While Mark Stoops typically speaks to the media twice a week – once on Monday afternoon for a weekly press conference and another post-practice session on Thursday evening – the Kentucky head coach usually uses weekly call-in radio show on Monday evenings to kick back and relax a bit.
During the hour-long show with Tom Leach, Stoops usually opens up about his team’s performance from the previous week, previews Kentucky’s upcoming opponent, and answers questions via phone and social media from the Big Blue Nation.
This evening, Stoops went in-depth about Kentucky’s recent bye week, the team’s preparation for Tennessee, and Lynn Bowden’s star status, among other topics.
Here are the ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:
Kentucky had a successful practice
Coming off the team’s second and final bye week of the season, Mark Stoops said things went very well in their first practice of game week.
“Good practice today,” he said. “Good to get back out there with the guys after having a few days off. They’re all very well rested. It was a good, enthusiastic practice. Wanted them to rest up this weekend and come back with the right mentality today, and I think they did that.”
Quarterbacks needed the bye week
While the entire team needed some time off, Stoops said quarterback options Lynn Bowden and Sawyer Smith benefitted the most.
“[Lynn is] one of those guys who is so tough, he could probably play a game each and every day if he wanted to,” Stoops said. “It was good for him [to get some rest], especially mentally. He’s got a lot on his plate right now.”
“Sawyer is doing really good,” he continued. “Even better today than he did last week. He got some good rest too, getting back close to 100%, I think.”
Tennessee is a solid football team
Before getting into the nuts and bolts of what Tennessee brings to the table, Stoops brought up Kentucky’s disappointing road loss in Knoxville last season and how the sting still lingers a bit throughout the program.
“It was one of the few games last year where we didn’t play the best we can,” Stoops said of the 24-7 loss in 2018. “That’s on coaching. We went down there and just didn’t play well. That bothered me, that’s bothered the staff. We’re 100% focused on this week [and coming back from that].”
So what does he think of this year’s group?
“They’re playing much better [as of late], won three of their last four,” he said. “Playing much better. A few of things could have gone their way didn’t, the margin of error is small in this league. They’re a good football team. I don’t think there’s any question they’re playing better under center. They have great skill, unbelievable wideouts. Big and strong, they were really tough to handle last year. Their running backs run extremely hard.”
What about the weather?
Over the last several weeks, weather has been one of the major topics of conversation regarding Kentucky’s games.
With downpours against both Missouri and Georgia, Stoops admitted things have been difficult in terms of how the staff calls plays.
“It definitely affects playcalling,” he said. “The past several games, we even had to change things with the running game. When it’s that wet, it affected us. We were ahead [against Missouri], so we only had to take care of the ball, but conditions got really bad later in the game.”
With a positive forecast for this weekend, the Kentucky head coach feels they’ll be able to loosen up a little bit.
“Clear weather will definitely help us, it’ll allow us to open things up. I thought we had a lot of great looks in the passing game [against Missouri before the rain],” Stoops said. “I’m ready for a great atmosphere. Hopefully it’ll be a nice fall night, cool outside.”
How are opposing defenses preparing for Lynn Bowden at quarterback?
With Bowden being such a dynamic weapon in the backfield, Kentucky’s opponents have had an incredibly difficult time stopping him over the last several weeks.
While you have to give the majority of credit to Bowden for being such a phenomenal player, Stoops also wanted to show his appreciation for the offensive coaching staff for putting the star playmaker in position to do what he does best.
“We’ve seen a variety of things,” he said. “I really have to credit Coach Gran, Coach Hinshaw, and the offensive staff, we have answers for some of what [the defense] is throwing at us. Lynn presents some problems, and our offensive staff provides some things that are complex. It allows for us to find success.”
And with the Tennessee defense likely throwing something new at Kentucky to slow Bowden down, Stoops is confident they will have a counter.
“We’ll continue to find new wrinkles and keep Tennessee off-balance,” he said. “We feel confident with Lynn and we feel confident with Sawyer coming back.”
Bowden’s play has been “remarkable”
Aside from how Tennessee is going to try to stop Bowden, Stoops wanted to give credit where credit was due regarding his star playmaker.
“It’s been remarkable to be honest with you,” he said. “It deserves the attention that it gets because it really has been remarkable. Just with his poise, his intelligence. He’s lining guys up at the QB position. So many moving parts and there’s a lot to that, but he makes it look easy. He’s throwing the ball really well, doing a lot of great things.
“You get down there and start game-planning, and it’s a little different with him under center,” Stoops continued. “It makes life difficult for [opposing] defenses, I can tell you that.”
Kentucky is game-planning for three Tennessee quarterbacks
While Kentucky has two options at quarterback between Lynn Bowden and Sawyer Smith, Tennessee also has their fair share of options.
According to Stoops, all three of Jarrett Guarantano, Brian Maurer, and J.T. Shrout are talented and can present problems to the Kentucky defense.
“They have three options at quarterback, and they’ve all been effective,” he said. “Guarantano has been around for a while, we’ve seen him, he does some good things. They have some really good weapons, they’ve just been much more consistent.”
Today, Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said he could see a scenario where all three quarterbacks play on Saturday against the Wildcats.
This season, the Kentucky secondary is allowing just 180.50 passing yards per game, 6.42 yards per attempt, and a total of just four passing touchdowns. They have also managed five interceptions and 35 pass breakups through eight games.
With this incredible success, Stoops raved about his secondary and the growth they’ve seen from the start of the season to now.
“[I’m] really pleased, I really am. I’m proud of those guys,” he said. “Coach Clink, Coach Hood, our players, they’ve all done rally well. There’s nowhere to hide out there, you’re on an island, challenged each week against talented receivers [in the SEC]. The players have done a great job getting better, staying the course, competing. You’ve got to compete, play at a high level, have thick skin. We’ll need them to play well against Tennessee.”
As a group, Stoops feels their confidence is night-and-day from where it was to start the season.
“They’re much more confident as a group,” he said. “Our team as a whole has developed an identity over the last few weeks. We hit our fair share of adversity, but they’ve responded well.”
Kash Daniel will play on Saturday
After missing the Missouri game two weeks back with concussion-like symptoms, Stoops said Kentucky linebacker Kash Daniel will be back in the lineup against Tennessee.
“Kash was out there [at practice] today. He’s back,” Stoops said. “Hopefully he’ll be 100% on Saturday.”
Is Stoops going to Miami?
Amid Florida State coaching speculation and rumors, a Kentucky fan asked Stoops whether or not he was going to leave UK for another job.
The only problem? The fan asked if Stoops would be taking the Miami job, not the opening at Florida State.
In response, the Kentucky head coach joked with the caller, saying he could say with certainty he is not going to Miami.
“Well, Miami doesn’t have a job opening right now, so no, there is 0% chance I’m going to Miami,” Stoops said with a laugh.
- Stoops is excited about the future at Kentucky, for what it’s worth, regarding the Florida State rumors
- “It’s really exciting. During the bye as we get into recruiting, deciding whether wee want to take transfers, go the JUCO route. Looking at our future roster, I’m feeling really good about it. I’m focused on now and seeing the growth we’re making this season, over the last several weeks.”
- Terry Wilson and Davonte Robinson are in good spirits
- “Terry is doing good, I had the opportunity to see him in the training room with Davonte Robinson. It gets tough around them when they can’t be around the guys. We’re excited to get them back at full strength next year.”
- Central Kentucky Fellowship of Christian Athletes director Aaron Hogue has done a “remarkable” job with this football team.
- “We have a remarkable chaplain, he does a remarkable job. I’m actually strategic in when I bring him in on Fridays and Saturdays to talk to the team. You can ask players over the years about what kind of impact he has made. He leads a weekly bible study with myself and the staff, along with the players. All the athletes [at UK] come in on Monday nights. It’s something I’m very proud of. I’m very glad we have him on our team.”
- The kicking situation is still up in the air
- “We’ll see how they go this week, but Chance [Poore] did a nice job stepping in there and hitting the field goal when we needed it. I was proud of him for coming back and responding. He’s just a redshirt freshman. It’s nice to have two options back there [in Poore and Matt Ruffolo].”