clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Mark Stoops previews Kentucky vs. Tennessee, plus a new depth chart

Will the Cats turn their season around this week?

Mark Stoops Dylan Ballard - A Sea of Blue

Tennessee Week has arrived for the Kentucky Wildcats, who are set to host the 20th-ranked Vols for a primetime ESPN showdown on Saturday.

Ahead of the game, Kentucky released a new depth chart, which had several notable changes.

The right guard position is now Dylan Ray ‘OR’ Jager Burton. Ray started there vs. Missouri while Burton was out due to injury with Kenneth Horsey taking back his job at left guard.

Still no Jalen Geiger as the veteran safety recovers from an elbow injury that could sideline him for several more weeks.

Trevin Wallace is still on the depth chart after missing the Missouri game with a shoulder injury. The same is true of Keeshawn Silver after missing that game due to injury.

During his Monday press conference, head coach Mark Stoops said he believes some of the injured players who were out vs. Missouri could be back this week vs. the Vols.

Kentucky Football Depth Chart

Speaking of, here is a recap of what Stoops had to say at his Monday presser, courtesy of UK Athletics.

Opening statement …

“Really excited to get back to work here this week. I felt like we improved as a football team a week ago. We needed to; we needed the time to heal up a bit. Certainly get some things corrected, improve as a team and get prepared for a great game this week with hosting Tennessee. Looking forward to being back home and having another sellout crowd and strongly encourage ours fans to come and be loud. We’re certainly going to need it when you’re facing a team as explosive as Tennessee and with tempo that they use and they’re a very efficient football team. We know its going to be a great challenge and I think our team is ready to get back out, get to work here this week, put in a solid week of preparation and go back to work and try to get in the W column. And we know this’ll be an exciting game for us.”

On what makes Tennessee so explosive …

“You’ve seen a lot of it, the last couple years. Their tempo creates problems, but I think they’re very balanced when you’re looking for balance. You know you’ve heard me talk about it a lot and as a defensive coach, defending somebody that is, they’re about exactly 50/50 right now — 217 (yards per game rushing) to 220 (yards per game passing). It’s about as balanced as you can get and they have a very efficient offense that’s hard to defend. I think the way they spread you out, the tempo that they use, the schemes that they use, very talented quarterback in Joe Milton, with a ton of experience. He’s been around a long time, senior, and I think they have dynamic running backs along with always having explosive receivers, so very good team.”

On if he learned ways to simulate in practice the way Tennessee plays …

“I think we definitely try different ways to help and to simulate that, as you heard me say, and probably most, it’s almost impossible to simulate them in practice, that’s for sure. You could run two units at them, as far as two scout teams. You could practice against our offense, that can be efficient just being, playing good football. It’s not the same offense but as far as us getting our cleats in the ground, getting calls, communicating, getting lined up, getting set. I think that you know that was a piece of it a year ago, where we’re playing certain downs very well, certain plays very well and the tempo stresses some kids mentally and just you can’t have that. You can’t have any mental breakdowns, that’s for sure. It’s hard enough and they put enough stress on you and make enough one-on-one catches that you can’t have your own mental breakdowns.”

On if he runs the risk focusing on offense and losing touch with defensive fundamentals …

“I think fundamentals is a big piece of it and I think your mind is such a big part, to get locked in. At times when you hear me talk about defense and cleats in the ground and reading keys and doing all those things well happens so fast and you can get erratic. And so I think that’s a big part of it, having the guys really settle in and doing their job, And also this is no team to sit there and watch the game. By that I mean a defensive player just sitting there watching things that are going on in front of him. They better do their jobs, and they better do it at a very, very high level.”

On if he feels closer to 100 percent health-wise …

“I think we’re better. We’re certainly better than we were last time we took the field. We’re improving, so hopefully this week we’ll stay healthy.”

On how Kenneth Horsey played …

“Kenneth did some good things. It was really good to have him back as we talked about last week, just with Jager (Burton) being down and you know getting Kenneth back at that time was important and he did some really good things. He played well for being out for three or four five weeks or whatever it was. So, hopefully we’ll both have both of those guys back this week along with Dylan (Ray), and being close to full strength.”

On what happens when they play behind the chains…

You’re correct, I think when we’re behind the chains we are very inefficient. We need to execute better and we need to be able to keep people off balance and so we want to grow as a program. You’ve heard me talk about it. We’ve discussed this, we could sit there and second guess ourselves and look at the last time we took the field and say, ‘Hey you know. We could sit there and run the ball maybe 20 more times and have a better chance to win the game.’ But are we really growing as an organization, are we really winning and becoming the team that we want to become? We’re never going to stop working at that. And I think last week was just another week where we just worked really hard on ourselves and looked to improve and be more efficient in all phases.”

On if the passing game is making in progress n practice, even if it’s not translating (in games) …

“I do. I think it’s shown and you’ve seen it at times. I think you’ve seen the growth and seen us fall short of our exceptions at times and we’re working hard. I think guys are working hard and it’ll show up on the field. It has. I’d like to see it more consistent.”

On how to find a balance between the run game and pass game when it’s not translating…

“I could hit repeat the last three things I said; honestly, I don’t mean to be boring, but it’s like you we have to just keep on working on it. We’re not going to give up on that. We have to coach it out of them and just become more efficient. You know, players always either need to be challenged, corrected, or encouraged. That’s not going to change. We’re going to challenge people every day, we’re going to get them corrected, coach them, and encourage them to improve That’s what we have to do and that’s a big focus that you look at in the off week.

On if can point out the first quarter vs. Missouri and tell the team, “This is who we can be”…

“We just have to be efficient that way. We have to stay on track and again, we want to take that next step. We sit there, okay, we did that, we’re efficient. Now we set something up, it’s there, we don’t execute it. You know what I mean? Like we have to hit that, really good teams do that. And you know, we’ll continue to work at it.”

On how Barion Brown and Dane Key have taken on the challenge to develop sophomore year …

“Like you’ve heard me say many, many times, they’re wonderful young men, really good players, not finished products. They are working hard and I think after one of the tough games, the Georgia game maybe, somebody asked me, ‘Was there any good?’ A guy like Dane, I watched him because I saw him falling (into) what we call ‘pit moment,’ some tough times. And he worked really hard and he’s working hard to get out of it and to improve. Barion, I can say the same thing. There’s frustration, there’s some injury, you’re not practicing full speed because you’re hurt and he’s trying like heck to help the team and he just gets frustrated, you know, because he’s not quite 100 percent. I mean, that’s really difficult. And I think sophomores that have some success as a freshman sometimes that works against you with the pressure that’s on you, the expectations that’s there. And you just have to just stay focused to improve. They understand that and they want to help the team. They want to have success. But it’s just going to come with a natural progression as well, and we certainly need them. I’ve been encouraged by their attitude and the way they work at it.”

On the challenge of building depth, given the trend of players transferring if they don’t win the starting job …

“Yeah, it is. It’s unfortunate. That’s just the way it is, and it’s too easy and I pointed out, I’d like to – instead of being critical of anybody that’s been in that situation – I’d like to point out the other side of it, the guys that didn’t (leave) and the guys like Jeremy Flax, the guys like, you know, you recruit guys to come in and compete with them. Sll you have to do is elevate. Competition makes everybody better. And you know, if you’re afraid of competition, then this is the wrong league to play in.”

On how important player to player accountability is…

“Again, it’s not a big thing. It’s something they do often and it’s something that doesn’t take very long. They just kind of refocus and kind of commit to each other. I think what I saw last week was a team that looked to improve and that’s always what we’re looking for, for us, and what are we going to look like and how we’re going to improve on any weakness that we may have.”

On the biggest difference between Tennessee’s offense last year and this year …

“I think it’s very similar in a lot of ways. I think, this past week, you saw Joe (Milton) really throw in some good deep passes and very accurate, maybe one drop in a critical moment. They’re the same in that they can really be explosive at any moment.”

On the thought process of rugby-style punting and traditional American style …

“I think a part of it is just our scheme and what we do and what we want to look like, and he’s more than capable of hitting that. You look at what we did early in the season and, you know, we complimented the net punting. If we get anything over mid-40s, you’re really good. Now we play some guys in this league that are absolutely elite, at the high end of 40 is crazy. We see that sometimes, but if we could get back to being in that something-over-40 net, you know, 42, 43, 44 – we could do that. We’re covering well, we got to get back to hitting the ball like we’re capable of.”

On Tennessee’s defensive line…

“Yeah, they’re just being very disruptive. They’re very good as a unit, want to say they’re averaging 310 yards per game (defensively). They’ve been very disruptive up front, getting a bunch of sacks. They’re playing strong across the board.”

On the difficulty of moving on from the loss after it’s followed with a bye week …

“No, I think we did that last week. As I mentioned, I felt a greater challenge because when we lost, just the way we bounced back from the Georgia loss, getting them ready and prepared for Missouri, I felt like mentally we were prepared. We got to execute better, we got to play better. The game comes down to critical situations a lot of times and there’s things that we can improve on and play better, and we’ve focused on some of those things in the bye week and our execution when the game is on the line and the pressure is on – we have to execute better.”

On if the ‘good on good’ in practice is something he planned going into this year or was it just a moment that you needed now …

“I just felt like it was a moment that we just needed to improve, we need to be better. We needed higher competition, we needed faster practices and I felt like we got that accomplished.”

On the leadership of the older players …

“I feel very good. I felt good about the team, I think their minds (are) in a good place. We have to play better, we got to make sure that we look at, as a staff, that we had time to sit there and watch it last week and really digest the things we’re doing well, and how do we improve on that? What are teams going to do to counter the success that we’ve had? Where are we falling short and how do we improve on that? Certainly, we have to be a smarter football team, we have to execute in critical moments and get rid of silly penalties and unforced errors and things of that nature. So, there was plenty for us to look at and improve on.”

On Tennessee’s explosion, if your players understand…

“Our players watch football. I think they’ve seen them play for the past couple of years. They watch it on TV, they could see it in real time, the actual tempo. Sometimes on film, things are slowed down, but we obviously watch TV copies too, as well to see the actual game speed. So, I think our players understand, with playing tempo teams, (Tennessee) is certainly one that’s an elite tempo team – not sure anybody goes faster.”

On Daveren Rayner’s performance vs. Missouri …

“I was very impressed with Daveren, really, that he started the game very fast. (He) Played pretty consistent the entire game, to be honest with you, I was pleased. He’s one of those guys that we’re constantly pushing to understand the nature of how difficult it is to play at a consistent level here. You know, keep his weight up and be able to withstand playing the SEC, playing every down, practicing at that level, but he certainly is the type of guy when you put him in games, he’ll show some ability and make some plays, which is good to see.”

On if getting Trevin Wallace back, he will feel better about depth …

“Definitely, when a guy (Rayner) that gets a whole game under his belt and gets more snaps and you can see that he could play at a high level – it’ll definitely help.”

On Ty Bryant…

“Ty is a guy — I thought he played pretty well. He did some good things, for a true freshman, and he’s getting quality snaps as well. He’s been a guy that we’ve talked about all the way back since last spring as far as getting a bunch of practice reps and getting prepared. I like the way he is very serious about the way he practices, the way he prepares, and therefore when he gets into the game, it comes a little more natural to him — he’s prepared for it.”

On if coaches had to recharge over the bye…

“I think you’ve got to repair, reflect, and readjust a little bit. You have to. We all have to recruit. We have to recruit, as well. But there is a touch more time. You don’t have to work, as in, not every night, all night, things of that nature. Certainly helps, most importantly gives us a good chance to look at ourselves. Maybe slow down and take a good look at ourselves and then also prepare for future opponents.”

On the pass rush progression over the season…

“This team (Tennessee), they also get the ball out very, very quick, at times. So, there’s times when there’s zero chance to get there, because, literally, the ball’s out as fast as you can get it out. Kind of like a good shortstop there. So, there’s times when it’s coming out extremely fast, and then there’s times when they do take their shots and it’s dropped back. So, we have to be, the guys have to be dialed up and relentless in their pursuit. The thing is with Joe (Milton) is, he could pull it down. They can have design quarterback runs, they can have designed QB draws, and he does a nice job of buying time as well to scramble — to scramble for yards or to scramble to buy some time and get the ball down the field. So anytime you’re playing a guy like that, it puts a lot of stress on the defensive line. I think we’re going to need to play a lot of guys. I think they’re going to need to play very fast. They also have to be in great shape. We worked really hard last week with tempo, because there’s times when you cannot come out of the game. You know, when they’re in their series, there is zero substitution until there’s a stoppage.”

On how he gets the secondary ready for Joe Milton …

“Well, a couple things. The deep shots itself. he has an extremely strong arm that’s well documented — that he could get the ball down the field as good as anybody that we will see. And so, just judging and playing the ball on deep shots is one thing. And then the first part of your question is plastering and playing. Off-schedule (when plays break down and the QB is scrambling) is important to reaffirm that and practice that and just make sure that we’re plastering to our guys with scramble drills.”

On what plastering means…

“When plays get off-schedule and the quarterback starts scrambling around, [and] routes get broken off. So, it’s not a designed route anymore. It’s essentially, I mean it with no disrespect, we all do it offensively, it’s street ball at that time, you know what I mean? It’s off-schedule and so short guys (receivers) go long, and long guys go short. Some guys cross the field, so everybody has their idea of what to do with it, so we have to plaster. So, once we play the secondary call the way it is and they start getting off-schedule, we have to stick to the man we have — turns into man (man-to-man coverage) at that point in time.”

On how hard the ‘plastering’ is for younger guys…

“Yeah, it is. It’s challenging. They have to understand — take care of their primary responsibility, always. First, do their job, and then from there it’s a bit of playing ball. And we have to be relentless in our pursuit of the quarterback.”

On if the DBs were better against Missouri, and how can they better against Tennessee …

“It was better. It wasn’t, obviously, the same environment playing down there, and as I’ve mentioned to you before, hopefully it’ll be a very tough environment for our defense to communicate this week. We need it to be that way. It’s different challenges, because some inexperienced players when you’re playing in that type of environment, get the bright eyes a little bit because things are going crazy. When you’re at home, it’s the opposite. Hopefully, the defense is on the field when the stadium is very loud, and therefore, it makes it a bit more challenging to communicate. So, we just got to be locked in, use hand signals, look at each other, and communicate and make sure we’re all on the same page. I don’t think it’s anything that was drastic. There’s an enormous amount of communication that goes on, on every play.”

On if there is an over-analysis on dropped passes …

“I don’t think you can overanalyze it and talk about it. I mean, just go play. Our guys know how to throw and catch, and some of them are showing up with a youngster and bring him along. But we just got to go make plays. That’s the bottom line. You know who we play against. You have to make plays.”