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, though, Stoops called in for a segment while he was out on the road recruiting, where he talked about the Louisville victory, Lynn Bowden breaking records, and the recruiting success the program is currently finding, among other topics. Then, senior linemen Logan Stenberg and Calvin Taylor joined the show to answer questions from the fans.
Here are ten things we learned during the Mark Stoops Show this evening:
Mark Stoops and his staff are hitting the ground running
As you may have noticed on social media, the Kentucky coaching staff wasted no time getting back out on the recruiting trail.
And don’t expect it to slow down anytime soon.
“We are jumping right into it,” Stoops said. I’m with the man of the hour, Coach White, and Vince Marrow. We’re about to jump on the plane here and get with more prospects. Life is much more fun on the road right the Governor’s Cup when you win like that. We’re hitting the ground running and we’re going to go hard for the next two weeks.”
The Kentucky head coach mentioned that he will be in almost two dozen living rooms over the next two weeks.
“It’s very condensed [following the Louisville game], we only have two week to recruit,” he said. “With the early signing period, we have to go non-stop. I’m going to be in about 22 or 23 living rooms in about two weeks. But you have good energy, good juice, coming off a win like the Louisville game.”
He owes it to all recruits – even commitments – to visit in person
It doesn’t matter whether Kentucky has players committed, on the fringe of commitment, or seen as long shots. If you’re a prized recruit, you’re getting a visit from the UK coaching staff.
It started on the football field throughout the season, and now, he’s going to finish the job.
“I like to show what we do rather than talk about it,” Stoops said. “So many people give you the used car salesmen approach, but I want to show what we can do. Just about everyone I go to in these two weeks, it’s about following up [their visits to Lexington] and building relationships with people that might not know me. Maybe grandparents, other family members. Some guys tell us that we don’t have to come because they’re solid [with Kentucky], but I say “What about all the times you visited campus and took your time to see us and develop relationships with us?” I feel like I owe it to everyone to go visit them in person. Sometimes it’s still a sell, other times it’s just a celebration.”
Lynn Bowden remains a freak of nature
It didn’t take long for Mark Stoops to be asked about his superstar playmaker, Lynn Bowden.
And as usual, the praise was rather significant.
[He’s playing] s well that we look pretty stupid that we didn’t have him under center more often,” Stoops joked. “Really, we want to be balanced and we want to throw the football, but if we did what we were doing from day one, he’d probably be in New York for the Heisman ceremony. Out of the three or four leading rushers in the country, over the last seven games, he has outrushed them all. With what Lynn is doing, it’s been remarkable. With all thee coaches and how they’ve been putting it all together, I’m proud of them all.
Stoops also praised the rest of the offense – specifically the wide receivers – for adjusting throughout the season and sacrificing some of their own personal success for the overall team success.
“I’ve never seen a group feel so much joy in working together to do whatever it takes to win the game,” he said. “Things changed [with our injuries at quarterback] but the way the tight ends and receivers embraced the change and sacrificed, it’s been remarkable.”
Should we worry about Kentucky players entering the transfer portal?
This afternoon, Kentucky linebacker Tra Wilkins entered the transfer portal, and Stoops hinted that he may not be the only one to do so in the near future.
In fact, he went as far as to say he may “need more attrition” moving forward.
“We wish nothing but the best for Tra, he’s a fine young man,” he said. “Happy to help support him any way we can, we’ll help him get somewhere. But we need more attrition, to be honest with you. Some attrition is bad, some attrition is good. We’re in need of scholarships, and after just two days on the road, I’m here to tell you that we’ll have no problem filling them all. There’s attrition everywhere, and we’ll handle that. We’ll continue to replace them with great players.”
What’s the bowl practice schedule?
So what’s next for Kentucky as they prepare for the bowl game?
“Right now, the redshirt guys are getting back in the weight room. The main travel group will get back in the weight room on Thursday,” he said. “I’ll have to take a look at it, but my normal procedure would be to start practice next week to train. We can’t get too far away from [our training], but we’ll need to use these next two weeks recruiting.”
After Stoops hopped off the phone, Logan Stenberg and Calvin Taylor then tossed on headsets and answered questions from Tom Leach and the Kentucky fanbase.
After talking smack, Taylor was giddy to blow out Louisville as a senior
What was it like to finish hi senior season with a dominant victory over Louisville? Pretty darn sweet.
Especially after talking a little smack earlier in the week, essentially guaranteeing a victory over the Cardinals during a media opportunity.
“Yeah, it was so fun because earlier in the week I said we would win,” Calvin Taylor said. “I caught some flak for that, but it felt good to go out there and cash that check with my brothers one last time.”
How did the team respond to his win guarantee?
“The players have my back,” Taylor said, “But the coaches were like, “You can’t be going out there and handing out bulletin board material.” But it was good to go out there and get the victory.”
Was he just that confident?
How did the Lynn Bowden experiment come to fruition?
Leach asked both players about how Bowden was introduced as the team’s starting quarterback and the team’s response.
According to Stenberg, they knew it was a possibility after seeing it in practice one week. And when the coaching staff said they would be moving forward with it, they were all in.
“The week prior, Lynn had been sprinkled in at practice, so we got a taste of it,” Stenberg said. “We knew it’d be a possibility. But the next week, we switched things up, Stoops told us we’d be going with Lynn and that we’d be running the ball with it. We just went with it and went all-in.”
Taylor, on the other hand, admitted it was an adjustment at first. After he realized how serious the staff was about it, they were excited about the opportunity to buy in.
“I wont even lie, at first we didn’t know how to feel about it,” Taylor said. “But when [the change officially happened] we just really believed in Lynn because he’s a dynamic athlete, we knew it could work because we have a dominant offensive line. We just had to buy in as a team.”
Like Stoops, Stenberg also credited the receivers, along with the entire offense, for buying in and sacrificing for the betterment of the team.
“Guys like Ahmad [Wagner] on the outside, they’re not getting near as much credit as they should,” he said. “They did a great job this year, really unselfish play. We couldn’t have done it without him. .. We knew he was going to touch the ball every play, so it makes us [as a collective offensive unit] want to go out there and play better.”
What were their favorite moments and/or wins during their time at Kentucky?
For Taylor, it was the Citrus Bowl win over Penn State last year.
“Favorite win, I would say the Citrus Bowl because all you heard all week was “Penn State this, Penn State that.” It was just a fun time for everyone.”
As for Stenberg, he singled out the victory in the Swamp.
“My favorite win was in the Swamp beating Florida last year,” he said. “Coach Schlarman got the game ball afterward, it was just a great game and a great win.”
What were their recruitments like?
Calvin Taylor’s success story has been widely documented, but the former zero-star defensive line explained the situation from his point of view and how he got to Lexington.
“It was a crazy journey because I was recruited by a lot of schools, but some of them had coaching changes and left me without a place to go,” he said. “A JUCO coach connected with [former UK defensive line coach Jimmy] Brumbaugh, I scheduled an official visit, and [eventually after National Signing Day] Coach Stoops and all of his staff, they gave me a chance. During breaks, I stayed on campus and worked out because I felt like I owed it to them.”
And what was it like meeting Stoops for the first time?
“He was just a real cool guy, I was kind of nervous because [as a native of Augusta, GA] I was all the way in Kentucky. I never even thought of Kentucky. He was really nice to my mother, I’m just thankful.”
As for Stenberg, his recruitment was rather cut-and-dry.
“My recruitment was pretty simple,” he said. “Coach Schalrman came to me, I knew I wanted to play in the SEC. I had a great relationship with Schlarman, and it was pretty easy from there.”
Who will be the breakout players for Kentucky next season?
Each player was asked to pick a player from their respective side of the football who they expected to break out next year at Kentucky.
On defense, Taylor stuck with a member of the defensive line.
“If I had to pick someone, even though [Quinton Bohanna] is already a good player, I really think he has another level to go,” he said. “I think he’s already one of the best nose guards in the country, but I think he’s going to come out next year and have a really dominant year.”
On offense, Stenberg chose a running back.
“Chris [Rodriguez] had an impressive showing against Louisville, but I think he’s going to come back next year and be dominant in the run game,” he said.
- Stenberg on who will replace him at left guard: “I think Luke Fortner will bump over to left guard, and maybe Kenneth Horsey or Quinton Wilson will move to right guard”
- Stenberg on John Schlarman: “He’s an inspiration, all the sacrifices he’s made throughout the year. All the sacrifices he made, we owe him everything.”
- Taylor on his battle with Louisville OL Mekhi Becton: “It was a good battle, it was like looking in the mirror. It’s weird looking a guy right in the eye [on the football field]. He’s a long guy like myself. It’s always a battle about getting lower and maintaining leverage.”
- Stenberg on his penalties: “It’s a fine line, and I struggle to walk that line every once and a while. But I’d rather have a coach tell me to slow down than speed up, they appreciate the fire I bring to the table.”
- Taylor on bowl preference: “My preference would be somewhere warm, I’m guessing. I don’t have anyone in mind. I’m just excited to see where we draw.”
- Stenberg on bowl preference: “Yeah, somewhere warm would be great. But I’m just excited for one last opportunity with my brothers.”
- Stenberg on Kentucky’s goal to rush for 500 yards against Louisville: “We really focused on the rushing yards per game. The week prior we got 465, we said we wanted to get [at least] 500 against Louisville, and we’re happy we got that.”