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TRANSCRIPT: Mark Stoops previews the Music City Bowl


Opening Statement …

“Excited about the opportunity to play in the Music City Bowl and honored to play Northwestern. I have great respect for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. They play some very good football, obviously, as a nine-win football team. It’s a challenge but we’re honored to be a part of it. We look forward to wrapping up recruiting, getting back on campus and working out our players and getting started on these bowl preparations. It’s an exciting time and a busy time.”

On whether he learned anything about bowl preparation last year and any changes this year…

“Yeah, I think so. You always learn and you’re trying to get as much information as I can from the simple things like when you arrive, what you do, how many practices you have before. Last year we used the bowl to really push the program and basically use it as a second spring practice. There were obviously benefits to that but there is a balance in what you do, how hard you practice, how many practices you have, all those things.”

On if he’ll talk to some of the players about their thoughts on bowl preparations…

“Without a doubt. Matter of fact, I’m getting together with some of the guys today, our Unity Council, to talk about it.”

On how the new recruiting deadline (Dec. 20) affects things…

“It won’t change the bowl prep much but it makes for very busy weekends. With coaches on the road we didn’t have a recruiting weekend last weekend but we will the next two. Trying to balance practices with that and players taking their finals, you really can’t have practices that week. We’ll have to have practices on the weekends and then straight through (after it) until we cut them loose for Christmas. It’ll be busy. Our coaches have done a great job and hit the pavement very hard and we’re very, very encouraged with what is going on in recruiting. Very, very positive response from (recruits). It’s been an exciting time for us.”

On Northwestern…

“You’ve got to have a lot of respect for (head coach) Pat (Fitzgerald), what he’s done and how they play. They’ve won seven in a row and three of them were very close games so a play here or there, you have to give them credit for finding a way to win football games. They’re very well coached.”

On preparing for a more traditional offense in this year’s bowl game…

“That is important because that was unique for us (last year) to prepare for that (Georgia Tech’s option-centric offense). We couldn’t even do ‘good against good’ with our offense (last year). It helps with the development of the young guys. We don’t crossover much with (Northwestern) but I’ve had a chance to peek on them a few times when they were playing and we were waiting in the hotel. Having some familiarity with Big Ten teams, you know they’re very well balanced and have a good run defense. It doesn’t surprise me for a team coached by Pat and his crew.”

On relationship with Pat Fitzgerald…

“We know each other from the business. I’ve talked to him via text since we were matched up.”

On balancing getting QB Stephen Johnson ready for the bowl while also looking ahead to next season’s QB situation…

“That’s important to get (the backups) some reps. They’ve done that all year in preparing (for regular-season games) but it will be important to get them some reps.”

On whether he wants bowl practices to be more physical…

“We have to continue to develop as a program and there are some areas we didn’t do as well in down the stretch, particularly the last two games. We’ve got a lot of work to do. I think it’s been important to give our guys a little time away to decompress a little bit. They’ve been working hard in the weight room. We’re anxious to get back with them.”

On SEC coaching changes…

“It’s been a crazy year. I appreciate where I’m at and the stability we have in this program. Look at Pat with Northwestern, he’s been there 12 years already. It’s remarkable. It’s good for him and it’s nice to see that stability. In our league, in general, there is a lot of turnover and there a lot of my close friends who won’t be in those (SEC) meetings this year, some very good football coaches.”

On philosophy of bringing in recruits on visits in December versus during games…

“There’s always some give and take with that. We do have official visits during the season but the negative to that is we’re preparing for a game so we don’t get to spend a lot of time with them. Myself personally, if you have a night game I’m not done until about midnight and then I have TV and radio shows when I leave here. It just depends on whether the athlete has a chance to come to a game unofficially and see the environment and how important that is to it. In December, we get to spend two full days with them and sit with them and their families during meals and get to know them. It is a changing landscape when it comes to recruiting. It’s an exciting time for us and I’ve really enjoyed the visits we’ve had.”

On UK’s stability versus turmoil around the league…

“It helps, no question. I’ve had to reiterate that to some kids because I’m recruiting some players who were very close to some guys who were let go so that is on their mind. These kids have been committed somewhere and then it changes and they maybe don’t want to go through it again. It is a talking point and it’s nice to say you don’t have to worry about that (here).”

On Courtney Love and if he knew the quality person Courtney is when he transferred to Kentucky …
“Absolutely I did, and if you recall, I mentioned it several times with him. He was awarded a scholarship in my father’s name back in high school. I have been around Courtney for a long time and knew very, very clearly what I was getting with Courtney. I really cannot emphasize enough what he has meant to me and our program. I am really, really proud of him. I know him and I know his father, Cory, we go back a long way. He is a special, special individual. Obviously, winning an award like the Wuerffel Trophy is basically like the Heisman Trophy of that area (community service/academics/football). That says a lot about him and what he has done. I am just so proud of him and I know that our fan base is and you guys are as well. Everything about him is authentic. He is genuinely a great person, a great teammate and a great citizen. He is just fun to be around. I have great respect for him. He is talking to me about getting him into coaching and I had to sit him down and ask him, ‘What are you, completely nuts?’ (laughter) Really, this day and age the way things are, it’s very difficult to be into this business. For him, I think he would be successful in anything he chooses to do. I would definitely have a spot for him with anything. He is a difference-maker and he is going to have a bright future. Very proud of him and appreciate him.”

On how he would be as a coach … 
“Oh, I think he would – again – be successful in anything that he chooses to do. If that is what he wants to do when he gets done than I will help him. But he will be very successful.”

On the current makeup of the coaching staff moving forward …

“I really don’t have time to get into that right now, but I do feel good and appreciate our staff. Change is inevitable in certain ways with the turnover of our roster and coaches may get other opportunities and move on. So, we will see what happens and work our way through that as time goes here.”

On the hiring of a 10th full-time assistant and his timeline for that …
“I do want a defensive coach. We have five on offense and four and a half on defense with my time being split with head coaching duties. In this day and age, with the difficulty in defending multiple offenses and the challenge of that it makes sense to hire a defensive guy. Like always in this hire, that person will be responsible for managing his players and being able to contribute schematically and obviously pinpoint his position. We will see. I have thought about it. I haven’t made any decisions. I do want to be patient on this and see how it shakes out. There is so much turnover going on in college football right now and there is going to be a lot of change so I kind of want to sit back and see how it shakes out with our staff and with hiring this 10th assistant. There is no reason to rush into hiring right now for me.  There are different thoughts I have, whether it is a technical person or someone that can help us in recruiting or a big-picture guy. There are options I could go, but I am just going to sit on it for a minute and let it work itself out.”

On how he judges the team’s success during the regular season …
“Yeah, that is hard for me. I am not going to define that. There is no right answer for that. I will let the experts dictate that and give opinions on that. I just always want to make progress. Like I have told you guys many times, I am human. There are always parts of you that would like to have things to do over – different calls, different series, whatever it is. That is human nature. I do think about that but I cannot dwell on that and won’t dwell on that. You know part of that is true and part of that is not. (Laughter) I try not to give you guys coach speak, you know that. But I am human, you know? There are parts of it that do hurt. And I understand that and you always beat yourself up because you try to do the very best you can. I can tell you this, this staff has worked unbelievably hard and our players have worked exceptionally hard to put us in the position that we have been in this year; that is to win seven games again back-to-back and to be .500 or above two years in a row in the SEC. We have never done that. That is not just nothing. Our players need to understand that and our coaches need to understand that. I appreciate the work that they have done to put us in a position to do that and also put us into a position to win a few other games that we didn’t make. As I told the players, there are 3-4-5-6 plays in a game that dictate a game. We don’t know which plays they are going to be, sometimes everybody thinks it is just the obvious ones but that is not always the case. We are constantly working to put ourselves in position to win football games. I really appreciate the work that a lot of people have done for us to do that. We all want more and expect to win more and do more and we should expect to do that. But I do appreciate the work that has been done and we are going to continue to improve moving forward.”

On if Jordan Jones will play in the bowl game …
“I don’t necessarily want to make a final comment on any of that at this point. I really don’t. But yeah, I anticipate him participating in the bowl game. To what extent or how much and all that, I am not ready to make any decision on all that right now.”

On improving the team’s run defense …

“We have to do a lot of things. I think our players needed this time to heal up and we needed to get full strength. We needed to get some of our guys back stronger. We need to gain some weight back and get healed up and be able to hit that weight room and be physically in a good position to play this game. I think that is a piece of it. Technically, we obviously need to do things better and we will work hard at that to put them in a position to be successful.”

On Jordan Jones managing his energy and the key to that …
“He has to be consistent in it and it cannot be at the cost of the players and the people around him. He knows that. He works hard at it and he has improved in a lot of areas. We all know. We don’t need to go back there and I don’t want to go back there, but we all know that is unacceptable and that is not going to happen. That is not a part of our program. We have tried exceptionally hard to do things right and act right but we are not perfect and Jordan is not. Believe me, there are parts of it with Jordan and any player, where the easy thing to do is to say, ‘Just get rid of the player.’ That is not what I am going to do. This is not about me and what people perceive me as. Kicking kids to the curb or getting rid of them or dismissing them, that is the easy thing to do sometimes. The hard thing to do is to continue to work with them and develop them and make them a very constructive piece of our program and society. That is what I am trying to do. I know Jordan’s background and where he comes from and the difficulties and the struggles that he has had. That doesn’t make it an excuse, but it means something to me to not just kick him to the curb and help him grow and become the young man that I know he can be.”

On BBN going to the game in Nashville …
“It is going to be a fun day in general. I don’t make sales pitches. That is why I am in coaching. But I just want it to be an enjoyable day for our fans. I know how important it is to play well for our fan base and I take great pride in that and preparing our team. Believe me, it bothers me when we fall short of our goals and expectations. Believe me, our team is excited and anxious and ready to get going with our preparation to play in this game and represent our fan base the way they want to be.”

On what it means for the program for Benny Snell Jr. to get All-SEC honors at the running back position …

“It’s a great credit to Benny, like you said, to be All-SEC at running back. You are in with some very talented people. I think it’s a credit to our offensive players, our offensive coaches who put him in a position to be successful, and for individually – I touched on it the last time we were in here – he just has a great desire to play well. You really just can say enough about him, the desire and the passion he plays with. He’s a tough guy to tackle. I think our offensive line has done a very good job at times and we scheme things up at times, but I say you’ll have to credit him, his individual effort, his passion and his desire. He’s been very durable, that’s why that he’s in the position that he’s in.”

On Northwestern having a stout run defense …

“Yeah, I think it will be a real challenge for all of us. There’s no doubt. It seems, statistically, it jumps off the chart in terms of what they do – how tough they play the run. Of course, they’re in that conference. They’re in the Big Ten. That’s a big, physical conference, so you have to be pretty good to be able to contain the run there. We’ll have our hands full but it’ll be a challenge for us. We’ll be excited and ready for it.”

On if there are any guys on the scout team that he may be eager to see in an expanded role in bowl practices …

“You know, when I say that – I just don’t want to single out one guy or two. There’s a bunch of them. I think we were borderline playing four, five, or six of these guys and we did save the redshirt. I’m excited about these guys and them now getting the opportunity to get on the field next year.”

On finishing up recruiting this month …

“We just have to finish strong. I feel good about where we’re at. I have to be very careful with where we’re at in numbers. I think we’re pushing it. We’re already pushing it on where we’re at and how many we can sign. We don’t have a big class. We’ll be pushing it to sign any more than 23 or 24. We’ll see. Sometimes you get some very good players down the stretch here that it’s very difficult to say no to. I’m very pleased with this class. They have great character and great talent, so I feel very good about it.”

On how the competitiveness in college football has grown …

“We all just concentrate on our own little niche here. You all see me all the time and I see you, but if you really look outside and just look at what college football is, it’s a competitive business. It’s fun. I think it’s an exciting time because if we just look at us and our fans and all of that, then we all have a tendency to hang on to the what-ifs and how close things were. But again, it’s an exciting time. We are definitely proud to go to back-to-back bowl games. It’s human nature to want more and push for more. We’re going to continue to do that, but we’re also going to enjoy this. Our team needs to understand that they need to feel good about some of the things we’ve done and put ourselves in a position to go play this game. How important would it be to win an eighth game for us? It hasn’t been done a whole lot, and our players have enjoyed knocking down some doors the last couple years. We really embrace the fact that we need to go get this victory.”

On if anything during the season caused him to re-prioritize some of the things he needed toward the end of recruiting …

“Yeah, there’s always some things like that. I think yes there’s always someone watching exactly what our commits do throughout the year and how they play; maybe some guys that we’ve redshirted that we feel very good about (can affect recruiting decisions). If we feel like we may have some youngsters that are going to step up, then that may alter some of the positions that we go after. Again, there’s always some change or hiccups that come along and you just have to deal with that and move on.”

On how important it is to be able to have an open relationship with an athletic director like he does with Mitch Barnhart …

“It’s key. It’s very important to have a great relationship with the administration. I have great faith and trust in Mitch. We have a good working relationship. He knows where I stand and I know where he stands. I know what the expectations are and what we need to know and he knows. He’s around quite a bit. He’s very hands-on. He knows all of our players. To his credit, he knows every athlete on this campus by name, and he works exceptionally hard at it. He’s been fun to work with. We all – we’re in this together. I think it’s very important to have continuity there along with the president’s office as well.”

On holding the team meeting and what it was like …

“It was a typical Monday meeting after a loss. This one was a little bit different because it was the last game of the year against our rival. There were some situations in that game that none of us were very proud of – not everybody in that room. That’s the key. We’ll keep most of that private, but it was a typical Monday meeting after a defeat. Those are tough. Our players at that point – I needed to address them, that’s why I was there on Monday and not on the road. I needed to visit with them, look them in the eye and talk to them and we did that. It felt pretty good. At that point, those players did need to get away from it. They did need to decompress and step away from the complex for a few days, then they got right back in there and did lift last Wednesday and Friday. They’re lifting, of course, this week they’ll be back in practice. They needed to get away, mentally freshen up a bit, and physically heal up a bit.”

On if he’s had any juniors who have expressed their interest in getting NFL Draft feedback …

“Yeah, I’m officially submitting some requests to the NFL to get some draft feedback. Yes.”

On if he recognized Stephen Johnson with his new haircut …

“He shocked me when I saw him the other day. I did not. I did a double take. I had been on the road, but I did talk to Stephen on the phone – I believe it was yesterday and the day before as well. He’s healing up and needed some time off and is getting some rest and ready to go.”

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

15 responses to “TRANSCRIPT: Mark Stoops previews the Music City Bowl”

  1. 502CodeRed

    “Excited about the opportunity to play in the Music City Bowl and honored to play Northwestern. I know they are going to mop the floor with us but it’s a great opportunity to learn and get better.”

    1. runningunnin.454

      Now back under your stone, you odious little toad.

    2. DennyC

      “classic”…. drop mic….

    3. runningunnin.454

      Shhh, what’s that sound? Oh, another odious little toad….croak croak.
      Say, what are the odds they let Louisville play basketball next year…or the next?
      UL basketball will probably croak…too.

  2. BigBlue4EverUK

    Sources said after the Bowl game, Stoops will be fired.

    1. 502CodeRed

      Going to cost almost $7M. And then a new coach salary. Expensive year.

    2. catsarerunnin

      7 million is a drop in the bucket compared to what lil Ricky will get from DirtyBird U.

    3. runningunnin.454

      Not gonna happen, toads. Maybe UL can avoid getting blown out since their opponent doesn’t have a head coach, nor a starting quarterback.

  3. cats646

    Sources said after the bowl game Lamar Jackson is gone and Louisville will return to being just ” a bunch of dudes”. They will be completely irrelevant again and suck not only at football but every other sport. Go cheat at a video game or something code red. Probably the only thing your good at

    1. 502CodeRed

      They said the same thing when Teddy Bridgewater left.
      Louisville has their replacement QB in place. Remember, he almost scored on you guys at the end of the game until Petrino called off the dogs.

  4. cats646

    And BB4ever you obviously have a mental handicap so I’ll excuse you

  5. will4thewin

    As far as I see it, its several extra weeks of practice that all 5 win and under teams dont get. I think thats the most important part of making a bowl game. And, the players get some cool swag and get to enjoy themselves. I believe were gonna win twice that day!

  6. cats646

    I’m sorry but he was the only thing that made you all decent. I guess we would’ve got to see the replacement if they would’ve threw Lamar out like the rules say. But they didn’t want the Louisville fans whining all year about it so I guess I understand. There will be no replacement that makes you all a good team. Enjoy the governors cup this year. It will be the last time y’all touch it for a while.

    1. 502CodeRed
  7. cats646

    Sorry. That award ain’t gonna help none. 😂 Y’all are screwed. At least our program is looking up. Your losing the only respectable thing your program has. Happy nightmares little birdie. Sleep tight.