Notes from Mark Stoops’ spring practice press conference


Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops shakes hands with fans during the Cat Walk before the game against Ole Miss on Saturday, November 4, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky lost the game 37-34. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Mark Stoops held a press conference on Monday morning to discuss all things related to the Kentucky football team as the Cats kicked off their spring practices earlier that day.

The team will officially practice 14 times before playing in its Blue/White Spring scrimmage on April 13, giving the new Cats plenty of time to adjust, and the experienced Cats time to fine tune their skills.

After Monday’s practices, Stoops talked about players’ roles, injuries and his hopes for the 2018 season. Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

Injury update

Not all Cats will take the field during spring practice, as Stoops announced Dorian Baker, CJ Conrad and Derrick Baity would be held out of spring practices.

The Cats also added another player to the injury report in today’s practice, as tight end Justin Rigg suffered a head injury and was taken to the hospital. Rigg and Chris Westry collided in practice, resuting in Stoops’ sending Rigg to the hospital as a precaution. 

“He had a lacerated kidney at one point in time and his stomach was bothering him, we believe everything checked out fine but there was a lot of things involved with Justin at that time,” Stoops said. “Possible head, possible internal so we just sent him to the hospital to get him checked out.” 

Stoops said there would be updates of Rigg’s status after tomorrow’s practice. Westry wasn’t sent to the hospital and didn’t suffer any injuries from the collision.

As for Baker, the wideout didn’t suffer any setbacks from his fractured-dislocated left ankle he suffered in late August, and he just started running routes a week or two ago.

“It’s just not worth the risk at this point,” Stoops said. “He’s going to continue to rehab and get stronger and get better, he looks good.”

Stoops said Conrad also started running recently and getting closer to returning. As for Baity, he’s able to do a lot of individual work but unable to return to the practice field soon with his shoulder injury. 

“He’s about half-and-half right now as well,” Stoops said. “The shoulder is just not quite ready to get any contact.”

Quarterback situation

The biggest question mark regarding players’ roles lies in the quarterback position, and as spring practice begins, nothing has been decided yet.

Stoops said picking a starting quarterback will take some time, but he’s initially been pleased with what he’s seen from his quarterbacks so far.

“I’m very impressed with the way they’re throwing the football,” Stoops said. “You just look at the talent, and you look at the way they’re spinning the ball, it does jump out at you.”

The Cats will be tasked with replacing Stephen Johnson, who went 14-10 as a starter during the last two seasons. 

Stoops mentioned Terry Wilson, Gunnar Hoak and Danny Clark as potential candidates to fill Johnson’s role, but they will have a hard time replacing the one thing that made Johnson good. 

“I think where you saw Stephen really make some big plays, we all have over those two years where – when things broke down,” Stoops said. “He had good instincts to get really positive yards when nothing was there.”

While it’ll be difficult to replace Johnson, Stoops is confident that they will be just fine at the quarterback position. 

“I feel confident that we’re going to improve at that position, as much as we love Stephen and what he’s done for us, I think we’re going to improve,” Stoops said.

Roles in the secondary

With the hiring of outside linebackers coach Brad White in the offseason, former outside linebackers coach Dean Hood was moved to help coach the defensive backs, where Steve Clinkscale has been coaching for the past two season.

Stoops said he doesn’t know the roles for each coach yet in the secondary since practice just started, and he would sort it out during the spring.

“They’re going to work together with that, but he (Hood) does have great experiences,” Stoops said. “Very evident to me already that that’ll help.”