that they support you no matter what. That's really what we're looking for, a fan base, that no matter if we win or lose, just comes out there and supports us, no matter what. I think we're going to turn it around this year."
On if he's where he wants to be at this time ...
"Yea, but I still have a long way to go. I still have lots to improve on, just technique and all that, getting bigger. I'm skinny. I got (have) a lot to improve, but I got (have) a long summer."
#94, Za'Darius Smith, DE
On seeing the crowd ...
"I mean my heart dropped. It just jumped like 'Oh man.' I was kind of nervous. I had chills. I had to get over it to make more plays."
On being on the field ...
"It felt great. I knew that I could do it. I just got (have) to keep that motivation, making tackles and making sacks. I got (have) to keep working hard."
On Coach Stoops and the staff ...
"Great coaches. The one reason why I came here was because of them. I know what they're about, and I know how they run their defense. They do a good job at it. As you can see tonight, a lot of plays."
#40, Avery Williamson, LB
On how it feels to be back on the field...
"It was great. It was a great feeling coming out here and seeing all of these fans come out and just flying around and having a great time. I had a few butterflies at the beginning, I won't lie. But, I had a great time."
On how valuable he thinks Jalen Whitlow is...
"He's real tough. He's a great player and he fits really well in this offense, I feel like, because he can throw the ball and he's light. He's got life and speed. He's a very great athlete."
On whether the pressure of this game was helpful to prepare for the fall...
"It's a lot of pressure on us to go out here and prove to ourselves, as well as the fans, that we've improved. I feel like we took a great step forward today and it was good to have pressure on us because it makes everybody work harder. I feel like we're going to - I know we're going to work harder. I'm going to push these guys as well as all the other defensive and offensive guys. We're going to push each other and we're going to grind it out this summer."
#11, Maxwell Smith, QB
On how it feels to be back on the field...
"It felt great. It was good to be back out there. It was really fun to be back out there, to be in front of all these fans. We all expected there to be this many fans and there was so it was a lot of fun."
On how different this year's spring game was compared to his memories from last year's...
"Completely different. Completely different. It was so much fun today. East Scott, he's a police officer, told me how rowdy it was when I was over at Nutter facility and I was just getting really excited over there. It was just really fun."
On how strong the quarterback competition is right now...
"It's pretty strong. It's up to Coach [Stoops]. I'm just going to keep working every day. That's what I've got to do, just keep getting better, be a leader, and keep going."
#14, Patrick Towles, QB
On whether he feels he played to the level he wanted to...
"Yes and no. I was really excited with energy we had but there were definitely some plays that 60,000 people saw that I definitely need to make and I didn't make. There were also some plays that I made that I was happy with. There were some good things that I did that I've been improving on for a while but, there are no off days. We're done with spring football. We can't be coached by our coaches anymore but we know what our coaches want. Monday, we're still really in practice. I've got to get my feet better so I can become more accurate and that's going to happen."
On whether he feels his errors stemmed from issues with footwork...
"I wouldn't say really on those. The one that was almost picked was a fourth down play. I was just trying to get it out. And the one that was, I was scrambling. I should have thrown it out of bounds and I didn't. It was a tipped ball but most of the out routes that I threw I were late or early because of my feet. If your feet are narrow, you open stride, the ball sails. It's fundamental stuff that when you don't keep practicing, you tend to lose. So, like I said, in May, June, July and August, that's what's going to get fixed."
On what it meant to see the fans come back...
"It was awesome. I told somebody earlier, this was the biggest crowd I've ever played in front of at Commonwealth and it was for the spring game. I've been here, in '07, when we beat LSU and it was sold out, rushed the field. That was unbelievable and I think that this year, with this energy, that there's no reason we can't get there again and get even better."
#45, Poncho Thomas, LB
On how his teammates performed in the game compared to practice...
Pretty much everyone stepped it up. Some of the stuff we didn't see in practice we saw today. Everyone was doing their job and doing what they were supposed to do. We had a successful scrimmage today. That offense shocked me today. They did their thing.
#2, Alvin Dupree, DE
On why he thinks he played so well...
A lot of reps with coach. Utilizing my talents. I'm just trying to get better. We are all just trying to get better.
On playing against Jordan Swindle...
"Jordan has one of the best footworks on the team. Getting past him lets you know you're working pretty hard and trying to gain ground. Once they keep working they will be one of the top guys in the SEC."
On which side he will be on in games...
"I will always be on the left side. When Farell comes in he will be on the right side. He goes right and left but I'm mainly on the left side."
On how the defensive line played...
"As a whole I think we did pretty good. We made major runs and did our assignments pretty well."
#70 Jordan Swindle, OT
On what's it like playing for the new coach...
"Awesome, he's a high energy guy. He's always positive. He's always keeping you built up and keeping you on track. The first day he came in, I guess he was just so excited, he just started yelling, I was terrified. But when I got to meet him he was awesome."
On what they need to work on the most before the first game....
"Speed. Speed of the game. Just trying to get on the ball faster. Strength is a part of it too."
On how practices are going with the new coach...
"He knows what he is doing. He is going to get us in the perfect amount of shape. He has GPS monitors and heart rate monitors so he knows what we do during the game. So each workout will be what we need."