The Kentucky football head coach spent an hour and a half talking about the season-opener against Southern Miss during yesterday’s press conference and call-in show. Much of it was discussed yesterday, but a few nuggets managed to slip through the cracks.
1. Two Quarterback Lip-Service
After Stephen Johnson won seven games as UK’s starting quarterback a year ago, you didn’t expect Drew Barker’s name to be called upon multiple times on the Monday before the first game, but Mark Stoops is using a little week one gamesmanship.
“I would love to get Drew in the game. I think he deserves an opportunity and we’ll see where it goes,” Stoops said during the press conference. Later on during his call-in show, he was less enthusiastic about the possibility to play both.
“That’s one position where it’s difficult to rotate guys. Sometimes it’s effective, but in general it’s risky business when you’re toying rotating with quarterbacks.”
He added: “You never know…we’ll see how it goes.”
Facing a team who has not announced a starter for Saturday and plans on using two quarterbacks, this is nothing more than gamesmanship and a sign of Stoops’ respect for Barker’s game.
2. No Hard Feelings for Shannon Dawson
Leading into last year’s game, beating Shannon Dawson was the most-talked about storyline in the Commonwealth. Now, people forget he’s still Southern Miss’ offensive coordinator. More than halfway through his press conference, the question was finally asked and Stoops had nothing but good things to say about his former employee.
“Shannon is a good football coach or I wouldn’t have hired him, you know what I mean? He’s a very good coach and he’s done well. Certainly he proved that a year ago right here in this stadium.” Stoops added during his call-in show, “I just hope we play much better defense than we did a year ago.”
3. Keep Your Cool
Fans haven’t talked much about getting revenge with Dawson, but the players have revenge for last year’s loss on their minds. Stoops doesn’t mind that, so long as they do not let their emotions dictate their actions on the field.
“It’s an emotional game,” Stoops said. “I want them to have great emotion, but they have to play with discipline. As a coach there’s always that fine line that you have to go with your gut instincts on what those players need at that moment. That’s the way I’ve always been and probably how I’ll always be. But certainly, you have to have the poise and the execution. That’s what’s most important.”
4. Bowden in the Wildcat
Even though he’s dished out plenty of praise for the playmaking freshman, Stoops has been hesitant to lump too much pressure on Lynn Bowden.
He said during the call-in show that Bowden’s role is “to be determined,” but Stoops stated with certainty for the first time publicly that Bowden will receive reps as the Wildcat quarterback. “Getting that direct snap, he has the ability to make plays.”
5. Longer Camp = More Reps
The verdict is in on the extended camp and the coaches have reached a consensus: they all like the longer camp without two-a-days more than its predecessor. Stoops said they were able to get in 290 more team reps this year than they did last year.
Along the same numerical lines, Stoops shared an amazing stat during last night’s broadcast: in 2016, UK had nine offensive linemen take 400 snaps or more. That remarkable number will not be replicated after Cole Mosier’s injury, but he believes they can still get seven or eight guys over that 400 threshold.
6. Redshirt for Jamin Davis
After enrolling in January, the true freshman linebacker wowed the Big Blue Nation at the Blue/White Game by recording a team-high eight tackles. Even though he has the talent to play right away, Stoops doesn’t need to use Davis. Ahead of Davis on the depth chart at will linebacker is All-SEC selection Jordan Jones and former four-star recruit Eli Brown, who Stoops said has had a “really impressive” preseason camp. Ideally, they’ll keep the redshirt on Davis, but if it’s necessary he can play this fall.