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 victory over UT Martin and how the team is preparing for Louisville, among numerous other topics.
Here are the ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:
Stoops is proud of Benny Snell
After a career-high 21-rush, 98-yard performance in Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon, Stoops couldn’t help but rave about Kentucky star Benny Snell.
“That’s really great, I talked to Benny today, you could tell he was really excited,” Stoops said. “For him to do it in Cincinnati with a bunch of Kentucky fans rooting him on, I bet he had a lot of fun.”
What Calvin Taylor is doing isn’t easy
When asked about defensive tackle Calvin Taylor and his status as the current SEC sack leader, Stoops said what he’s doing right now isn’t easy in the slightest.
“There’s no doubt, it’s really hard for an inside guy, especially in a 3-4 defense, to lead a team in sacks,” Stoops said. “I’m really proud of Calvin and the year he’s having. For Josh [Allen] to lead the SEC in sacks last year, followed by Calvin doing it this year, it’s impressive. And then when you factor in that they were both two-star prospects, [it’s even more impressive].”
What do we need to know about Louisville?
Tutu Atwell is one of the most electric players on the Louisville football roster, with one caller pointing out that the sophomore wide receiver thrives in the end-around game.
“They average two of those per game,” Stoops said. “One where they hand it off to him from behind and another where they toss it to him out in front as a pass. He’s an extremely explosive offense, without a doubt.”
But what else do fans need to know about the Cardinals?
“They’re committed to running the ball, definitely much improved there,” he said. “That sets up play actions and the passing game quite a bit. … It’s going to be a real challenge. The big thing for us is to keep getting better, keep elevating our game. Everyone is concerned about the hooplah of the rivalry, but it’s going to be about discipline. The more disciplined team will win the game.”
He’s impressed by the walk-ons
Which walk-ons have made the biggest impact for Kentucky both in practice and in the games?
“They all have contributed, [Drew] Schlegel is our split zone specialist, he’s been excellent,” Stoops said. “[Brett] Slusher has made an impact on special teams. Elijah Barnett has been helping out the program for several years now.”
He then touched on walk-on running back Tyler Markray, who scored his first career touchdown on Saturday against UT Martin.
“Tyler, another walk-on from the Detroit, MI area,” Stoops said. “I’m really proud of him, he’s coming off a major knee injury in high school. He’s working hard, showed some speed right there. That was a lot of fun for all of us to see that. He looked really good, he’s worked really hard.”
How will Kentucky improve the kicking game?
After yet another missed extra point attempt from Chance Poore on Saturday, Stoops was asked how he planned on improving the kicking game.
“Hire a psychologist,” Stoops joked. “Nah, we’ll be alright. Chance will get it straightened out. To be honest with you, I try to leave those guys alone. They’re in their head. Hopefully he gets back to the confidence and hit the ball the way he’s capable of. He just needs to strike the ball and let it go. He’s guiding it a little bit and thinking too much. He’s just got to get back to the fundamentals. I kind of compare it to golf, it’s like a golf swing [when you lose confidence].”
Stoops is proud of the Kentucky basketball team
After Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari praised Stoops and the football program for reaching bowl eligibility on Saturday, Stoops returned the favor on Monday evening.
“Really good to see the hoops team bouncing back [after the Evansville loss],” he said. “Really no surprise, it really seems they played great. There was no doubt he’d turn things around, but it’s great to see it happen.”
What’s with the long throws on short-yardage situations?
A fan called in to ask Stoops why Lynn Bowden threw so many deep balls on short-yardage situations, with the Kentucky head coach acknowledging that it’s not preferable for him.
“I think there’s some truth to that, but also, not only on 3rd, but there was one in particular that he had an open running lane [and still threw it deep],” he said. “Definitely on first and second down we’ve been setting it up and force the ball down the field a little bit, something we’ve noticed. We’ve got to get Lynn’s confidence up and give him some opportunities he likes. We have to get him some throws he’s comfortable with to get him confident. [He missed one deep throw to wide receiver Josh Ali] just barely, it was a great read. He just missed him, the elements made things tough. It just floated on him a little bit.”
The Lynn Bowden praise continues
But that didn’t stop Stoops from praising his superstar playmaker.
“That’s where you get the great punt and kick returners, [natural athletes with vision],” Stoops said. “That’s just the gift, it’s between him and God. You can’t teach a lot of that, that’s just natural talent. You just wonder how they see the lanes on punts and at receiver, so when you put him back there at quarterback, it’s even better. He’s doing some special things right now that make it look easy.”
The linebackers should be at full strength next week
With DeAndre Square (injury) and Chris Oats (suspension) missing the UT Martin game, along with Kash Daniel sitting out the majority of the second half, Stoops said the linebackers should all be ready to roll next week against Louisville.
“We should be much better,” he said. “DeAndre is back close to full strength, he could have played if we really needed him to on Saturday. “Chris Oats is back, Kash Daniel is back to full strength, as well. … Xavier Peters will [also] be available to us this week.”
In their absence was yet another performance from sophomore linebacker Jamin Davis.
“[Jamin Davis] really did some good things two weeks in a row, he’s doing some really good things for us,”
Home-and-home with a Power 5 school
Will Kentucky schedule a home-and-home with another Power 5 school in the near future? Don’t count on it.
“Not sure, never say never. We have a very challenging schedule to say the least,” Stoops said. “Especially with Coach Satterfield and what they are doing at Louisville, if I add any more on, I might need to get [my head checked].”