Mark Stoops met with the media early Monday afternoon to discuss this Thursday’s highly-anticipated game between his Kentucky Wildcats and the Auburn Tigers among other topics.
It’s no secret that the Tigers have massively underachieved this season. Gus Malzahn’s team has not lived up to their preseason top-10 billing and have struggled mightily on offense.
Despite that, Stoops said that Auburn is as dangerous as ever, especially on offense.
"I think if you look at what Auburn has done over the years their offense is very hard to defend. So it’s by no means very much fun for defensive guys to prepare for that offense. They put a lot of stress on you. You’ve heard me say it time and time again: anybody that uses the quarterback in the run game puts stress on you. Then adding numbers and taking shots down the field and so on", he said.
Another part of what makes Auburn a hard team is their physicality.
"They’re going to be physical. This offense across the board. Every year it starts with a mentality of them being physical and their backs are good runners. They’re very physical. Their tackles are extremely good football players on their offensive line. They’re good", said Stoops.
Playing a game on a Thursday night is a novelty for Wildcats fans but it also makes for an interesting week for the staff and players.
"It was different because you don’t have quite as much time. So, it was nice – we got basically one whole extra day off on the front end. So I gave them Sunday and Monday off. Where you’re normally off on Sunday, they had Monday off. We came back and practiced Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Coaches recruited on Friday, and then it’s a quick turnaround because then Saturday morning is basically Monday for us", said Stoops.
Coach Stoops also provided updates on a few injured Wildcats who thankfully got some extra time to rest up for this game with the bye week.
"It definitely gave us some time healing up for the most part," Stoops said. "We are at midseason and banged up a little bit, but we will have to deal with that, most teams are."
Offensive tackle Jordan Swindle will play, but linebacker Jordan Jones, defensive tackle Cory Johnson and kicker Austin MacGinnis are questionable. Johnson is dealing with an ankle injury, but stressed that he wanted to play Thursday. MacGinnis is dealing with a groin injury suffered in a pre-EKU practice that kept him out of UK's win over the Colonels
The biggest loss of those three would be Johnson after he's racked up 30 tackles over his last two games, but having Regie Meant back would certainly help offset that loss.
"We will be in better shape because Regie will be back full speed," Stoops said. "They both have some strengths and they are different type players. Regie gives us a little bit more stout inside and Cory is more active against spread teams. Having Regie back will help if Cory is out."