Mark Stoops’ Press Conference Transcript
COACH STOOPS: Good afternoon. Good to see everybody. We’re excited. Excited that it’s game week finally. Our players and coaches have worked extremely hard the last eight months to put us in position for this first game. We’re looking forward to getting out there, seeing what we’re all about, see what we have. Excited about a great challenge, a team that won seven games and went to a Bowl. It will be a great challenge. Looking forward to getting this season started.
Q. Mark, you obviously weren’t here. Do you want the guys that were here last year using that Western game as motivation?
COACH STOOPS: If they need to, sure. I told them that. It bothered me that they â€‘â€‘ that we lost that game a year ago. It should bother them.
All that’s going to go out the window. It’s about preparation.
Q. How strange is it to have a team that this program has played the last couple of years but really doesn’t know a lot about. It is tough prepping for a Week 1 game where you don’t know what you’re going to do.
COACH STOOPS: Both of us are in the same situation, I think. They’ve had a little bit more time if they wanted to get creative and change some things up certainly between years.
But it will be a great challenge. Very good offensive mind, very good defensive mind over there at Western. We’ll have a lot to prepare for.
Q. Mark, what do you know about Bobby Petrino?
COACH STOOPS: Just watching him. I don’t know him personally. I had never played against him. Just watching him, you can see he’s a great play caller and very good offensive mind. Obviously, has had a great deal of success.
Q. Mark, what are your routines like for game week? Do you have your kids stay in hotels usually?
COACH STOOPS: Before home games, yes. Yeah, we will. We’ll travel and stay here locally when we play at home and stay in the hotel the night before, yes.
Q. Mark, what are your emotions? Are you excited? Tense? Nervous?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think â€‘â€‘ it certainly is a little different Monday than it’s been for the past eight months, knowing that game week is here. A little bit more excitement. Just making sure we’re prepared the right way and just all the little things.
Without being a head coach before, just the travel, the procedures and all that, just making sure myself, the team, and the coaches are all on the same page.
Q. Mark, with so many unknowns â€‘â€‘ you don’t know them that well, they don’t know you â€‘â€‘ does it come down to maybe halftime adjustments?
COACH STOOPS: It certainly could be, like most games. We expect a very tough, hard fought game. Obviously, they’ll be very wellâ€‘coached. I think our team has prepared extremely well to this point. We’ll be ready to go.
Yes, I think halftime adjustments will be important. They really always are.
Q. What did you do in the last eight months to kind of instill confidence in these guys? Have you seen that play out on the practice field?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, and I think we need to continuously work on that. That’s something that does not come very natural to our team right now.
So I think with confidence, you’ve got to prepare. If you prepare in the right way and go about your business the right way, I think they’ll gain more and more confidence.
Q. How important then is it to get this new era off on a good foot? And can you talk about building confidence?
COACH STOOPS: I think it is important. I’ve not shied away from that question. I think it’s very important.
There’s a lot of excitement around our program and around the state, and nationally really. It’s time for us to go out and prove it and see what we’re all about. I’m excited, and I think our team will be as well.
Q. What about Western’s depth? Do they have any positions that you’re worried about and are going to give you fits?
COACH STOOPS: I think they’re deep in the secondary, which is they have a good experienced group coming back in the secondary, an extremely talented middle linebacker that makes an awful lot of tackles. They lose some guys from a year ago up front.
So we all have our issues and guys to replace from a year ago. I’m sure they’ll lean heavily on the running back. He’s a fantastic player, Antonio Andrews, and just a great player. So he’s somebody that we got to keep an eye on.
Q. Mark, are you committed to playing both quarterbacks this week, or is it a situation where whoever goes out there first and if he’s playing well, just run with it?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, we’re not going to set anything in stone. We don’t want to tell these players something that’s not true. We’ll name a starter. A starter’s going to go out there, and he’s going to go. He’s going to run with it.
We do plan on playing both quarterbacks, yes. But if the other guy’s rolling and we’re doing well, then we may stick with it.
Q. Of all the youngsters, the new ones you have coming into camp, which ones stand out to you or maybe two that people are going to be hearing a lot about?
COACH STOOPS: That’s a good question. Ryan Timmons is a guy that we all are excited about. He’ll be out there. He’ll play quite a bit. Javess Blue, who’s not a youngster â€‘â€‘ he’s a junior college transfer. We expect a lot out of Javess. Jason Hatcher has been very impressive throughout camp.
Yeah, those guys will be out there for sure. Alex (Montgomery). You guys always get me on Alex because I’ve been bragging on him. Alex has been extremely good through camp, expect to see him out there quite a bit.
Q. What is it about Jason Hatcher that stands out to you?
COACH STOOPS: He’s got a motor. He’s very explosive, and it’s important to him. So we expect him to contribute. He’s got a little bit more depth in front of him.
And he’s had a few nagging injuries through camp that have slowed him a little bit. Nothing major. He’s out there today in full go and all that. He’s missed a little time that’s put him behind.
Q. On Nate Willis’ status …
COACH STOOPS: I feel good about Nate. He is caught up. He’s a guy that missed summer, as you know. He’s working his way into shape right now, and that’s hurt him a little bit, as you would expect. He’s just not as physically prepared as the rest of our team, and that slowed him down a little bit.
We expect him to be out there contributing.
Q. How much do you have to worry about the emotions around the team taking away from your team’s focus?
COACH STOOPS: I think you always worry about that. I think with the opener, that’s something to consider. I think it’s very important for our team to be energized, but, again, I told them this very early in the process to be motivated to prepare and to have a great week of practice. And then we could go out there with confidence and play well and let it loose.
Q. Mark, when the lights come on Saturday, are there one or two things you’re going to be looking for from your team? Like signs early on like, hey, we’re going to be okay?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, just like that, just the emotions and being able to handle it. Again, there’s a fine line there. You want them energized. You want them very into the game.
The energy is not going to win you the game. The preparation, the team that’s prepared and the team that’s the best team is going to win, who makes the fewest mistakes and doesn’t turn the ball over and things like that.
But I think â€‘â€‘ just, yeah, I’m very excited to see where we’re at as a team and to see what the character of this team will be come Saturday.
Q. When that light does go on, do you yourself kind of step back and go, I’m the head coach. This is the first game. Will you be able to enjoy that at all?
COACH STOOPS: I think maybe briefly or at the beginning. Certainly, I mean, I’m human, and it will be exciting for me. It is to this point. It will mean something to me.
But then it’s getting right back at the task at hand and getting your team ready to win.
Q. Mark, Cody Quinn was out a couple weeks. I know he was first on the depth chart. Is he 100 percent and all is good with him?
COACH STOOPS: As of right now. We’ll see. I’m going to be very brief on the injuries from this point forward here as we get closer to the game. I’ve been very lenient with you all on that.
But, yes, that’s where it’s at today.
Q. And why is he No. 1 on the depth chart?
COACH STOOPS: He’s always been No. 1 on the depth chart.
Q. How close are you being able to play the tempo you want on offense?
COACH STOOPS: I think we’re close. Again, I think, if you asked Neal that question, probably not the tempo that he would like to see, and I think we’ll improve as we go forward. I think still, again, as a defensive coach and watching it, it’s still at a pretty good clip.
Q. If you guys played your best football game on Saturday what will that look to you in terms of what you see offensively and defensively? If you play in a game, what are the things you’re pleased with?
COACH STOOPS: I want us to be exciting and make plays. I think we have an exciting brand of offense and an exciting defense, but I want to see us play within ourselves also and just have a bunch of guys being on the same page.
It’s very difficult to win when nine or ten guys are doing the right things and one or two are not. Everybody needs to be on the same page playing together as a team, and that energy needs to carry over to all phases.
Q. Are you intrigued to see what the character of the team would be? What do you think it looks like now at this point? What are some of the characteristics?
COACH STOOPS: I think we’re a team that’s still growing, a team that’s still learning and trying to put it all together. Again, I’ve said it all along. I’ve been pleased with their attitude and their work ethic and the way they’re going about their business.
The character of the team to see how much of a chip on our shoulder we have and how we go out there and play and how confidently we play is yet to be seen.
Q. Mark, you studied a few offensive game plans in your day. What do you think it is that makes Petrino effective when it comes to attacking opposing defenses?
COACH STOOPS: I think he’s just obviously a very good coach, and he understands what you’re doing. You do need to be multiple and change some things up. I think he has a good answer for what you’re doing. You need to try to stay ahead of the game there.
Q. As a defensive coordinator, who would you prefer to go up against, Max or Jalen and why?
COACH STOOPS: That’s a very tricky question, but fair enough.
I think the thing is, obviously, the simple answer to that question is one’s a very dynamic runner and one’s not, but it would be who’s going to effectively run the offense. If a person is only a runner, then I would feel pretty good, as a defensive coordinator, being able to stop that.
So I think it’s whoever’s running the offense most effectively.
Q. Does Whitlow â€‘â€‘ do you feel confident he brings more than just the wheels?
COACH STOOPS: Yes, I do. I do feel good. I feel like he can operate the offense very effectively and he has done some very good things.
With that being said, Max is better in certain areas as well. We’ll see how Jalen grows, and we’ll see how Max grows. They’re both very good players.
Q. On putting one good play after another instead of focusing on the home runs right now …
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely, absolutely. We need to be ahead of the chains offensively and the same thing defensively. We can’t be giving up big plays.
We need to play very smart, and we need to have everybody on the same page, that’s for sure, as a team.
Q. Coach, how many running backs do you like to play? Do you have a certain number of carries you’d like each guy to get?
COACH STOOPS: It kind of depends, I think. Hopefully, we’ll get a bunch of snaps with Coach Brown and this offense. In the past, they’ve gotten a bunch of snaps per game. If we’re getting a lot of snaps, that means we’re moving the ball. If that’s the case, then we’re going to need to play quite a few running backs.
Raymond will be the guy. We expect him to be able to carry a big load and be able to run it quite a few times. We feel like we have good depth behind it.
Very pleased with Jonathan (George), Dyshawn (Mobley), and hopefully Jojo (Kemp) can give us a little bit as well.
Q. Blake McClain is listed as a linebacker on the depth chart. Is that a change?
COACH STOOPS: That would be the nickel spot. Maybe a little typo there. Sam/Nickel for us, depending on down and distance.
Q. On when he will inform Jalen and Max who the starting quarterback is …
COACH STOOPS: We’ll tell them this week who we plan on being in there to start the game. We will tell them this week.
I’m not going to tell you when. You’ll try to get that out of me.
Q. On if he will tell the media/public who the starting quarterback is …
COACH STOOPS: No, I’m not. This first game, I don’t see a reason. It’s been a close battle the whole time. Might as well use it to our advantage, if it is one. I’m sure they’ll be prepared for both guys.
Q. Will you let the team know?
COACH STOOPS: Just the players themselves, I think. The team will kind of get that feel as who’s getting the first reps.
Q. Have you all made that decision at this point?
COACH STOOPS: Yes.
Q. Coach, can you talk about the kicking game?
COACH STOOPS: I feel good about the kicking game. Landon, obviously, has been very effective and very good punter. He had the injury in the spring. He seems to be 100 percent. He’s kicking the ball very well. So very pleased with him.
Joe will be doing the kicking. Joe has been very good throughout camp. He’s been consistent. Like I said in one of the previous press conferences, he hit two field goals over 50 in twoâ€‘minute drills in scrimmage situations. He had some good pressure on him in front of the whole team and hit two in two different situations. So I felt good about that.
Right now Joe has been more consistent and has the stronger leg to do the kicking.
Q. Coach, you talked about the play calling processes. How much are you involved in personnel as to who’s in the game? Or do you leave that completely up to the position coaches?
COACH STOOPS: That will be completely up to the position coaches, for the most part. Again, if there’s someone I feel needs to be in there, I’ll say that, and it will get done. But I have a lot of confidence in them making those substitutions.
Again, especially offensively, there’s so many plays, hopefully a lot of plays, and so we need to rotate guys in there quite a bit.
Defensively, I’m in there with them making personnel decisions daily.
Q. What are your expectations for your defensive ends and pressure as a whole?
COACH STOOPS: We’re expecting big things out of those two guys (Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith). They’re both very good players. We need some production. You know, it’s no secret, in this style of defense, that you have to be good up front. We’re going to lean on those guys to be play makers for us.
Q. Mark, among the fan base, maybe there’s this idea that a couple years down the road is what they’re really looking towards. Worried about your players maybe hearing that talk, low expectations for the season?
COACH STOOPS: Sure. I think it’s reasonable that they may hear that. We don’t talk about it much. We talk about win every game. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go about our business each and every day and preparing to win. I expect our team to be the same.
Q. How much of that preparation â€‘â€‘ talking about the process, how much of that preparation, as far as teaching them this is how we prepare, this is how we watch video, this is how we practice, this is how we do game week, as part of the process. How far do you feel you’ve gone along in that aspect going into the first game?
COACH STOOPS: That’s a great point. That’s why we did that last week so they had a feel what a typical Tuesday was, what a typical Wednesday was.
That is part of it, how we do things, and when we go against scout team and when we go against each other, and how much we’re going to do that on Tuesday and Wednesday. I think it’s very important for us to keep on developing our team.
So that’s going to be a fine line there of balancing â€‘â€‘ being able to physically take it or develop your team. Right now we’re going forward as the plan says and working out a pretty decent amount on Tuesday and Wednesday against each other still.
Q. Mark, I thought I heard you say you were looking for more, quote, unquote, swag from your team.
COACH STOOPS: I don’t know if I said that exactly â€‘â€‘
COACH STOOPS: I do. I do want them playing with more of an attitude.
Q. Attitude. That was the word I was looking for.
COACH STOOPS: Again, I don’t want it false or fake, but I want them to give it the maximum they can, and I feel good about this team. I’ve said it all along. We can be a very good team, and we can shock a lot of people. We’ve just got to do what we can do and do it to the best of our ability, and that’s what I want to see out of them.
Q. How soon do you realize what you
have? Is it the first play, first series, when the game’s over?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, the first game. I think this will be a good test for us, and it will be a great challenge. I don’t expect it to be easy. So therefore, that will be good to test us all the way through.
Q. Mark, going into this thing, do you have more questions remaining about your offense or your defense?
COACH STOOPS: I think personnelâ€‘wise, it’s fair to say probably defensively, that we need to continue to improve throughout this year.
Offensively, there’s a lot of unproven guys as well. We’re going to count on some guys offensively that have not played a lot of football. So it’s important to see how they play in a gameâ€‘like situation.
Q. Coach, you always talk about the quarterback competition. How much does competition in other spots carry over through Saturday’s game?
COACH STOOPS: Every game, and I’ve said that before too. Everybody puts a lot of attention on the quarterback situation, but at every position, you know, it’s always open. Nobody should feel comfortable with their position.
They have to go out and produce and play well, or it’s got to be the next man up, and constantly putting pressure on these guys to improve.
Q. How excited are you for all this to kind of be done and get in there and coach football?
COACH STOOPS: It’s been nice for the last month to get in it there and just work on football for the most part.
But I’m excited, yeah, that this is over, and let’s really get on with the rest of the week and zero in on this first game. It’s â€‘â€‘ I don’t know if it’s going to go fast or slow. I’m still waiting to see. It may go slow from the way I woke up this morning.
But this first eight months has gone by relatively fast. We’ve had a lot of work to do. I feel really good. I feel like the staff has done an excellent job. I feel like the players have worked really hard. We’ve got to go out there and put it all together and see where we’re at.
Q. You talked about Petrino earlier, that he’s going to find a way to pick you apart. You say multiple, you mean changing things, trying to get in different looks?
COACH STOOPS: Sure, absolutely. You’ve got to â€‘â€‘ yes, you’ve got to be multiple in your defenses and not let them zero in on you. He has pretty good players. With each thing you’re doing, he’ll have a pretty good idea how to attack you.
Q. One of his trademarks in his coaching is creating mismatches, finding your weak spots.
COACH STOOPS: And I think he does a nice job of taking his shots. He sets up his shots, and he can get the ball down the field and get some chunks.
Q. Mark, will you sleep this week?
COACH STOOPS: Hopefully, a little bit. I’m excited, but I feel good. I feel good about the preparation we’ve done so far. I’ve got to tidy it up here this week. I’ll just be anxious to get out here and let it rip.
Q. Mark, if you’re as excited as you say you are this week, how excited do you think a guy like Neal Brown is about this game?
COACH STOOPS: All of our staff and Neal, we’re all very excited. I think any coach will probably â€‘â€‘ will tell you that, until you get out there and play that first game, you don’t know exactly what you have, or what your team’s demeanor will be or how they’ll respond in certain situations.
I think, from what I know, most coaches are always anxious for that first game.
Q. Mark, how well do you feel about your team’s ability going in to play with few penalties?
COACH STOOPS: I feel pretty good about that. I think we’ve worked very hard at that. We’ve had officials around us all the time. Hopefully, we’ll be very clean as far as penalties and ball security.