As expected, Mark Stoops didn’t give specifics on how many Kentucky players are currently impacted by the coronavirus during today’s press conference, but he did say the staff is making preparations to ensure the team can meet the 70-man travel roster for Saturday’s game at Auburn should there be any setbacks this week.
“We’ve already been working on that for several days and we have a list put together. We will have up to maybe 80 to 82 guys ready to travel because we are having a rapid test Friday morning as well. They obviously will not travel should they come back positive on Friday morning. We need to have more than usual prepared to go but we have to work off 70 and we are working off that number right now. There will be some minor changes here throughout this week depending on injuries, guys coming back, how they feel. Some guys coming back from the other situation so we’ll see where we’re at at the end of the week, but yes, we have to make preparations for that.”
Per SEC regulations, players will be tested three times this week for COVID-19, including the aforementioned rapid test on Friday morning. As the week goes on, Stoops said he will do his best to navigate the fine line of being transparent with the media regarding injuries and COVID-related issues while not tipping his hat to Auburn and Gus Malzahn about who will be available and who won’t.
“I still need to get a grip on me releasing [information] with this situation being what it is this year. Seeing the way the league is going to handle that, see the way opposing coaches are going to handle it. Things happen throughout the week with this COVID. I think you all know from me that injuries and things of that nature, I’ve been as forthcoming as any coach in the country with you. I try to be very honest and open about that and give you the information that I can without giving someone a competitive advantage and we’ve been pretty open about the COVID as well. I think as you get into the season, we have to be very conscious of that and we will work our way through that, is the best thing I can tell you. I certainly don’t want to sit there and divulge all week if we have a certain position group or if we’re down a certain number of guys to the opposing coaches. I think it can be to some extent, in certain situations, a competitive advantage.”
(For what it’s worth, when asked about junior offensive lineman Naasir Watkins, who was not included on this week’s depth chart, Stoops insisted that he was “injured” and “a little banged up.”)
When it comes to the virus, offensive line coach John Schlarman is the most at risk on the staff due to his ongoing battle with cancer. Stoops said he is confident in the protocols in place to keep Schlarman and the rest of the team safe as they prepare to go on the road.
“With Coach Schlarman’s situation, we all will be tested and we won’t leave our little bubble here, that we’re with each other, on Friday. Travel is different. Some of my plans and the way we do some things on Friday will be different from time to time. Again, we just have to adapt to it. But once we come in on Friday, we will have the rapid test, so everybody that is in contact with Coach Schlarman or any of us, will have a test and so we will be as safe as we possibly can with that. And we’ll be in as much of a bubble as we can from the time we leave here until the time we play and get home.”
Over the weekend, news broke that Florida State head coach Mike Norvell tested positive for the coronavirus and will not travel to the team’s game vs. Miami. Stoops said his staff has a contingency plan in place should the same happen with him.
“With my situation, should something happen to me, I’m very fortunate I have some experienced coaches here. I have two assistant head coaches and certainly knowing Brad White is ready to be a head coach. Eddie Gran and Vince Marrow have the titles and we have some plans in place to make sure we operate and stay as smooth and on schedule as we can.”