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Kentucky Football: Mark Stoops talks Vols and injury updates for key players

Kentucky linebacker Jason Hatcher missed Saturday’s game with an ankle injury, but should be back this week.

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday night’s blowout loss to Mississippi State was frustrating for the Kentucky Wildcats and head coach Mark Stoops.

"I’m really disappointed in all areas. I felt like we certainly could have coached a heck of a lot better; we could have played better", he said during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference.

The Wildcats had chances to take the lead or cut into the Bulldogs lead late in the first half, but failed to do so. Stoops said those missed opportunities are what allowed Mississippi State to blow the game open and he took the blame for mismanaging the situation.

When asked about the conflict a head coach faces in wanting to attack or be conservative in those situations Stoops said that, "I think a lot of that has to go with instincts in your gut and what you foresee what’s coming and what’s happening."

Again, Stoops admitted he did not handle that situation well and that need needs to work on balancing aggressive and safe play calling. Not all of the Wildcats hardships were self-inflicted against MSU, Stoops said that Dak Prescott played with a lot of poise and made plays.

Stoops also paid Prescott a high compliment.

"How anybody is not talking about that guy in the Heisman race, you have to have your head examined."

In just a few days time the Kentucky football team will face another worthy adversary in the Tennessee Volunteers. Stoops described the Vols as a, "physical team with good size and good strength, and good length across the board."

The UT defense will put a lot of pressure on the Cats, and on offense they use a devastating mix of power and deception, said Stoops.To slow down the Tennessee offense Kentucky’s defense has to win the one-on-one matchups that they repeatedly lost in Starkville.

"You have to win some one-on-one battles. There’s some one-on-one plays, especially when teams put you in the run/pass conflict all the time and can hurt you in the pass game. So we’ll have our hands full. We’ll have a good plan and we’ve got to win some one-on-one battles and we’ll have to cover some people because this group is a lot like last week where the deception of with the power run game off, the deception with motions and all that. Then they have great players and can play-action pass off of that as well."

Stoops said that last week’s prep and game action against Prescott will help his defense take on the challenge of facing the Vols dual-threat quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

"I think it does. I think it does to some extent. Certainly it put a lot of pressure on us all week. We need to do a lot better job."

Saturday marked the on-field debut of Drew Barker and Stoops was happy that his backup got the chance to play.

"Drew did a good job. I was really glad that he got some reps and I hated that it was that kind of circumstance, but it was good for him to play. He looked comfortable and made good decisions."

A handful of Kentucky players came out of the team’s trip down south banged up. Safety Darius West will likely miss a couple of weeks with an ankle injury.

The good news on the injury front is that linebacker Jason Hatcher will be available to play against Tennessee after missing the game at Mississippi State with an ankle injury. The plan is for him to practice today and play vs Tennessee this week.

"The plan is to be out there today. Last week, obviously we were unsure. Game-time decision. Didn't work out. But the plan is for Jason to be out there practicing today so we'll see where he's at."

Sophomore wide receiver Garrett Johnson suffered a shoulder sprain in the loss, but Stoops expects him to be ready to play against Tennessee. Offensive tackle Jordan Swindle and sophomore defensive back Kendall Randolph also missed time vs Mississippi State, but Stoops said they should be fine this week.