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TRANSCRIPT: Mark Stoops’ Pre-Vanderbilt Press Conference

Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Miss Mark Stoops’ press conference earlier today? You’re in luck because in addition to all of the highlights we’ve shared on the site so far, we’ve got a video replay and a transcript for you. Enjoy it all below.

Opening Statement 

“Excited to get back on the field this week. We certainly needed some time off for our football team to heal up and get better, mentally and physically. Get re-charged for the home stretch here. We had a good off-week. We got some rest early in the week, got healed up a little bit and had some good practices towards the end of the week. Worked on ourselves primarily, on areas we needed to improve. We did quite a bit of self-scout and evaluated ourselves, continue to try to build on the good things we’re doing and improve on the areas where we’ve fallen short, but also get ahead and get some work done on Vandy. That gave us a head start heading into today.  Beautiful day today, looking forward to getting back on the practice field.” 

On challenges of preparing backups to step in and play when necessary due to Covid… 

“It is what it is. I don’t think any of us want to use it as an excuse but it’s a strange year. It’s definitely different. We all have to deal with this issue as it comes at us. There are a lot of things we have to deal with that you don’t see. Again, it is what it is. I have no idea what transpired with Georgia or what issues  they may or may not have had a couple of weeks earlier.  We all have to deal with it. Some teams are deeper than others. We have to continue to just get better, whoever is in there. Injuries happen as well when you’re dealing with a 10-game SEC schedule. It’s going to be extremely physical and there are going to be a lot of injuries. Coming out of the Georgia game I know ourselves and Georgia had some guys really banged up. We’re dealing with some situations here, right now, I’m down three offensive staff members that are not here. We just have to deal with it as it comes at us and as best we can.”  

On whether the offense is too one-dimensional…  

“There is no denying we’ve been falling short in the passing game. I’ve not denied that, the coaches haven’t and the players (haven’t). We need to improve, we need to be more balanced. I talked about that coming into the year and we haven’t been as efficient throwing the ball as we need to. We worked hard last week during the open week to go back and look at the things we’ve done well, the things we’ve done well in the past and try to continue to improve in that area so that’s what we’re going to try and do.”  

On quarterback situation and balancing between winning now and preparing for the future…  

“As I mentioned last week or the week prior, I’m never going to give up. The person who gives us the best opportunity to win right now is the person we’re going with because we’re here to win games. But there is a balance there. I do want to see and continue to be fair and be right to Terry. If he gives us the best opportunity to win games, he’ll be in there and he did have a good week of practice last week. With that being said, I still think Joey (Gatewood) and Beau (Allen) have great upside and I want to see them. It’s difficult because, as you see, every possession and every play is so important. That position is unlike others. At other positions we rotate guys in constantly and it’s not an issue because we need to rotate and need to get bodies in there. However, at that position it’s very difficult and it feels like if you’re shuffling guys at that position you’re reaching and the flow of the game is so important. Every possession is so important, we’re in a lot of close games. I understand the question. It’s difficult either way but I’m going to go with the guy who gives us the best opportunity to win on this coming Saturday. With that said, sure, I’d love to get Joey some reps and I’d like to see Beau in there as well.”  

On not overlooking Vanderbilt… 

“We need to worry about ourselves and focus on ourselves. The last time we went into a game as a favorite we got our butts kicked, from the beginning of the game to the end, and everywhere in between. We got totally and utterly dominated. So, we need to worry about ourselves and getting prepared to play the best we possibly can. I was not very happy the way we played the last time we were favored. I don’t know if that has anything to do with it or (if it was) where we were at in the season and what we were doing on the road, whatever. It doesn’t matter. We weren’t good enough. Our guys need to continue to focus on ourselves, our energy, our focus, our preparation throughout this week in getting ready to play. That’s what I’m concerned about. I want to get better with every practice and every game. You look at this last game for Vandy and they had 478 yards to 200 against a Mississippi State team that can play some darn good defense, at Mississippi State, not an easy place to go. You can’t bank on five turnovers, so they obviously played extremely well this past week so we need to worry about ourselves and how we play.”  

On what he’s looking for from the QBs… 

“Consistency. We’ve shown flashes. That goes with us as well giving them a good opportunity and keeping people off-balance. We have to do a good job as coaches putting them in position. We are successful at moving the football when we are balanced and can run the ball effectively. When we’re efficient running the ball it opens up a lot. When we’ve struggled we’ve been inefficient running the football. We have to get the ball down the field. We have to be more aggressive and continue to just improve at that position.” 

On potential Covid issues… 

“We’ve had issues.  I don’t think I’m allowed to get into specifics on that, but yes, we have issues with Covid.  It’s not out of control, let’s hope it stays that way.” 

On injury updates from Georgia game, particularly in the offensive line…

“We’ll see how the week goes. I’d say it’ll be close. They’re not ready to go today.”  

On NG Quinton Bohanna returning from injury… 

“Q should be ready to go.” 

On WR Izayah Cummings… 

“He’s just got to continue to improve and get better. What you like about him, obviously, is his size and he makes tough, competitive catches. There are going to be tight windows and you have to be able to go up and make tough, competitive catches. He has a big catch radius because he’s long, so he gives the quarterbacks a good target and a guy with good, strong hands to go up and get it. Now he’s got to continue to work on getting open at the line of scrimmage and creating space but he’s a guy we’ll continue to work with and hopefully he’ll get some good playing time down the stretch.”  

On a Wildcat package … 
“If you look at some of the things that we’ve done, and we are doing, coming into the year, you try to build off some of the Q-run game and designed Q-run game and the reads we had a year ago with Lynn (Bowden); also, obviously being able to throw the ball down the field and handing it to our running backs. We have tried to build on that and it hasn’t been effective all the time. It has been effective at times but we’ve been inconsistent. Obviously, we need to get better at those reads, at the reads where the quarterback is involved, whether it is a give to the running back or a pull for the QB. There are several runs there from week-to-week and maybe we are off a play here or there. I think that is going to happen with quarterbacks. The more opportunity they have the better they get at it. We also have to be able to throw the football off that and that is the big area where we’ve fallen short. There have been some games where we have been ineffective at both – running the ball and throwing the ball – and that is not going to give you an opportunity to win. Bottom line, we have to continue to improve in the Q-run game and we have to get the ball down the field. Getting the ball down the field is a combination of things – it is protection, it’s the quarterback giving the receivers an opportunity to catch the ball, it is the receivers getting open and making competitive catches.”  

On working more offensive linemen in … 

“We haven’t. We just felt like we were in such close games, we have been rolling with the guys that we have. There will be some guys getting an opportunity this week because of injuries.  We will see how they do throughout the week in practice.”   

On having graduate assistants and support staff fill in with missing coaches … 
“Absolutely, you have to. We definitely will and they give you the flexibility to move guys up and give you the opportunity to coach on the field when you have issues like this. Yes, that will help us this week.”   

On working AJ Rose or Kelvin Joseph at wide receiver … 
“With AJ, yes, we worked that hard in camp and have done some of that before. We need to continue to work the running backs, yes, that is something we will look at as the season goes on.”  

On Florida-Georgia and Clemson-Notre Dame and if he watched them … 
“I did have an opportunity to watch some football on Saturday. That was our staff’s day off for the week. Coaches deserve that. I was able to watch a little bit of football and enjoyed watching some games and also spending some time playing with my kids.”   

On Veterans Day … 
“Thanks. I appreciate that heads up. Absolutely, want to thank all the veterans and what they have done for us and what they do for us. We thank you and we salute you.”  

On Signing Day … 
“Yeah, it is obviously very different. It is a different year and we have to do the very best we can. Obviously, we love getting guys to campus as many times as possible.  That’s helped us have the success  in the past, getting guys here and seeing our players and being around us and our players. It has been difficult. It has been the same for everybody but it is hard for us because we believe in cultivating those relationships and it has been hard to do.”   

On punt returns … 
“Probably just talking about simply fielding them. I know there was a change in the NFL where they made a change from simply letting too many balls go. There is a fine line there. I think that is fair criticism on certain punts. Sometimes if it is a very difficult punt and the returner is running up on it and doesn’t feel like he has a clean shot at it or maybe erred on the side of safety when fielding the football – that may be what he is talking about and I understand that. There have been a couple that maybe we could have fielded that ended up bouncing and getting probably 10-15-17 extra yards. Outside of that, we get a lot of really good kicks that are hard to return. Watch teams try to return against us. What do you think they are saying when they play us? It is pretty difficult to get return yards when you play us. And Max (Duffy) makes it bounce and roll for a crazy amount of hidden yards every game. I think that is what he is probably talking about and I agree, there’s been a couple we could catch.”  

On punters making it more difficult than it used to be … 
“It is and sometimes if it is inconsistent. If you feel like the punter is going to hit it 43-47 yards in the air and they hit it 35 yards in the air with not much hangtime, the receiver may not feel real comfortable getting that. Obviously, we want our return guys to field the ball as cleanly as they can, with the number one objective is possessing the football and not fumbling it.”  

On if he has talked to Lynn Bowden … 
“One of the last texts I had when I was congratulating him on his newborn baby girl was to just keep his head up and keep on working and I did remind him to think back to his freshman year here and how difficult that was for him and to keep on fighting his way through it and grinding through it and he responded back like he always does, ‘I got you coach, will do.’ He will get through it. I am sure it is not an easy transition but he is a fighter and he will fight his way through it and be successful.”   

On the season being a grind … 
“It is definitely different. I feel like we are holding up fine. It is definitely different. I feel like the difference is, again, the work that we put in(to) relationships with our players and we are not able to do that as well. I am not able to communicate in a small room with them as often as I normally would for Covid restrictions and not wanting to spread the virus. That is difficult. It is also difficult, we have worked extremely hard in the past, (coaches) spending time with our players on Wednesdays, just have them over to their house or take them to dinner and really try to spend quality time with their players. We are not able to do that. It is tough. We have done that once, when normally we would do that every Wednesday. I just feel like the unity and the team bonding – the areas where we work exceptionally hard – we are just not able to do it. I feel a difference in that. I do the best I can in overcoming that. I think our players do. But I still feel very, very strong about this team and the way they care about each other, but it is most certainly different.”

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.