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.