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Stoops Pleased with Left Tackles, but Pass Protection Must Improve

A week before the season-opener, Kentucky was faced with the tall task of replacing Landon Young.  The Cats had plenty talent on the depth chart, although without much experience.  When Naasir Watkins and E.J. Price were thrown into the fire, Mark Stoops liked what he saw.

“They had a lot of pressure on them. I was really proud of the way they played. We expected them to do that, and we expect them to get better. They played winning football, and they had a great attitude,” Stoops said at this afternoon’s press conference.

Price’s attitude was questioned by many this spring after the USC transfer had a public social media outburst.  Through it all, the staff stuck by him.  Price was grateful to have the opportunity to finally return to the game he loves after a two-year hiatus.

Today was like Christmas for me,” Price said after the game. “Everything’s kind of surreal right now.  I’m just so excited.  I’m happy.  I appreciate Coach Stoops and Coach Schlarman…I’m excited, I’m humbled and I’m just grateful to be here.”

Stoops’ staff was confident that once Price had an opportunity to show he deserved another chance, Price would have no problem earning their trust.

“He’s doing just a very good job,” said Stoops. “It’s hard for those guys, and people go through things. He’s gone through a lot, and he’s come through it. You take away somebody’s hope and you take away everything. I think getting on the field and having some positive things happen to him, he’s been good.”

The offensive line earned Stoops’ vote of confidence, but there are still plenty of areas they must improve.  It starts with pass protection.  In the first half, Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak faced early pressure far too often.

“The one that sticks out to everybody, Naasir gave up the pressure and the hold early. After that, I thought they both did some very good things. Both, as you would expect fundamentally, need to get better because as our competition steps up this week the little things will catch up to you. But their effort was good, their assignments were pretty spot-on, couple here or there, but they played winning football. We just have to get some technique things cleaned up with them as we get better, face better players.”

Some of the miscues in pass protection were on the new offensive linemen.  One was on the tight end and another fell squarely on A.J. Rose’s shoulders.  Kentucky’s miscommunication in pass protection prevented them from making five big plays.

“We felt like there were five opportunities for big plays and we gave up a bit of pressure here. It was a different guy every time. It wasn’t like just the offensive line or just the running backs. Overall they did some very good things. When we have an opportunity to have some big plays we need just a fraction more protection and we have some opportunity for big plays.”

There were a few hiccups on the offensive line in game one.  Each mistake will be used as a learning lesson ahead of Kentucky’s road trip to Gainesville.


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

13 Comments for Stoops Pleased with Left Tackles, but Pass Protection Must Improve

  1. CombatMedic_98
    3:19 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

    What about QB’s…?!

    • Bored_Dome
      3:39 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      what does the qb have to do with miscues by the offensive line?

    • cats646
      3:40 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      The pass protection is what caused one interception. It was awful all game. I hope we can get that fixed.

    • ClutchCargo
      3:43 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      Absolutely. The QBs have to do a better job of pass blocking, or we might as well forfeit the rest of the season.

    • CombatMedic_98
      3:53 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      Need Stoops the focus on QBs too…where’s that article!?

    • ibescootch
      6:52 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      There been like 20 articles on the QB’s since the game, where have you been?

    • CATandMONKEY
      11:09 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      He has commented with a non- fact-based opinion on every single one.

      Entirely possible that he is actually Gunnar’s mom.

  2. Catcasey1
    4:25 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

    If everybody is think n stoops will make the right coaching decision u r in for a long season…….

    • cats646
      4:38 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      He has made great decisions the whole time he has been here. A couple mistakes don’t make you a bad coach. Even Nick Saban probably couldn’t have done any better at turning this laughingstock of a program around in just six years. Hush up now.

  3. jaws2
    4:25 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

    Pass protection was atrocious Saturday against a very inferior defensive line. If the OL cannot pick it up against FL, we’re going to get smoked. Unfortunately.

    • shelby
      9:22 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

      Take a look at the past 5 yrs recruiting rankings and explain why we should be able to compete with florida.

  4. mashburnfan1
    6:25 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

    was not as good as what I thought we should have, they did do a great job on the TD before half. I know Hoak took the hiy but they rushed 7 to our 6 and they held up long enough to give the WR time to beat 1 on 1 coverage and Hoak read it well and quickly. But yes, UF will have 10 sacks if we don’t get more physical.

  5. zoupman
    9:08 pm September 3, 2018 Permalink

    I like our lineman. They really got it going after first couple of series.