I’d like to start by thanking Mitch and Dr. Capilouto. You can tell by the stadium and what we’re doing, there’s been great support, so I greatly appreciate them. It’s great to get started, as you know. I’ve been tired of the talking season, and anxious to get started with football.
It was good to get on some meetings this morning and get rolling with football. I’m excited about our players. Our players have worked extremely hard. I tell you, I’ve been very proud. As a coach the last thing you want is news in the summer. So our guys have really handled their business, taken care of themselves academically. There is a great energy in our building, so we’re ready to go, players are optimistic, coaches are ready to go, so we’re ready to roll.
Q. Therrell Gosier is not on the roster. He didn’t make it?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, yeah, Therrell will not make it and neither will Javon. They won’t be here.
Q. Is there a concern with Nick (Richardson) also?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, Nick is no longer with us. There will be one other guy. Levon Livingston, we’re still working through some things. So we’re optimistic we can get him back later this summer.
Couple things too, Courtney Love and Greg Hart, we’re not sure where that’s at yet as well. So we’re waiting on that.
Q. Do you have a timeline for how long before you have to say (Inaudible)? Do you practice them regularly?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it’s a little tricky. We had that situation in the spring, but we will work with them. They’ll get some reps. We will not work with the ones much, obviously, until we see where they’re at. So it will be a week or two. We’re optimistic that we’ll get some resolution on that in the next week or two.
We’re ready to go. Like I said, it was good to stop seeing your faces and see my team this morning. I can promise you that (laughing). Like I said, last night’s meeting was good. Our players are all back. Just excited. They’ve worked hard. They’re confident, as they should be, just because of the work. As I tell them all the time, you can be more confident if you put the work in. I feel like our players have dedicated themselves, gotten bigger, gotten stronger, and worked extremely hard.
So there is great energy, there is great optimism, but we have to go do it. We have to be more disciplined. We have to be more disciplined in our approach. Bottom line is we have to be more consistent, and I think we are. I think you’ll see that from this team. So as I always tell you, we’ve not arrived yet, but we’re on our way.
Q. You mentioned the body types, was there anything more profound this year than in previous years?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, as you would expect. We feel like we’ve recruited good bodies, some good lengths, some good size, and then you need to develop those guys. I feel like we’re getting more of where we want to be. So we’re not we’re still a work in progress physically as well as we are mentally. But we’re getting better, that’s for sure. We have more bodies to work with. We look better.
Q. You have a new offensive coordinator. What will we see from him?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think you’ll see some similar things. I think the roots of this system are similar, but I think you’ll see more put on the quarterback as far as communication in our operation. I think you’ll see a little bit different style of the run game at times. There will be some carryover as well with that, but I’d like to improve in our run game as we always do with everything in our program.
I think Coach Dawson does a good job of having a physical approach, and that opens up the opportunity to get the ball down the field, and that’s where we need to improve. The run game puts pressure on people. You put pressure on people in the run game. It opens things up down the field. We feel like we’re more experienced and have some more play makers outside. I think that’s where you need to be good in this offense and in any offense you need to be a threat outside. I feel like we have some experience from those guys. Those guys are getting bigger, getting stronger, got some playmakers, so that will put some pressure on some people.
Q. Your depth chart with all the running backs, what have you seen from those guys to get started?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, because nobody’s really jumped out and earned the spot. There’s been inconsistencies in each of them, and there’s been some very good things from each of them. So we’ll see where they go. We’re not really worried about it right now to you all and to them it is important to earn a starting position. But they have plenty of opportunities. They have about 29 practices to see who earns the opportunity to go out there first.
Q. You’re more hands on with the defensive backs. You’ve talked about these freshmen wanting to get in there and work with them. How much are you anticipating getting to work with those guys, and how for those veteran guys you talked so much about being concerned at corner. You’ve got two guys that started for two years. How have they responded to your concern, I guess?
COACH STOOPS: They have no choice but to work to get better. We put pressure on all of our players to improve. They need to improve. We’re proud of the work that they’ve done, but they need to be more consistent. As far as myself, I hope to be a lot more involved. I’m very confident. Coach Elliott’s done a great job in organizing our package and being on the same page with our coaches and our players, and I really like where we’re at systematically.
I really want to be more involved. I need to be more involved. The first two years, I think there’s distractions that come with it. That’s why it’s just hard to handle one side or the other for me the first two years as far as you’ve got to have good people. That’s why we’ve got great coordinators on both sides of the ball. I’m very proud of the work they’ve done, and I’m anxious to get back in there and get more involved.
So we’ll work with Coach Ansley and Coach Eliot, and just see if I can help. Like I told you earlier with the hire of Coach Buh, I think there is so much pressure put on defenses. Certainly you see the SEC changing and everyone in college football and the pressure they put on defenses. Whether it’s rules, whether it’s tempo, a lot of things that factor into that, there is a lot of pressure on you defensively, and it takes a lot of it takes good players and it takes a lot of help in the defensive room.
So I’m excited to get in there and give as much as I can, and hopefully year three you settle in and you find your rhythm as far as when you get pulled out of the room and those things. You have your obligations as a head coach that I’m more comfortable with at this point in time. But I am excited to get back into the room.
Talking to you guys is exciting at times, but coaching defense and coming up with a game plan and seeing those executed is much more exciting.
Q. What factor will Jacob Hyde play in the running game? Is he still dabbling?
COACH STOOPS: We’ll see. We’ll see. Yes, he’s dabbling. We’ll see where it goes. If he can help us, we’ll use him. The great thing about Jacob like a lot of our players he’s very unselfish, and he’s a guy that wants to help the football team win and he’ll do whatever it takes to get on the field and help.
Q. (Inaudible) but you say you need to fit better around him (Inaudible).
COACH STOOPS: I think as we’ve said most of the summer, we’re going to be inexperienced at the outside linebacker position. Denzil Ware, Jason Hatcher, Alvonte Bell a few guys, you’ve got Jabari back on edge into the boundary that played well last year. Those are a few names if you want them. But it is hard to replace those guys because they have the experience.
So that’s what’s going to be hard to replace, but we’re more experienced inside. We’re going to play much better at inside linebacker. I’ve made no bones about it as I’ve sat here through the first two years telling you that we haven’t played well enough at times in a lot of positions, and certainly we haven’t played to our standard inside.
I think you’re going to see vast improvement at the inside linebacker position. I think you’re going to see improvement from the secondary. We have some experience inside. We lost some experience. We lost some good players up front, but we have some coming back as well. Melvin Lewis, Farrington, Jabari, those guys are going to be good players for us and good leaders.
Q. Coach, have you made any progress deciding on a quarterback?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, again, we feel very good about it. I know it’s something to write about and all that, but just like the running back position or whatever, there is a lot of competition that goes on. Nothing’s going to be given to you in this program. You’re going to earn it. You’re going to work for it. I’ve made no bones about it.
I’ve been proud of the quarterbacks. I’ve been proud of Patrick. I’ve been proud of the work he’s done. I think he’s improved. You could go back to again, I could go back to the story when he was named to third team and a high profile talented quarterback could have put his head down and walked away and quit, and all he did was get better. I’ve asked him to get better from last year to this year, and that’s what he’s done.
So there is pressure on all of our players to improve. So that will work its way out. It could work its way out in one day. It could work its way out in two practices, it could work its way out in two weeks or through the first game. I don’t know.
Again, as I’ve said, I think it’s more of a compliment to Drew and his capabilities than anything negative in Patrick, because Patrick has done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s getting better. I think he’s going to have a great year. But I feel, again, I go to Drew and the good things he’s done. He deserves that opportunity, and we’re going to get a good look at him.
Q. You said in the spring you challenged Drew with his maturity and stepping up in leadership. How has he responded?
COACH STOOPS: He’s responded really well. We put pressure on him. He’s responded. He’s doing good. He looks better. He’s worked on things. He’s worked with Coach Dawson. I’m anxious to see him. It will be nice that you don’t have to worry about dabbling with the red shirt and all that stuff. You don’t have to worry about it. If he gets the opportunity to play, we’ll see what he can do.
Q. Mark, you mentioned not wanting players to making meetings outside (Inaudible). What did you want the guys to learn from that?
COACH STOOPS: That was a long time ago, but as we have our preseason meets, we cover a lot of things. We pride ourselves on being a learning organization, all of us. We’re here to get better and to learn and improve every day. We have a lot of learning opportunities and a lot of people point those out to all of us, so that’s the good thing. But I think our team whether it be that incident and all the things you see in our society and all the things you see across the country, there are a lot of issues.
We’ve put a lot of people in front of our kids to educate them and to help them and support them to make good decisions. When you’re dealing with the numbers that we’re dealing with, there are going to be some mistakes. What they have to understand is they’re in a fish bowl. Any mistake that they make is going to get brought to their attention to this state and to our community and nationally sometimes. None of us like that, but we’re going to learn from it, and we’re going to move on.
I’ve been proud of those guys, the work they’ve done to put themselves in good standing on this team and to move forward.
Q. On finding returners in special teams …
COACH STOOPS: Quite a bit, quite a few. We need to look at a lot of guys. We feel like we’re getting more and more playmakers in there. I feel like kick returning, we’re going to have a lot of options. Punt returns is the one that we have to shore up and T.V. Williams, Ryan, it will be interesting to see Ryan back there. I’d like to see him get comfortable and be able to do that.
So we’ll look at some options at punt return. But kick return we feel like we’re getting more and more playmakers, more and more guys with talent with the football in their hands. It’s an easier catch, a little less pressure on them at the kick return. So I feel like we’ll have some options there. And we need to make some explosive plays in the return game. So punt return is the one I’m concerned about.
Q. Does that frustrate you with Timmons a little bit because he was such an electric playmaker in high school, and at times when he gets the ball in his hands here he seems to have maybe sort of a mental hang up with the punt return aspect?
COACH STOOPS: No, I don’t think so. I’m not frustrated with him at all. I think he’s going to have a big year both with the return game and in receiver. Coach Dawson will do a great job of getting the ball in his hands, and I think he’s a very good player.
That’s not easy to do. The punt return is not easy to do. It takes a lot of it takes a good skillset to do that, and I anticipate he’ll be out there battling to make some plays in the punt return game. So we’ll see where it goes.
Q. How ready are Bell and (Inaudible) to help you now, and what do you want to see from them?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we’ll see. Both guys have not been here this summer. They just arrived on campus, so it’s hard to know what to expect. I know they both look good. I know they’ve both put a lot of work in and dedicated themselves to get here. They were very talented players in high school and junior college and on film. So I’m excited about them to see what they can do. So we’ll see as we move forward with them. I’m not sure.
Q. What have you learned the most these first two years as a head coach?
COACH STOOPS: That’s hard to put into context. There’s quite a few things. I think as I said, I think it’s constantly you’re constantly learning. We pride ourselves I pride myself on pushing the staff and the players to constantly learn, put them in a learning environment. I’m always trying to do the same. I’ve always felt comfortable with the organization of what we have in place to move this program forward.
I think we’re very clear and very defined on what we expect of ourselves, of our staff, of our players. I have great support around me. As I said earlier, I can’t thank Dr. Capilouto, Mitch Barnhart enough. We have great people, whether it’s strength and conditioning, high performance, leadership in Jason Cummins. We have great people around here that help us and help organize me and move the program forward. So there are a lot of areas, I believe, that we as an organization have improved on.
Q. I was just curious: How do you balance the need to settle on a quarterback with Reese getting the opportunity coming off an injury?
COACH STOOPS: Well, Reese isn’t quite a hundred percent right now, so he won’t be live in team drills for a while. So we’ll see where he can be. He’s coming off a pretty significant injury. We need him out there. We need the arms in camp to operate and to practice.
So he will be out there, and he’ll do some seven on seven. His arm is good and he’s throwing all that. But putting him in live situations right now, I don’t know. He’s not ready for that. But it will be important for him. Obviously, he will be behind the eight ball a little bit missing all of spring practice and all of summer, really. He’s worked on his own, but he hasn’t been in there much with the team.
So, again, thank you. I’m excited about this team. I feel like the bottom line is, as I said earlier at SEC Media Days, we’re an improved football team, and that’s what we need to concentrate on. I know we’re better. I know our players have worked hard. They’re doing the right things. They’ve bought into what we’re doing.
We need to take the next step. We need to be more disciplined in our approach and more consistent. That is the bottom line. So I think that’s what’s exciting to me that these guys are eager. They want to win. They want to do the right things.
So we’ll see. We have a great opportunity. It’s an exciting time with the stadium, with the facility that’s being built, with the staff we have in place. There are a lot of good things, a lot of positive things. So that’s what we’re anxious just to get going. As I said, we’ve got our first practice today and we’re ready to go. Thank you.