“I always prefer to say ‘whoa’ than ‘giddy up.’ “
Mark Stoops’ favorite idiom to address a players’ emotion on the field applies to how he foresees one’s future. He learned early as a head that setting expectations too high can have dangerous consequences. When he singles out a player’s progress, that kind of compliment packs a punch.
Kentucky’s head football coach recently spoke with The Athletic’s Kyle Tucker about a broad range of topics. Stoops reflected on his time with the Cats and broke down his upcoming roster. Obviously, he is pleased to have a quarterback room that’s filled with quarterbacks. The part that popped off the page most for me happened when Stoops addressed the defensive line. Kentucky’s head coach did not pump the brakes on senior year expectations for Quinton Bohanna.
“Quinton is really motivated to take a big jump in his last year, and I can’t wait to see it,” Stoops said. “He’s going to have a big year. He’s dedicated and he’s the leader of that group.”
This type of talk was not-so-subtly said around the Joe Craft Football Training Facility a year ago. Bohanna, a 6-4 370-pound nose guard, was hampered with ankle injuries throughout 2018. Many folks believed if he played to his potential in 2019, he could enter the NFL Draft after his junior year. Bohanna was solid — recording 18 tackles, 3.0 TFL, a sack and a PBU — but failed to consistently stand out as a playmaker in the middle of UK’s defense.
The nature of the nose guard position requires a selfless person. Often blocked by two or three people at once, producing stats from the position is extremely difficult. Despite the position’s challenges, Stoops still believes Bohanna will be the leader of the best defensive line we’ve seen in the Bluegrass in quite some time.