The Kentucky Wildcats held their first Blue-White Game today for the first time since 2019, as COVID-19 led to it being nixed the past two years.
Despite a mini snow storm this morning, Kroger Field was clear once game time arrived in what turned into a fun scrimmage to watch unfold.
After the game, head coach Mark Stoops met with the media to discuss the game and Kentucky’s spring season. Here is a recap of what he had to say via UK Athletics.
I thought overall it was a good day. Really appreciate the folks that came out and to you guys for — you were probably up in the pressbox staying warm, but appreciate the fans and you all coming out. Looked pretty iffy there this morning; about a half hour before we went out the snow was coming down sideways, but pleased with the scrimmage.
We were basic on both sides of the ball, but it still, it’s a fundamental game. It was nice to see Will (Levis) be efficient. We all know how talented he is and the arm talent, but it was nice to see some of the receivers step up and make plays for him, and I thought all the quarterbacks did a nice job, and between the tight ends, the backs, Chris (Rodriguez Jr.) made a really nice catch to score I think it was on a 3rd down, which was a really nice play.
I saw Brenden Bates have a really nice catch in a competitive situation, Dane Key stepped up, Will looked good, so overall there was some nice playmaking going on out there.
Defensively I thought it was, again, Coach White was relatively basic, which is what we want to see in the spring, just basic, fundamental, good football, and I thought they did some good things. We stayed relatively healthy, so overall productive.
A little different, we get to come back and have a couple more practices, which is different for me. It’s the first time since I’ve been head coach here, but that’s okay. You get to maybe learn some things from this spring game and take it next week and clean up a few more things and get thoroughly prepared for the spring as far as teaching some of the players what we expect from them when they have to do it by themselves because there’s a period there in the summer when we’re not allowed to be with them when they’ve got to go out and take care of business by themselves and throw and all that, so we will come back with a few practices next week and wrap things up.
But all good today.
Q. Jordan Lovett made a couple plays out there, made a bunch of tackles. What do you like about his game?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he’s a very athletic guy. I have high expectations for him. These kind of situations really help him because it’s time for him to get very serious about the game and continue to really study and get quality reps out there, you know, because he has the ability and we need him to step up and be a player for us.
I think he needs to continue to mature and continue to approach the game in a serious nature, and if he does that, then he’ll make some really big strides before next fall.
Q. Michael Drennen II was very involved there. Is he making the progression you want to see from a guy that came in pretty touted?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he definitely is. You can see he’s talented out of the backfield. He’s making some really difficult runs, as well, and showing some toughness. We have some options back there, but Michael is certainly doing some good things.
Q. Blocking and tackling you don’t always get to see throughout the spring. As a defensive coach did you approve of the tackling?
MARK STOOPS: It was definitely sloppy out there. It’s a fine line there with going how many days completely live and getting that work in, and again, I think — now, there was definitely some sloppy play out there at times. I’ve got to see exactly who it was and where it came from. But I know there were some missed tackles and position on the football was poor, and that’s something that always really bothers me, whether it’s in the spring or whether it’s early in the season, just basic fundamental position on the ball, containing the football and making good tackles with good leverage, and certainly there was some sloppy play going on out there today.
Q. This was the first time the fans have gotten to see Rich Scangarello’s offense. What would you have to say about how you liked the offense today?
MARK STOOPS: You know, when it’s all said and done, we’re very excited about where we’re going. Again, we were relatively basic today, but there’s quite a bit of carryover that you can see, some nuances. You probably aren’t used to seeing a fullback back there sometimes, so that’s a little different, but really you’re just moving the tight end around when you’re playing with 12 personnel and how you move them and what you do with them and create different looks. But there’s a lot we can do that way, but we’re excited about where we’re heading with the offense.
Q. Any particular position group you were impressed with or any position group that needs work?
MARK STOOPS: Well, I think one thing was good to see is I thought the receiver group in general, seemed like they made some pretty difficult catches. They may have dropped a few, but overall pleased with that group.
Q. What’s kind of impressed you the most with Dane? Obviously he had a drop early but he showed maturity by making a couple good plays after that.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he has a really good feel for the game. For a guy that could be playing spring sports in high school right now, he’s very mature in his approach. He’s been very consistent. With young guys you have a tendency to see them have some ups and some downs, and of course that will be the case with him, but he’s more consistent than most younger people I’ve seen.
I like the way he approaches it, he’s very mature, and he also has a very good feel for it. The talent is there, but there’s also some things that — the understanding of the game that you can tell very early that he has that.
Q. Anything going on with D’Eryk Jackson?
MARK STOOPS: D’Eryk has been off and on with a couple nagging injuries. Not major, but he has not been completely healthy.
Q. You mentioned Will, the confidence obviously didn’t go anywhere. He scrambled, tried to get around a couple guys over there. On that one, what did you see out of him, how his confidence just will not go away?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he’s going to dive and put his head down in the spring game when I’m blowing the whistle. That’s the only thing I was upset about with him today.
But no, I mean, he’s a competitor, as I’ve mentioned. You all see it. Every time he takes the field he’s trying to get better. He’s competing. He’s worried about being the best player for himself. He knows he’ll help us when he does that, but he’s very driven and he’s getting better in a lot of ways.
I felt like he was a little off on one throw today, but most of the time he looked very smooth and very clean. I’m sure Rich and him will watch the film and look at the footwork and all the little things that he’s working on to become an even better player.
Q. Looked like Deuce (Hogan) had a bit of a swagger, too, on his touchdown throw. What have you seen from him?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, Deuce has shown some signs, as well. Just some ups and some downs, like most guys, but he’s had his moments.
Q. You talked about Jordan taking the game seriously. Is that typical for a freshman who redshirts and doesn’t get on the field at all or much?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I’m expecting more out of him is what I was saying. I want to continue to push him to be what he can be. It’s not that I’m down on him, it’s just that I want him to continue to approach it in a very mature way. When you take the field in a scrimmage, in practice, in a game like today, you have to grow from that. You have to get better. You have to bank those reps because when we get out here in the fall, believe me, you’re going to see new things, you’re going to see different things. The game moves fast, and you have to be able to bank all those experiences and be able to carry it over to the field because when he’s out there in the fall, you’re playing for wins and losses, and you can’t take any plays off.
Q. What do you feel like your group has proved here this spring through the practices and today? What are they showing you that —MARK STOOPS: The team? The team doesn’t surprise me. I mean, I know I’m around them all the time, and their approach is very consistent. We’re constantly striving to get better. As I tell them each and every day, each person needs to take that and fundamentally try to get better in any area of weakness or the things they do well, continue to do well on it, the things where they’re falling short, work hard at it, and if they individually get better, then we can’t help but collectively as a group get better, but you have to have that mindset each and every day. It gets a little monotonous during the spring. It’s a long time. These guys are up early every day, and we practice or we’re meeting or they’re lifting and things like that, and you have to stay consistent.
Q. Were you able to tell much about how the two new tackles were —MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I thought overall there were some moments there early where we had some good — we were more firm in the pocket than we were in some other team settings or blitz settings or practice, scrimmages. There were the moments where we weren’t very clean. I thought for the most part, the ones were pretty solid. We’ll see. I’ve got to go take a good look at it, but I thought the tackles were holding up.
Q. With the late coordinator change, how challenging has this spring practice been, and are you where you need to be?
MARK STOOPS: Yes, challenging, we roll with it, adapt and overcome. That’s all the time. Nothing is ever completely smooth around — you know what I mean? With anything, you have to deal with it, and whatever the circumstances are you deal with it and move on.
I thought our guys handled it very well. Our coaches worked very hard, been working around the clock to get things ready for each practices. It’s different. It’s different coming back next week. Usually when the spring game is over, let’s face it, it’s the spring; these guys have been up early every day, they’ve worked all winter lifting their tail off and then coming out and practicing and meeting, and when the spring game is over they’re usually ready to wrap it up. But we have to adjust our mindset and come back and take advantage of a couple more days. So it is what it is.
Q. At the tackle position you just mentioned earlier, is it strictly they just need to figure out pass pro, they’ve got run game down? What is it that they have to —MARK STOOPS: I think pass pro is definitely something, as you face guys in this league and you have to win some one-on-one situations. There’s always times where we can help and protect, but you can’t do that all the time.
Q. Was there a second- or third-team player that stood out that surprised you?
MARK STOOPS: I’m not prepared to say that right now. I don’t know. I’ll have to watch the film. We’ll see.
Q. What does Cole Lanter bring to the table at receiver? Seemed like he made a nice catch there at the end.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, just some depth, works hard, plays hard. Just another addition.
Q. We think of a football coach as somebody out there on Saturdays diagramming plays and brainstorming strategies, but it seems like there’s been a lot more emphasis on teaching the guys lately. Is that something you enjoy?
MARK STOOPS: Absolutely. I think that’s always the case. I mean, you can’t play this game and not be intelligent or have some instincts because there’s too many moving pieces and things happen very fast, and there’s 11 guys out there got to be on the same page at all times or you’re not going to be successful. That’s always a big part of it.
We spend hours and hours and hours in the film room. We probably spend a lot more time with them teaching them on chalkboards and greaseboards now, but greaseboards and the film than you do on the field.
Q. We see Rich as kind of this football genius, this quarterback whisperer. Are you happy with the way he’s been able to convey his wisdom to the team?
MARK STOOPS: I love the way he teaches. I love the knowledge that he has. I sit in there and I like to just listen and listen to the way he teaches, listen to the way he implements to the coaches and sit in on quarterback meetings once in a while and I just like the way he does things. A lot of knowledge there.