Kentucky coach Mark Stoops had a lot to say about quarterback Stephen Johnson at Monday’s press conference as the Cats prepare to host Mississippi State Saturday night.
On Vanderbilt confusing Stephen Johnson with different coverages and if Mississippi State does the same: “No, I think if you look at Vandy they’re always gonna do some different types of zone pressures and different looks. Maybe a wrinkle here or there but a lot of it’s the same. There’s only so many things you can do coverage wise. But I think you always have to be ready for that, yes, and I think it always simplifies things when you’re able to run the football because there’s only so much you can do in the back end if you’re running the ball. Hopefully we’ll continue to do that and take a little pressure of Stephen. Of course, as we’ve talked about, we want to be able to have balance and throw the ball and a great way to do that is continue to run it, to run the football. That opens up a lot of windows. Stay in front of the chains and take your shots.”
On how they translate Johnson’s sharpness in practice to games: “I think a lot of what I was just talking about. Yeah, comfort level is a big part of it. You’re more comfortable when you’re staying in front of the chains and your offense is hitting on all cylinders, when you’re able to run the ball and you’re able to throw our RPOs off the run game. RPOs don’t work if you’re not running the ball. So I think that’s a big part of it, and just having guys step up and having that balance and making plays when we’re available and having the protection when he needs to. All those things. I think there was an effect from the week before when we played Alabama, because you don’t have any time against them if you’ve noticed. And so the next week as you’re coaching it and working on it and protecting the ball, he rushed a couple but that comes from experience and playing. Again, I’ve said this a couple times this year and I’ve talked about the offense, I think some of it’ll be an easy fix, just settling in and having the comfort level and experience and some of it we’ll continue to work on.”
On if it’s a challenge to keep Stephen Johnson even keeled when he’s struggling: “Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s always a challenge to make sure your quarterback keeps at an even keel and plays with good poise and good patience. That’s a big part of our game at any level. You’ve got to have good play there.”
On how comfortable he is in Stephen if he’s the guy to finish the year: “I’m very comfortable with him. He’s gonna get better and better as we go along. Look at the things he’s done to help us win. What, he’s 3-1 as a starter, right? He’s made some very critical plays. Maybe it doesn’t always look pretty as far as throwing the ball sometimes, but he’s doing the things, decision making and doing some things with his legs to help us win football games. That’s what it’s all about.”
On how much of the run game’s success is a result of Stephen being able to run: “I think that’s definitely a piece of it. Definitely. Again, you go back to our last football game, we rushed it for what, 259 or something against Vandy. Not very easy to do.”