Mark Stoops survived Media Day 2015, his third time facing the harsh, danish-loving Lexington media on the morning of fall camp. We’ve heard a lot from him all summer at various stops along the offseason tour, so there wasn’t a ton of new information, but here’s all you need to know from his 20-minute chat in Commonwealth Stadium’s Wildcat Den.
Announced the departures of three players.
First and foremost, some roster updates to lead off today’s press conference:
Spring signees Therrell Gosier and Javon Provitt did not meet eligibility requirements, therefore they will not be on campus this fall.
Gosier is a big body receiver, listed at 6-6, in the mold of sophomore Blake Bone. His absence is a hit to depth and the future at the X-receiver position.
Provitt is a three-star defensive tackle out of Warren, Ohio. Like Gosier, he will be missed among the newcomers on the depth chart.
Stoops also announced the departure of offensive lineman Nick Richardson, for undisclosed reasons. Richardson redshirted last season as the ranked 20th offensive tackle in the 2014 recruiting class.
No timetable on Love and Hart.
The staff is still awaiting the NCAA’s decision on Nebraska transfers Courtney Love and Greg Hart. No word as of now and no idea when it will come.
Levon Livingston’s status is up in the air.
Incoming freshman Levon Livingston is listed on the fall roster, but it’s unclear if that will be the case when he season kicks off. “We are still working on some things to get him qualified,” Stoops said of the offensive lineman.
The quarterback competition could last two days, two weeks, or longer.
Stoops is not ready to name Patrick Towles his starting quarterback, although everyone with eyeballs knows that will be the case. His hesitance to give Towles the job is a testament to Drew Barker, who Stoops says deserves a shot to steal it after working hard all summer.
“He deserves that opportunity and we’re going to look at him.”
As for Towles, Stoops said he has done everything asked of him and more this offseason.
“I’ve asked him to get better from last year to this year and that’s what he’s done. Patrick’s done everything we’ve asked him to do; he’s getting better.”
“The competition could work itself out in two days, two weeks or longer.”
He feels very good about both options, maybe a first for UK at the quarterback position in a long, long, long time.
Reese Phillips still not 100 percent.
Phillips, the third quarterback in the race, is still not completely healthy after suffering a ruptured Achilles in the spring. He will do some 7-on-7 drills, but he isn’t ready to be tossed into live action.
“He’ll be behind the eight-ball a little bit,” said Stoops.
High hopes at inside linebacker and in the secondary; outside linebacker, not so much.
When asked about finding replacements for Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, Stoops said guys will have to step up at outside linebacker, where his defense is very inexperienced. He specifically called out Jason Hatcher, Denzel Ware, Alvonte Bell and Jabari Johnson as players he needs to perform.
However, he has high expectations everywhere else on the defensive side of the ball.
“We’re going to be much better at inside linebacker. Vast improvement at the inside linebacker position and secondary. Lost good player up front but have some coming back as well.”
Looking for a punt returner
Stoops feels comfortable with his kick returners, but he is looking for a solid punt returner he can rely on.
“Kick return we have more and more playmakers and guys with talent with the football in their hands,” he said. “Punt return is the one I’m more concerned about.”
It’s much easier to catch the ball on kickoffs, he explained, rather than tracking down a punt with the kicking team sprinting down field.
He said he expects a big year from Ryan Timmons on special teams. Maybe he’s that guy.
The last word…
“The bottom line is, we’re an improved football team and that’s what we need to concentrate on. I know we’re better, players are working hard, they’re bought into what we’re doing… These guys are eager. They want to win, they want to do the right things.”
“We’re anxious just to get going. We’re ready to go.”