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Mark Stoops talks QB Situations, Discontent Rumors, Injuries and more

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Kentucky travels south to Music City to face a hungry Vanderbilt team in what could be a season-defining game.

Head football coach Mark Stoops said during his Thursday post-practice remarks that after a good week of practice that there is only one thing left for his team to do.

"We’ve gotta man up and play football."

The Team’s Energy Level

Stoops sounded pleased with his team’s energy level this week in practice.

"It’s been good. Guys have been focused and energetic, like I said, all week. They’re ready to go."

He emphasized that the coaching staff did nothing special this week to motivate the team.

"We don’t need anything like that."

The key to keeping the team enthused, according to Stoops, is for the staff to keep doing what they’ve done all fall.

"Just continue to reinforce having a strong mindset. And that means when you walk in the building being ready to practice and being sharp in your meetings and being enthusiastic and getting through practice. That’s how you grow."

Playing Tight

All week long the narrative surrounding the Kentucky football team centered around the pressure that breaking the losing streak puts on them. Stoops explained that he hopes his team will the right balance in wanting to win versus needing to win.

"You want them to have urgency throughout the week and throughout the game. But you don’t want them to play tight. That’s always the fine balance. I want our players to care. I want this to be an important game to them, just like you want the last one and the one after this. Every game is important."

The Quarterback Situation

The other big story of the week is the situation at quarterback. Stoops provided an update but did not sound enthused about answering questions regarding staff’s plan for Saturday.

"Yeah, we have a pretty good idea. We know what we’re going to do. We’ll let it unfold on Saturday. There’s really no reason – they don’t care. They’ll be ready for either quarterback. Things don’t really change for them. There’s no point in bringing it up right now."

Discontent in the Locker Room

Last week’s report of a players-only meeting stoked speculation that there is strife within the team. This week reports surfaced of widespread unhappiness about the team’s high-performance program.

Stoops quickly said that the rumors don’t bother him and that he warned the players that the report would increase scrutiny directed at the program.

"I never heard the word 'widespread,' but I don't worry about any of that. I told the players all week y'all would be looking for any cracks. I don't know who this source is or what it comes from, but I was one of the first people to hire a sports science person. With that I anticipated some criticism. It seems to be the en vogue thing to do now, so we're fine."

Injuries and Other Notes

Running back Boom Williams will return to the field after missing last week’s loss to Georgia with an elbow injury. Boom will wear a protective brace during the game, but it should not affect his performance, Stoops said.

In other injury news, Stoops confirmed that Jason Hatcher, Darius West and Austin MacGuinnis are healthier this week. Only Joey Herrick and Kengera Daniels are doubtful for the game against the Commodores.