Mark Stoops was not on the initial schedule to speak with the media after Tuesday’s Kentucky football practice, the fifth of the preseason. Typically, an unexpected visit is a sign of bad news to come. Not this time. Stoops just likes his team.
“We’re cutting down on the mistakes,” Stoops said. “You can tell by the open practice you guys were at Saturday, definitely a little bit sloppy. Each and every day it’s getting cleaner, getting better. There’s still quite a bit of work to do but I love the way these guys are working and I feel good about this team.”
Stoops was hesitant to single out any of the young players who have stood out in the early practice, but was happy to commend the freshmen wide receivers. “We needed that to be a good group and they are.”
The head coach did not want to elaborate too much on the quarterback competition. There have been ebbs and flows, with the top performers changing on a day-to-day basis. Vince Marrow was less hesitant. When asked which players have caught his eye the most to date, he gave the running backs a stamp of approval, praised Justin Rigg’s mobility after the tight end shed some pounds, then said this about the quarterbacks:
“All three of them are doing good things, but I’m liking Will (Levis). Will’s doing some pretty good stuff.”
Liam Coen spent more time discussing the progression of the quarterbacks’ targets, particularly the running backs who are taking on a larger role as pass-catchers in the Kentucky offense. That was not always part of Coen’s plan when he got to Kentucky, but the offensive coordinator had to adjust to get the ball in the hands of his best athletes.
“It really wasn’t a huge part of my initial thought process. It wasn’t. Some other teams around the NFL do some really good things in multiple backfield sets. When you get here and you get around Chris (Rodriguez), (Kavosiey) Smoke and JuTahn (McClain), you meet La’Vell (Wright) and you got (Travis) Tisdale, Torrance Davis is coming along, it’s a packed backfield. Well how do you get all of those guys touches?
“It’s really hard to get all of those guys carries, but we can get them touches in multiple different ways. That was something we evolved to.”
Coen also answered one question he’s been asked multiple times: Where will he coach during games? Although the decision is not final, he’s leaning toward calling plays from the sideline rather than the press box. “I like to be able to communicate with the quarterback and look in his eyes.”