Mark Stoops just wrapped up his appearance on KSR with Tim Couch and Jared Lorenzen, and shared some insight on the staff’s decision to name Patrick Towles the starting quarterback, as well as updates on the rest of the team. Here are my highlights…
Stoops said the staff didn’t make the decision until late last night
Stoops admitted that he was “somewhat relieved” to finally have a starting quarterback, and that the decision “has been hanging over our heads” for a while. Stoops said that he and Neal Brown didn’t make the decision until late last night, told the quarterbacks individually this morning, and didn’t tell the team until after practice. During his time with the media, Stoops said that he first told Patrick the news by acting like they had chosen someone else, but he couldn’t carry the joke out too long. That’s just mean!
Towles’ work during the redshirt season had an impact
Stoops said there wasn’t any one deciding factor in naming Patrick the starter, but he really liked how he responded to being redshirted last season. “I like the way he’s handled a lot of things. I liked, first and foremost, the way he handled the news from a year ago,” Stoops said. “It would have been real easy to put his head down and say ‘Well, I can transfer somewhere and throw the ball around and go play.'” Instead, Stoops said Patrick asked himself what areas he needed to improve on and put in the extra work, specifically on his release, which has in turn helped his decision making. “He won the job. He’s a big strong guy with a big arm. He quickened up that release and he does have a little bit more experience. You put all of that together and though it was a close race, I do feel comfortable in the decision.”
Josh Forrest is doing his best to fill the void left by Avery Williamson
When asked which players are standing out on the defensive side of the ball aside from Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, the first guy Stoops mentioned was linebacker Josh Forrest. “A guy that I’ve been impressed with is Josh Forrest. He’s not a finished product yet, but I like what he’s doing at middle linebacker,” Stoops said, mentioning the big void Avery Williamson left in terms of leadership and ability. “Josh is a different player, and he’s really good at pass coverage and he’s long and he can run a little bit, and he has good instincts.”
Stoops also mentioned Ryan Flannigan, who is currently battling Khalid Henderson for the weakside linebacker spot. “I’ve really been impressed with his athleticism, which we needed. We all know we’ve been a little thin inside at ‘backer, so I like what he’s doing.” Also impressive on defense: Jason Hatcher, TraVaughn Pascal, and AJ Stamps.
Stoops is happy with the running backs
Braylon Heard, in particular. “Braylon gives us a more mature guy, which is good, and obviously some ability as well,” Stoops said of the former Nebraska running back. “I like his maturity and I like his toughness, and he’s been very consistent.” In fact, Stoops said that Braylon’s consistency has helped sophomore JoJo Kemp get better. “That’s helped JoJo become a better player and more mature and grow up. JoJo’s always had the talent and JoJo’s really improved and being more accountable and more precise in what he’s doing.”
If that weren’t good enough, you’ve got the newcomers, whom Stoops raved about. He said he loves Mikel Horton’s vision and how he’s played the past few scrimmages. And then there’s Boom Williams. “Boom really is extremely talented. Maybe when it’s all said and done, years from now, people might be saying that guy is awfully talented. You can just see it.” Boom will be a star, just watch.
Yes, wide receiver is better
Stoops was very candid about UK’s situation at wide receiver last season. “We really needed to grow at that position. We just flat out weren’t good enough,” Stoops said. However, things are getting better, thanks to Ryan Timmons, and talented newcomers like Dorian Baker and Blake Bone. They’ll be thrown into the fire immediately. “We have no choice, we have to push these guys into action.”
Once the podcast is up, I’ll make Stoops’ interview a YouTube clip just because I love you all so much.