Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops was part of the SEC coaches teleconference on Wednesday.
There, Stoops previewed UK’s upcoming opponent in the Vanderbilt Commodores, who come to Commonwealth Stadium Saturday in a must-win game for both schools to keep their bowl hopes alive.
One of the big stories to watch this week is how Stephen Johnson bounces back from a bad performance at Alabama, which included some costly turnovers that prevented UK from staying competitive into the second half.
Still, it was Johnson’s first road start, and Stoops views it as a learning experience for the junior college quarterback.
“I think with every opportunity things change,” Stoops said. “I think, you know, with experience sometimes that can be good or bad as you know. When you’re up against the quality opponents in tough environments, you’re always interested to see how they respond.
“I think Stephen’s very resilient. I knew he was when we recruited him. He has great poise. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t be affected because certainly great defenses in hostile environments have a tendency to affect all quarterbacks for the most part.
“So, I think how he responds, how he bounces back this week, will be a big indicator for him as he moves forward. I’m anxious to see it. I’m very confident that he’ll bounce back and put that game behind him and put the ball security issues behind him.
“And he’s gotta go out there and play like he can play, very poised and aggressive, because he can’t, you know we’ve got to get back to attacking and playing the type of football offensively that we’re capable of.”
Johnson said Tuesday following UK’s practice that seeing the speed and physicality from Alabama will help him to fix and avoid these problems in the future.
“Going through that game, you know, Alabama No. 1, they’re obviously a great team,” Johnson said. “I mean they had some phenomenal guys on the field flying around on all side. So definitely going into this next game I think it’ll be a little bit slower which will help us on offense I think.”
It’s easy to forget last week was just the third Division I college game in which Johnson even saw significant playing time. He’s played the bulk of three-straight games now, but still is clearly getting comfortable and adjusted to this offense.
Frankly, we may not see Johnson’s true potential in this offense for several more weeks. After all, Drew Barker was the one getting most of the reps this offseason and into the first three games, but now it’s Johnson’s ship to ride.
So don’t jump overboard when it gets a little shaky here and there.