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Mark Stoops, Shannon Dawson saying right things

Shannon Dawson, left, and Mark Stoops (Vicky Graff Photo)

Shannon Dawson, left, and Mark Stoops (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Coaches know how to say all the right things going into any game. No wonder Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and Southern Mississippi offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson are sharing the love this week going into Saturday’s game.

Well, maybe not exactly sharing the love, but they certainly are not saying anything bad about each other even though Stoops fired Dawson after just one season at UK when the Cats finished 5-7 last year. UK ranked 95th nationally in scoring offense (24.7 points per game) and 89th in total yards per game (372) in 2015.

“He’s a good guy and a good person,” Stoops said. “We have not talked since he left, but I’m sure someday we’ll run into each other on the road recruiting or at a coaches’ convention or something and sit down and have a beer and talk.”

Not sure I buy that because Stoops obviously became disenchanted with Dawson long before he fired him last season.

“I have respect for Shannon Dawson or I wouldn’t have hired him,” Stoops said. “We had as good a split as you can have. He was a professional. He handled it the right way. I certainly tried to handle it the very best I could.

“It didn’t work out here. We’ve been down that road. There was change made. I’m good with that, and I’m sure he’s good with that. But he’s a good football coach or I wouldn’t have hired him. You guys have seen our offense move at times (last year) and I’ve seen it move at times so he certainly can get you off balance, especially with some of the talent he has around him.”

Dawson said Monday at Southern Mississippi’s press conference that he took every game the same — again, be careful what you believe.

“They’re not going to sit here and change their whole defensive scheme. I have a little knowledge about them and they have a little knowledge about me. Ultimately, the team that executes the best will win. Hopefully, our question marks will be better than theirs,” Dawson said.

He said there was “no doubt” about Kentucky have quality SEC talent, especially in the secondary that he will try to exploit.

“They’re beck end is long and athletic. That will pose a set of challenges for sure. As far as nationally, I think they were ranked pretty high. They do a good job of coaching those guys up on the back end. The back end will be tough,” he said.

11 comments

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  1. Larry Pup

    This game is going to be real interesting. UK should win this game but we’ll see. Coach Stoops seemed uncomfortable in talking about Coach Dawson at his pregame presser on Monday. I still don’t think Dawson got a fair shot at UK. The UK defense has to take a lot of responsibility for the 2015 melt down. The UT and Louisville games were a disaster. They couldn’t stop Lamar Jackson from running free all over the field. Can’t blame it all on Dawson. Not much has been said about that fact. Many fans were ready to throw Towles under the bus early on, but he started 10 games as I recall. Many wanted Barker much sooner as the No. 1. Who was making that decision? Stoops or Dawson? Why did Reese Phillips leave the program? Probably lack of playing time I guess, but was that the real reason? Boom was hurt, and there were other injuries too. I say all this because Stoops praised Dawson before he fired him, and praised him again Monday if you listened carefully. Can’t have it both ways Coach. I admire loyalty, didn’t see much there. Look I hope Gran turns this program around, but he has it to do. Maybe he’s the ticket to winning football at UK, I hope so. I know this, I would have a chip on my shoulder if I were Shannon Dawson coming back to a school who blamed the poor season all on me., just sayin.

  2. RJ

    You pretty much have it summed up LP. Though I think it’s clear Reese Phillips left because he knew he had no future at KY. He was not recruited by Stoops and beyond holding for extra points, Stoops was not going to us him. Dawson got fired because Stoop’s first choice, Gran, finally became available. That sort of thing, sadly, happens just about everywhere with those of questionable ethics. But hey, coaching is a business. Coaches do not get to the top of the heap by doing the honorable thing all the time. Stoops isn’t worried about the size of the pile because right now he is just trying to remain relevant.

  3. RJ

    I look for Dawson to test the KY secondary early and often. But he will pound on the line first,.

    1. Larry Pup

      Dawson complimented the UK secondary recently, said they (UK) had recruited well. He added that it would be hard going for Southern Miss throwing against them. He may test them, but I look for quick short passes to the flat and across the middle. He will run Ito Smith a ton. The guy is a pretty good RB. As for Reese from what I read and heard,, he was not complimentary to any coach but Dawson when he left. He did not have much good to say about Stoops until the press got on it. Hey, it is what it is. Stoops made his decision, he will have to live with it. He sure did not hold the defense accountable IMO. Winning football in 2016 will change a lot of negatives, but the clock is ticking. Go Cats!!!

      1. JimKentuckyblue

        Did Cincy have to go into that bowl game with a back up QB that did not have any game experience, because the starter was injured?

        1. Larry Pup

          You are right, but Gran is supposed to have a backup ready is he not? Cincy scored a whopping 7 points. Their starter was out though.

  4. Norman Einstein

    Stoops & Dawson? I think we can make too much of this. I’ve had to let key people go because they weren’t a good fit. Been rare, but it happens. Doesn’t mean I don’t respect them or, in the case of relatives, doesn’t mean I don’t love them. Simply means that they weren’t a good fit. My fault? Most likely. Some hurt feelings initially… Oh yeah. Did the storm blow over… yep. People make mistakes, but professionals know it’s an occupational hazard. They chalk it up to experience and move on.

    Southern Miss? I think there is a very strong chance this game is going to look an SEC team against a non-conference foe. The days of us losing to a team from conference USA should be gone. We’ll eat em up.

    1. Larry Pup

      Norman, you may be right about all this. Maybe Gran is the answer. He seems like a great coach and offensive mind. What about the defense? The only Gran Offense I’ve seen in action got clobbered in a bowl game. You know I respect all you say. We are friends on this blog for sure. With that said, in your opinion, did Stoops hold his own defense accountable for the mess in 2015 like he did the offensive woes he blamed Dawson for? No because him and Eliot are joined at the hip. Dawson was not the only problem UK had last year, you agree? I’ll shut up.

  5. RJ

    Hmmm. Rookie QB, two key defensive guys out for the season, an untested defensive front four. To beat SM like it was a pee wee team, Barker will have to light up the score board and the defense will have to do something it has not done in recent memory – play an entire game.

  6. TrueBlueJohn

    I think the problem for the past couple of years has been that the defense has had to play too much of the game. Too many three and outs, too few sustained drives, too many false starts, playing behind the chains instead of ahead of them. If the offense will provide some 10-12 play drives, it might be amazing how well the defense plays.

  7. TheProfessor

    It seems to me that the defense should be capable of getting some 3 and outs of their own without placing blame on the offense for its failure to get itself off the field more quickly.

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