Takeaways from Mark Stoops' Media Day Press Conference

07/30/2017 03:56 PM

Kentucky football is officially back. Mark Stoops kicked off preseason camp this afternoon at media day. He spoke for nearly 30 minutes and touched on numerous topics about the season ahead.

Here are the highlights from the press conference:

Incoming freshman Lynn Bowden is still not on campus. Bowden’s academics are still getting cleared by the NCAA clearinghouse. There had been multiple reports that Bowden was on campus and ready to go for practice, but that is not the case.

“Lynn is the only one that’s not here. I expect him this week. So we expect him to be here shortly,” said Stoops.

When asked a follow up question if it was an NCAA issue, Stoops responded, “No — well, it’s clearinghouse. It’s academic eligibility.”

Kentucky doesn’t need to rely on freshmen this season. The Wildcats return 17 total starters and have a lot of upperclassmen who are expected to be big contributors this season. In the past, Kentucky has had to rely on freshmen to play right off the bat if they wanted to be successful. Mark Stoops knows this team is deeper and more experienced than any other team he’s had at Kentucky.

“It really is. And to be honest, as we go through the depth chart and practice schedule and as we are going through the details the past week or so, looking at things, it’s very different to see some really good football players that you’re worried about getting them some practice reps,” said Stoops. “Where in years past, you would be wanting them to come in and start. So, that’s a nice problem to have. We have got to make sure we do a good job of managing these players and giving them an opportunity to compete and play and develop them. And we need to monitor that. It’s very different and it’s nice to see some depth in certain areas. It’s really nice to see some really good young players that can mature and develop at their own pace.

Matt Elam has responded well to criticism. The senior defensive tackle was criticized at SEC Media Days by SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy. McElroy called Elam lazy and an underachiever. Elam, who has recorded 42 tackles through three seasons at Kentucky, has been working this summer to silence his critics. Mark Stoops addressed how the criticism has motivated Elam.

“I’ve seen some good things from Matt,” said Stoops. “Again, whatever motivates somebody, I don’t think it’s right to personally come after Matt as I mentioned before, we know we need to improve across the board at defensive line and again in all areas of your program, starting with me on down. We all want to do a better job every day. Matt’s no different and he has worked hard and I think that losing some weight and getting in great shape is a big piece of that. He’s working at it right now.”

The defense will be very similar under Matt House. House is preparing to enter his first season as Kentucky’s defensive coordinator and Mark Stoops affirmed today that we won’t see much change on that side of the ball.

“We will look much the same,” said Stoops. “I think as we had an opportunity, again, just because as you’re here as you’re building a program, the things we have tried to do to maybe cover up things and patch holes, it was nice to hit the reset button on that. And with myself and with Matt (House) and the defensive staff, kind of retweaked that, even from a terminology standpoint and trying to simplify things to the players and build it in what we want it to look like now. So that’s been fun to do.”

There is a quarterback competition. Despite leading Kentucky to its first bowl game in six seasons in 2016, Mark Stoops, at least publicly, won’t commit to Stephen Johnson going into camp. Johnson will compete for the starting job with a healthy Drew Barker and redshirt-freshman Gunnar Hoak.

When asked about a quarterback competition, Stoops simply said, “Of course. There’s a competition at every position, every day.”

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