Six takeaways from what Mark Stoops said at SEC Media Days


UK football head coach Mark Stoops at the podium during SEC Media Days in Hoover, Alabama.

Anthony Crawford

After the media storm that surrounded Alabama head coach Nick Saban settled down at SEC Media Days, it was Mark Stoops turn to take the podium. Here’s some of the quick hitters of what he had to say during day three in Hoover:

Happy with culture change at UK, turns focus now to capacity

Nobody said that it was going to be easy for Stoops and company at UK and it has shown thus far. Coming off back-to-back 5-7 seasons is tough for the program, but it is progress.

A climate change within a program is something that Stoops told the media was something that is easy to accomplish and he has had his eyes set on something more since arriving, a complete revamp of the culture at UK.

Now the pillars Stoops has tried to instill in the program are starting to show with all the work players have been putting in, but the coaching staff still want more.

Stoops brought up the capacity of the players on team, simply stating that they need to be capable of more, and that more would be important to the program taking the next step.

“We had longer spring practices. We need to have a tougher two-a-days, a tougher camp and continue to expand our capacity to handle more to endure what it takes mentally and physically to compete and to win in this league,” Stoops said. “In particular, to close the gap on the close games. We’ve been very close. We’re tired of being close.”

Confident with where coaching staff is after new additions

The loss of offensive coordinator Neal Brown two years ago hit Stoops and UK harder than expected and it showed last season. Replacement offensive coordinator and Stoops were never able to really figure out what they wanted from the offense and the product they put on the field said it all.

Now with the new addition of offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, the team will finally have the leadership it needs from that position. Gran worked with Stoops at Florida State under head coach Jimbo Fisher, and is coming off a very successful season at Cincinnati.

Gran along with new co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw and wide receivers coach Lamar Thomas should prove to help add to the winning culture that Stoops is trying to establish at UK.

“Our staff. Someone once said the only constant in life is change. We’ve dealt with some change in the coaching staff. I feel very, very confident in who we have and what we have in place right now with our staff.”

Impressed with growth by Drew Barker

Stoops entered SEC Media Days in unfamiliar position to himself and the rest of the conference by already having a starting quarterback named. He took time with the media Wednesday to address the confidence he had in Drew Barker to make that decision.

Barker came to UK as a highly recruited player at a position that Stoops has said multiple times getting production from is crucial. Barker won the job in the spring after starting the last two games for the Cats last fall. And by all accounts, Barker seems up to the challenge of being a starting quarterback in the SEC once the season starts.

“I feel very confident about that. I really do. I feel at ease about that position, and you’ve heard me say it once you’ve heard me say it 1,000 times: It’s not always about that position, but we have to have great play at that position and we have to be consistent and we have to always progress. I really like what I’ve seen with Drew off the field and on.”

Sees UK’s secondary as “future stars” in the SEC

Depth was an issue that was brought up in Hoover. But while Stoops has those types of concerns when it comes to the defensive line and linebackers, he is overflowing with confidence in his secondary.

Sophomores Derrick Baity, Mike Edwards and Chris Westry give UK a core in the defensive backfield that the coaching staff can have confidence in.

UK’s defensive line doesn’t look to have the strength to put any real pressure on opposing quarterbacks, so UK’s fate will be in the hands of these young players for a lot of the time. Stoops seems to think that the group, and especially Westry, will take the opportunity and run with it as they become a group that commands respect in the SEC.

“It’s a group that has great length, great play-making ability, and I believe they are future stars in this league. Three of them started last year as a freshman,” Stoops said. “They will be sophomores this year and, again, have the length that you’re looking for, play-making ability, and now they have some experience. And the great news is is they’ll be around for a while.”

JUCO Transfer will arrive on campus in August

Three-star JUCO transfer Jordan Bonner will arrive on campus in August instead of the project time of late August. Bonner was delayed academically because of an injury sustained during a stabbing in March. Bonner is taking time to catch up on classes before enrolling at UK.

“It’s set back academically,” Stoops said. “He had to finish up a couple more classes. There were a couple classes that he actually had to drop because he couldn’t catch up because of the injury.”

Matt Elam working hard to get in shape

Junior defensive tackle Matt Elam making great strides to getting in shape. Stoops said that Elam was doing everything that was asked of him in the facilities and in the plan put together by the coaches. He then went on to say that the former five-star has looked explosive in workouts and that managing his weight is the next step to him playing at a high level.

“I don’t want to jinx him right now and tell you any weights or anything like that, but he’s looking a lot better and he’s been very serious in approaching that in the right way,” Stoops said. “He is a great kid. He wants to do well. He wants to play at a high level, I think he’s very capable of playing at a high level.”