Mark Stoops talks Kentucky Wildcats Football

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Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Q. You talked about UT Martin. Are you a coach that likes to open the playbook or…

COACH STOOPS: We’ve got to do everything necessary to play at a high level. With any game plan, you got to take whatever you’re going to emphasize that week and run with it on both sides of the ball.
But we will try to play as best we can and do everything we can. We can’t take anything for granted, you know that. It’s just not where we’re at. The state of our program, we have to go out and play the very best we can each and every snap. Whatever we have to do to play well on both sides of the ball, special teams, we’ll do that.

Q. (Question about the secondary.)

COACH STOOPS: Very comfortable with him. I love the way he plays. I love his instincts. He’s the type of guy, you correct him once, he generally never makes the same mistake twice. Really like the way he’s been playing.
As I’ve said before, that’s a position where we drastically needed to improve, and I believe we did.

Q. What do you know about Coach Simpson?

COACH STOOPS: You know, I’m not very familiar with him, to be honest with him. I know he’s been here for some time, maybe eight, nine years. From Mississippi. I believe he played at Southern Miss. I don’t know him well.

Q. Darryl Long going to redshirt?

COACH STOOPS: That’s what we’re trying to do. That’s what we plan on doing right now.

Q. How did he take that?

COACH STOOPS: He was good. A lot of the freshmen were good with it. They see it. Like I told you during some press conferences during camp, they get out here, you know, they’re very talented football players. It’s difficult. We’re getting better. As we get better, it gets harder to beat out some guys for playing time.
That’s what you want in our program. Some positions we don’t have that luxury. At wide receiver, we have to (indiscernible) these guys with a firehose because we need players. It’s just where we’re at.
It’s difficult. That’s two years in a row we’ve had to do that on the offensive side of the ball. Tell you this, if you had to do that on defense, I got very little hair left, but I think it would all be gone (laughter).
It’s hard. So many things change. You got to keep on moving as a program. It’s good to have them supplement you and add some depth in certain spots. Some guys you can bring along. If you’re playing a whole mass group of them, you’re going to have a hard time.

Q. Is there a plan to give Reese Phillips a series here or there?

COACH STOOPS: That’s the plan right now. We’ll get into that honestly as we get through this week. I think I’d love to play him. Off the top of my head, I’d love to play him.
But you know and I know Patrick needs the reps. We’ve got to get out there, get better, move this program forward. We’ll see how that goes. But to answer your question, I’d be very disappointed if he didn’t play in this game.

Q. (Question regarding Cole Mosier.)

COACH STOOPS: Really impressed with him. He’s really done a nice job. We liked him a year ago. He redshirted. We liked him in the spring. He’s a very big guy. He’s physical. He will play in this game. He’s battling for playing time on the inside.
I’m anxious to see him play and see how he does.

Q. (Question regarding Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith’s impact.)

COACH STOOPS: Well, it’s really important for those two to come back. As I said a lot through the off‑season, leadership is the first thing that jumps out at you. But also confidence. Our players see those guys out there, they make plays, are consistent, they’re always there. They’re great to have.
You know I’m pretty tight with my compliments. You know that over the course of the year and a half. I’m really conservative when it comes to complimenting guys until they’ve proved it and earned it. I probably haven’t complimented those guys enough, to be honest with you. They are tremendous football players, great leaders. They’re going to be great pros.

Q. What is the single hardest thing for a true freshman thrown out there for the first time?

COACH STOOPS: Just how fast the game moves. Even in practice, we have so many reps. If they make a mistake, they certainly hear about it, but it’s on to the next play.
You get in the game, things happen even faster. That’s where the experience comes in. With experience, the game slows down for them. I think that’s what you see. Like I said earlier, I think you’ll see some guys respond to it very well, and you’ll see some guys make some silly mistakes.

Q. Do you think Neal has that first offensive series scripted?

COACH STOOPS: Not yet. We’re working on it. Pressing him on that this morning (laughter).
We’re working through that. We’ll see what package we want to feature, where we want to go right out of the gate.

Q. How important will it be to get Patrick comfortable early?

COACH STOOPS: It’s certainly important for Patrick to get off to a fast start, and for our team to get off to a fast start. No hiding from that. It’s important for him to play well. He will. He’s going to make a lot of good plays and I’m sure he’ll make a few bad ones as well.

Q. You and Neal and D.J. said last year, people focus on the great plays, but you need to have good plays stacked on top of each other. How close are you to getting that now compared to last year?

COACH STOOPS: Much closer. Then it comes to the big plays, and that’s where we still need to grow. I think if you watch college football, you see these great teams, great teams in this league, very well‑coached, then it comes down to some guys making some plays a lot of times as well.
You need play‑makers to emerge.

Q. (Question regarding UT Martin’s Tony Bell.)

COACH STOOPS: He’s a great linebacker, but he’s a great pass‑rusher as well. Like Bud in that area. Bud is an outside backer, obviously much bigger. But he’s like Bud in that he’s comfortable on his feet, got great instincts, he’s an extremely good pass‑rusher.
He’s a mismatch for some people on the edge.

Q. You said things like Patrick has this opportunity now to play well, start fast.

COACH STOOPS: Don’t go there (laughter). I’m going to cut you off. I know where you’re going.
He has the keys. You heard me say that before. He’s going to go through some ups and downs. That’s anybody at any position.
We never guarantee anything except an opportunity, so… He’s not on a short leash. He won the job. He is the starting quarterback.

Q. You’ve been around a lot of NFL players. Where could you possibly see Bud and Za’Darius going in the draft? I know you’re not focused on that, but…