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By LARRY VAUGHT
HOOVER, Ala. — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops spent a lot of time at SEC Media Days discussing how his defensive background will challenge him as he adapts to having a high-paced offense led by Neal Brown.
Question: How long do you think it’s going to take for your team to build that high offense identity up and have that installed?
Stoops: “I’m sure that will be a fine balancing act. As you know, I come from a defensive background. That will be hard for me to watch when things are not going well. I’m not unrealistic enough to know that we’re not going to go through some hard times and some growing pains. I hired Neal Brown to run his offense. I have to support him and do that at all cost. So I have enough faith and confidence with Neal and certainly will discuss that within the game plan about how we’re going to handle that tempo. Sure, there’s going to be a learning curve there, as well, for us.”
Question: With your defensive background, what is your take on the discussion about whether defenses should get mandatory time after first downs, specifically when they’re against hurry‑ups, up‑tempo offenses, to substitute guys in?
Stoops: “It’s very interesting for me. I come from a defensive background. Again I’ve had my problems with up‑tempo offenses, we all have had our moments of failure against the tempo offenses because it gets you in disarray. Obviously that’s the advantage of it for the offenses, to not let us defenses zero in as specifically as we want to be as far as formations and all those sort of things, get on the same page in the communication.
“Now I will be running an up‑tempo offense at Kentucky with Neal Brown. I like it from that standpoint. I see them going through it. Of course, we have a long way to go. I’ve watched Neal’s offenses at Texas Tech, I see the way they moved the ball against some quality teams. I hope we can have the same success.
“Right now what I say is the rules are the way they are. I’m a first‑year head coach with very little clout in this league. I’m going to go about the way the rules are right now. In my opinion, I do think there needs to be, and I believe we’re working towards that, some time to let us get situated and put the ball down certainly when substitutions involved.”
Question: How do you sort of adjust your scheme defensively to the fact now that you’re going to be running an up‑tempo offense?
Stoops: “Defensively we need to be flexible with teams because even if they’re substituting, they’re very creative with the way they’re substituting, the time, the area of the field that they’re substituting, what they’re doing with that. The bottom line is we need to be flexible defensively. We need to be able to keep up with these offenses and how multiple they are, have some guys that have the ability to play a few different positions.”
Question: As a defensive coach, have you ever seen any proof or evidence that a hurry‑up offense does, in fact, injure football players more often, as some coaches here have alleged in the past?
Stoops: “I personally have not seen that. Of course, I’m not going out there trying to collect that data. So it hasn’t affected us from an injury point of view yet to this point. I thought it gave us the best opportunity to win at Kentucky. I like the style of play. I like the roots of it, coming back to Kentucky, when Hal Mumme was there, had some success, with Neal having a background in Kentucky. I just thought it gave us the best opportunity to move the football.”
Question: Since most of the new coaches coming into the league are up‑tempo coaches, do you think this league tends to be cyclical? Do you think we’re heading towards a new cycle of up‑tempo offenses?
Stoops: “I’m not sure. I think from a person just watching this league from afar, certainly playing SEC teams quite a bit, I think the foundation of this league was built on physicality and having great defensive linemen, very physical on both sides of the ball. I don’t think that’s going away.”