Most Recent Posts
- Brumbaugh understands junior college talent, feels he can bring JUCO players to UK
- Volleyball training, personality will both help Marcus Lee at Kentucky
- UK coach Mark Stoops was patient with Neal Brown because he was “all-in” on hiring him
- UK signee Marcus Lee overcame early education struggles to succeed in academics, athletics
- No. 12 Kentucky and No. 5 Arizona State to start best-of-three NCAA Super Regional set Saturday at 10 p.m. ET
- Stoops: Hiring Neal Brown to run Kentucky offense was a “no-brainer for me”
- Nunley, Cumbess Propel No. 12 UK Softball to Super Regionals
- DeCourcy says Julius Randle is “so freaking quick” and powerful he will be special
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops talked about assistant coach Vince Marrow, quarterback Jalen Whitlow, UK fans and recruiting during Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference teleconference.
Question: What was your first spring practice like?
Stoops: “I was encouraged with the first spring. I felt like things went well. I was impressed with our players, felt like they had a great attitude and were there embracing the process. So I was really happy with their attitude and the way they were going about their business. Encouraged with the spring game and our fans. This fan base is awfully hungry to help us be successful. That was evident with their support of the spring game. So overall, I’m pleased with the way things are going.”
Question: What makes tight ends coach Marrow such a good recruiter and is Ohio his only territory?
Stoops: “I’ve got him just in Ohio right now. What makes him a great recruiter, I think, is just his ability to make everybody feel comfortable. He’s very good at just building relationships. He works at it extremely hard. And he has a lot of ties to Ohio. He’s lived in three or four different parts of Ohio, grew up in Ohio, went to the same high school that I did. So Vince knows me very well. He knows how we want to go about our business in recruiting. So I think just with his work ethic and his ability to build relationships are some of the best qualities he has.”
Question: Is Georgia a recruiting priority?
Stoops: “Absolutely, yes. Yeah, we are currently recruiting Georgia, yes.”
Question: Was there any separation in the quarterback battle based on reviewing the spring game video?
Stoops: “I think it’s very fair to say that Jalen (Whitlow) had the best spring game and did some awfully good things. So, I have got to say that Jalen had the best spring game and did some awfully good things. With that being said, it’s still an open competition there.”
Question: Where does UK need the most help from freshmen/junior college transfers?
Stoops: “Obviously we need help at every position. We need to improve across the board. But what stands out to me right now is the skill positions, both on offense and on defense. We need to get a lot better in the secondary and we need to get better at wide receiver.”
Question: Has he been surprised with how the 2014 recruiting has gone?
Stoops: “I’ve been very encouraged with recruiting since I’ve been to Kentucky. I feel like we’re getting a good reception. I feel like the coaches are working extremely hard. And the coaches have the ability to get in there and build some relationships and earn some trust from some of these recruits. So overall, I’ve been very pleased with 2013 and the start of 2014, yes.”
Question: Are there particular areas of need in the 2014 recruiting class?
Stoops: “We really need a lot of help in every area. So I feel like we need help across the board, but we need to continue – it’s hard to say, because we need help everywhere, but we certainly need some help in the skill positions like I mentioned. I think really at defensive back and wide receiver, we really need to upgrade there.”
Question: How did tailbacks Dyshawn Mobley and Josh Clemons perform in the spring?
Stoops: “Dyshawn, he was a good back. He just really did some good things. I was impressed. I feel like he’s a physical guy, up over about 215 pounds, gives us a little physical punch, and he’s also got some good speed. So I was impressed with him. Josh is, again, a pleasant surprise. I think with coming back off a knee injury, I really just was impressed with him. He also had a good spring game. We did not practice him back-to-back. If we did have a back-to-back practice, we just practiced him one or the other to let that knee heal up a little bit between practices. But again, a big, physical guy that’s got some good vision. So I was happy with Josh.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
By LARRY VAUGHT
Jalen Whitlow says he’s more accustomed not only to college football, but also college life and that’s one reason his play this spring could have vaulted him to No. 1 in the Kentucky quarterback competition with Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles.
“I think he’s learning how to prepare,” offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. “Getting thrown to the fire, it does one of two things for you. It really damages you or you find out what it takes and you come back stronger than ever and I think that’s what happened.”
Whitlow ran for 49 yards — with a long run of 22 yards— and threw for 193 yards and two scores in Saturday’s Blue-White Game to impress coach Mark Stoops. His athleticism could lead to Brown designing more plays to utilize those skills. “I like passing plays. I want to throw the ball,” Whitlow said. “I fit this offense every way I feel. Just trying to improve my game and be more consistent in execution is what I have to do now.”
Here’s more of what Whitlow had to say about his play and the offense.
Question: Do you feel like there are ways a mobile quarterback can thrive in this offense and add new wrinkles to the offense?
Whitlow: “Yeah, this offense is wide open so you can pretty much do anything. Passing, some wrinkles with the run game even though we already pretty much do that, quick passes, play-action passes. It is wide open.”
Question: Considering your ability to run, how much do you like the wider offensive line splits that create gaps?
Whitlow: “I like that. It is wide open and good for me to do anything.”
Question: Do you finally think the time is here for fans/media to accept that you are a good quarterback and quit talking about moving you to another position?
Whitlow: “I have to make some more plays on the field, but I think people should accept me as a quarterback. Definitely a quarterback. As a ‘good’ quarterback, I am working on that right now. The spring game was important not just to me, but the whole team. It let us put on a show.”
Question: Do you have a feel for who might be winning the quarterback battle?
Whitlow: “No. We are just coming out and trying to do our best. We rotate reps with the first team. Every day it is a different guy going first.”
Question: Do you like the idea of going two weeks into preseason camp without a starter being named as Brown has said he will do?
Whitlow: “That is his decision. I have no choice but to like it.”
Question: What lies ahead this summer knowing the No. 1 spot is still up for grabs?
Whitlow: “Like any other summer or any other time you get away from team activities and the coaches, just put in work individually to get better. Try to improve your game the best you can. Get more acclimated with the offense. Just work on the little things, the mental things that make you better.”
Question: How much did playing last year help you but also show you what you have to work on to get better?
Whitlow: “It helped me a lot. I played against a lot of good defenses, good players, good teams. I think it helped a lot with the experience. Adding a little more confidence and just knowing the speed of the game helped a lot.”
Question: How valuable is experience for a quarterback?
Whitlow: “It is very valuable. Experience is everything. The more experience you have, the better off you are. It gives you an enormous level of confidence. We played against some first-round draft picks and great players. I hope to show lot more of what I can do in the future.”
Question: Was it hard to be thrown right into SEC action as a true freshman?
Whitlow: “At first, it was a whirlwind, but I got used to it and just went out and played football.”
Question: How much does durability help a quarterback or impact who the starter might be?
Whitlow: “That’s pretty much all in God’s hands. But durability, it depends. Sometimes you get hit and you hurt, but you have to shake it off. You go through a season with bumps and bruises, but you have to play with them. It’s football. Fight through them. You are going to hit you, so you have to move on to the next game, heal up, ice up and do what you have to do to get ready.”
By ASHLEY SCOBY
Jalen Whitlow is not your average Joe.
At least that’s what he – and fans – have come to believe after spring practice concluded with the Blue-White scrimmage Saturday. Whitlow completed 17 of 28 passes for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns to show the coaching staff and fans that he is right in the thick of the three-man quarterback race.
After a freshman campaign in which he started seven games and contributed 1,007 yards and 6 touchdowns (passing and rushing), Whitlow has a gained a quiet self-confidence.
“You’ve got to carry yourself with confidence,” he said. “Players carry themselves with confidence. You would never see Peyton Manning carrying himself like a regular Joe.”
The biggest difference between last season and the beginning of spring practice for Whitlow has been “maturity.” Nearing the completion of his second semester of college, he thinks he has grown up a lot, which has, in turn, helped him on the football field.
“Last fall I was an 18-year-old pretty much trying to grasp everything,” Whitlow said. “Everything’s moving so fast but now the college life is not a big thing anymore. Just coming in here and just focusing on football and school and just being grounded is the biggest thing.”
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown thought Whitlow has used his freshman year experience to turn into the solid quarterback that has emerged during the spring.
“I think he’s learning how to prepare,” Brown said. “Getting thrown to the fire, it does one of two things for you. It really damages you or you find out what it takes and you come back stronger than ever and I think that’s what happened.”
All of that maturity and experience helped Whitlow turn in a solid spring game performance, especially compared to the other quarterbacks. Max Smith, the original starter last season before going down with an injury, was 11-18 for 108 yards and a touchdown, while Whitlow’s classmate Patrick Towles went 6-14 for 65 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Whitlow also rushed for 49 yards Saturday, showing that his speed and ability to get out of the pocket will also be factors in the quarterback race.
Running, however, isn’t something Whitlow particularly wants to do.
“I don’t like running,” he said. “I like passing plays. I want to throw the ball.”
Brown said Whitlow has “come along” as a passer so far in the spring, but that his athleticism is something the coaches will look at, if Whitlow were to be named the starter.
“At Troy…when we had a kid that was athletic, we ran the ball with the quarterback,” he said. “We’ve got to figure out who we are. What are our pieces to the puzzle? And then we’ll form a package around them.”
Forming that package is something that might be far away, but head coach Mark Stoops knows what Whitlow could potentially bring to the table.
“Jalen did a nice job,” he said. “He has that dimension to run the football and pull it down when something’s not there and create… I was impressed with the way Jalen played.”
Even if Whitlow is not named the starter come fall camp, UK knows it doesn’t just have an average Joe athlete wearing number 13.
By KEITH TAYLOR, firstname.lastname@example.org
LEXINGTON — ZaDarius Smith didn’t touch a football until three years ago. Since that time, he’s made a name for himself on the gridiron.
It was hard to notice Smith’s lack of experience in Kentucky’s annual Blue-White game Saturday night at Commonwealth Stadium. The junior college transfer totaled six tackles, including one for a loss of five for the Blue squad, which edged the White team 24-23.
The crowd, the largest to witness a spring game in school history, didn’t faze Smith, who was surprised by the attendance of 50,831 seeking a first-look at the new coaching staff and what to expect this fall. Smith admitted that his “heart dropped” as soon as he stepped on the field and admitted that he was “nervous” but “had to get over it and make plays.”
“I knew I could do it. I’ve just got to keep that motivation of making tackles and just keep working hard,” he said. “The guys were telling me they didn’t have many at their spring game (last year) When I saw it on the web (that we were going to have) 50,000 (fans), I thought it was going to be exciting.”
Smith started playing football as a senior in high school at Greenville High School (Ala.) and competed for two seasons at East Mississippi Community College. Smith proved it’s never too late to make an impact.
Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot wasn’t surprised by the outing by Smith.
“Za’Darius has played well for us all spring,” he said. “He was fundamentally ahead of the rest of the guys and he continued to get better all spring. He’s on his way to (becoming) a good defensive end for us. He just needs to keep working hard every day.”
Smith, a four-star recruit and one of the top junior college defensive ends in the nation last season, originally committed to Florida State, but changed his mind after Mark Stoops was hired to coach the Wildcats. He followed defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh from East Mississippi to Lexington shortly after Stoops arrived from Tallahassee.
Smith described Eliot and Stoops as “great coaches” and influential in his decision to attend Kentucky.
“The one reason I came here was because of them,” he said. “I know what they’re about and I know how they run their defense. They do a good job of it and as you could see tonight, we made a lot of plays.”
If allowed to tackle quarterbacks Patrick Towles, Jalen Whitlow or Maxwell Smith, Stoops said Smith and Bud Dupree would “have caused havoc.” Smith admitted it was hard to hold back during the two-hour contest.
“It didn’t feel great at all,” he said with a laugh. “The thing is, it’s our quarterbacks and we have to keep them safe.”
Although he’s already made an impression and ahead of his teammates in the defensive transition, Smith knows he has “to keep working” to get used to the faster tempo he expects to see in the Southeastern Conference.
“I’m just halfway there because it’s just the spring,” he said. “I still have a summer (to go) and I have to get the fall going. I just know I have to make more plays (this fall).”
By LARRY VAUGHT
LEXINGTON — He’s not ready to say who should be the starting quarterback, but even coach Mark Stoops could not deny that sophomore Jalen Whitlow did his best to stake his claim to that spot with his play in Saturday’s Blue-White Game.
“Jalen did a nice job. He has that dimension to run the football and pull it down and create,” said Stoops. “He did a nice job tonight. I was impressed with the way he played.”
Whitlow easily had the best numbers in his continuing battle with Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles. He was 17-for-29 passing for 193 yards and two scores and ran seven times for 49 yards. He hit A.J. Legree with a 16-yard scoring pass and Demarcus Sweat with a scoring toss of the same distance.
Smith was 11 of 18 for 108 yards and one score while Towles was just 6-for-14 for 65 yards and one score, but he also threw the game’s only interception.
Stoops said he felt the quarterback play “was solid again” and that each player “had their moments” during the game that ended spring practice.
“It’s not always on the quarterbacks. It’s about the other guys with them,” Stoops said.
The head coach said he wants players “to feel good about themselves, but it can’t be fake” and Whitlow made it clear he felt good about his play.
“I think I have improved a lot and I think I showed tonight what I can do,” Whitlow said.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown has said he won’t name a starter until midway of preseason camp, but Stoops acknowledged that Whitlow made an impression in this game.
“I think he has earned the right to feel good about himself,” Stoops said.
However, Whitlow faces the same challenge this summer that the other quarterbacks do. “They have to work. Get with receivers and get on the same page. They have to be leaders on the field,” Stoops said.
Stoops did admit that a player’s performance in this game would carry extra weight when it comes to the depth chart, which could benefit Whitlow.
“Under the lights in a game setting, you want to see how they respond, how they play. You need playmakers to make plays when the lights come on,” Stoops said.
The coach did not see nearly enough offensive playmakers, but he said part of that was due to splitting the squad and limiting the offense’s ability to play fast due to a lack of depth.
“You did not see our offense at full strength. Our tempo was not what it has been. Part of that is numbers and being thin when we split into teams,” Stoops said. “When they are all together, they play at a higher tempo.”
Stoops said current player have to improve their playmaking skills along with incoming freshmen providing help for the offense.
“We are going to work hard to get better with guys that are here,” Stoops said. “Our incoming guys are going to help us as well. Our players will get better. They have got better and we need them to get even better.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
He played sparingly in 12 games last year, but did average 4.5 yards per carry on his 41 rushing attempts. Still, those were mediocre numbers for Kentucky running back Dyshawn Mobley based on what he did at Powell (Tenn.) High School. He ran for 3,068 yards and 48 touchdowns as a senior — both state records — and led Powell to a 14-1 mark and state finals berth. He finished his career with 5,849 yards rushing and 76 touchdowns while averaging over 10 yards per attempt.
Now he’s trying to show new offensive coordinator Neal Brown that he can be a regular contributor.
He is faster, but strong. He lost a little weight but it was good for him. He is much quicker in the hole and much faster exploding. He will help us a lot this year,” sophomore quarterback Jalen Whitlow said of Mobley.
Here’s what the sophomore running back said after practice Wednesday.
Question: How has spring practice been for you?
Mobley: “I am starting to pick everything up better now, so everything is pretty much fun. Overall, it has been good.”
Question: How does a bigger, stronger back fit into Neal Brown’s offense?
Mobley: “When he first got here, he said he used a bigger back at Texas Tech. They had a guy who was 220 (pounds) and he ran good. I can play it, too.”
Question: Did you worry how you might fit into this offense when Brown was hired as offensive coordinator?
Mobley: “It didn’t worry me at all. I am a ballplayer. I am just going to learn whatever they want me to learn and play wherever.”
Question: How frustrated were you last year not to play more?
Mobley: “No, I was okay for the most part. I know I have to play my role with the team and do whatever it takes to help my team get some wins. So I was fine waiting my turn. I did do a lot in high school, but those opportunities for me will come. I just have to play my role. I know my time is coming.”
Question: How have you improved since you got to Kentucky?
Mobley: “I have dropped weight. I was too big. I was like 230 when I first got here. I have dropped down to 215. I am quicker, faster. That helps a lot in this offense. I am a lot faster and I can still put my helmet on people and run over them. I can do that, too, but I can make them miss.”
Question: How are your receiving and blocking skills?
Mobley: “We catch the ball quite a bit in this offense and I can do that. We have to pick up blocks. (Running backs) Coach (Chad) Scott helps us a lot with our techniques. Once we get our technique down, we can pick up any defensive end that comes through there.”
Question: What has you the most excited about this offense?
Mobley: “Basically just the spread. We spread everybody out and gash them with the run. That’s all it is. Coach Brown runs the ball. We ran the spread at my high school, so it helps a lot for me to learn this. It is similar to high school and we ran a lot.”
Question: How has your first year in Lexington been overall?
Mobley: “I am loving it. I love my teammates. Those are the people I hang out with on campus. I don’t hang out with no outsiders. Just my teammates. They are my brothers, my family.”
Question: Are family and friends back in Tennessee okay with you being at Kentucky?
Mobley: “They accept me. They are all with me and all with Kentucky. Basically, they just come with me.”
Question: Are you excited for Saturday night’s Blue-White Game?
Mobley: “Definitely excited. I can’t wait.”
Question: What will you work on this summer to get ready for preseason camp?
Mobley: “I am going to try to get even faster and work on my lateral movement and quickness.”
Question: How many running backs do you think will play each game?
Mobley: “I am not sure. I hope he plays all of us. We all look good out there, so I hope we all play.”
Question: How is coach Scott to play for?
Mobley: “Coach Scott is hilarious. He has got a lot of energy about him. He brings a lot of energy to practice every single day.”
Question: What did you think when you found out he slept in his car for seven months as a North Carolina graduate assistant coach so he could devote extra time to his job?
Mobley: “I read about that and it was crazy. I have to talk to him about that. It’s amazing and shows how dedicated he is. He is definitely dedicated to his job.”
Question: Is he hard on you or move loving, caring?
Mobley: “He’s both. When it is time to work, we get to it. When it is time to joke around in the film room, he jokes with us sometimes. But when it is time to work, we are working.”
Question: Is the perception that the atmosphere around the program and team chemistry is a lot better this year accurate?
Mobley: “It is definitely that way. Everybody is excited about this season and can’t wait until fall camp and get better and be physical and play. We can’t wait for the season to get here.”
By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown thinks a “good crowd” at Saturday night’s Blue-White Game to end UK’s spring practice would help the Wildcats and also help him gauge how the quarterbacks play in a game-like setting.
“I think it will be good for our kids to see the fan base get behind them. I think it’s something they deserve. It’s our job once the fan base is there to keep them. We’ve got to put out an entertaining product, and I think more than anything we’ve got to play hard,” said Brown after Wednesday’s practice. “But you always want to see who performs when the lights go on. This is going to be the second time we went in that stadium. We performed well last Saturday. It’s my hope and my plan that we can finish this spring out strong and do it in front of a good crowd there Saturday night.”
Sophomores Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles are battling for the No. 1 spot at quarterback that Brown says likely will not be settled until midway of preseason practice in August. He says their spring practice play has been much like the rest of the offense.
“We do some really good things, and there’s some things that are head scratchers. Some of that is we put a lot on them. Some of that is we’ve just got to focus better,” Brown said. “There’s some good and some bad. Really not much separation. Just when I think there is, the one I think is the bottom will have a good day. They’re coming along.”
Saturday’s Blue-White Game will be the last chance for each quarterback to leave a lasting impression with Brown and coach Mark Stoops before they can resume workouts with them again in August.
“It’s a last impression as a coaching staff, but it’s your first impression for the fans. I think that’s probably more important, really. I’m not going to treat it with any more weight than the first two scrimmages,” Brown said. “The reps have been about equal throughout. We’ll do the same thing in the spring game. Don’t get too caught up about who goes out there first, who goes out there second. We’ll probably flip a coin or something like that.”
Stoops emphasized again Wednesday that he has liked things he has seen from all three.
“I’ve said it over and over again and I still feel that way: The all have different strengths and they all can help us win,” Stoops said.
All three quarterbacks have stressed they have improved this spring and credit Brown for helping their footwork. Brown insisted that did not mean former UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders did anything wrong technique-wise with the players last year.
“We’re a little bit more timing oriented. We’re in the shotgun more and there’s some things that are really important fundamentally as far as drops and things like that,” Brown said. “For instance, it may be three steps and a hitch because the receiver is running an 8-yard route. It may be three steps and hold because we’re running a crossing route. We don’t have time to step up. Every offensive system, your drops and your routes kind of match up with your protection.”
“There’s a lot of details other than just going out and playing throw and catch. There’s a lot of little things that go into being an accurate passer and that’s what we talk about: How can we be an accurate passer? Well, our lower body has got to be in a position to make us accurate. We’ve got to have our feet shoulder width apart. Our toes have to be to our target, OK? That’s a huge element and then another part of it is taking the easy throws. Another part of it is throwing to your running backs. Those are all things. I think people just look at stats and say, ‘Ah. Well, here’s the deal.’ But there’s a lot that goes into it.”