By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops, a former defensive coordinator and secondary coach, pulled no punches Monday about the way his secondary has been playing and certainly called out the play of safety Marcus McWilson.
On how he thinks the secondary played:
Stoops: “Not very good. Not pleased. I mean, you can’t give up big plays. You can’t. Just the first touchdown alone is just enough to piss me off all week. So, it’s just not all right. That’s just one that shouldn’t have happened. Then the reverse pass, you know, can’t happen. Just cover your guy. We have it all fit up. That’s a trick play where we had pressure coming from this side (right), pressure coming from the other way. The guy that was on the – we had pressure coming all ways, but the way they blocked it we had the extra DB pulling up the reverse, so you’re going to tackle him and you’re going to be in second down. But you just can’t leave your guy. So, that’s not good.
“The long play before half is inexcusable. We’ve got to get it fixed, period. It’s not all right. We just – common sense. If you’re playing four across, just four-deep zone, you can’t go 40 yards deep. I mean, there’s a huge hole in between the linebacker and the next man. Then if you do, you better run to him and tackle him. So, there’s a lot we’ve got to get straightened out.”
On if there’s anything specific about the drives right before halftime that has troubled them:
Stoops: “Yeah, it is. That’s why I said – it happened in particular the two games this year. So, that’s where the secondary has to regroup. It’s like if you take a shot, if they hit an over route, they hit the deep ball, now all the sudden they just run it out of there instead of reading their keys and playing football. That’s where – yeah, it’s a problem. It’s a problem for me too.”
On if secondary issues can be mostly attributed to corner or safety:
Stoops: “Yeah, all of the above. I don’t think — we’re getting good safety play out of one. We moved our nickel to free, and I think with that – I’m not saying Kendall (Randolph) is not playing good, but you lose the experience of your nickel and then you get inexperienced at free (safety) and inexperienced at nickel. Again, our reps, our IQ is going – not calling out any guys, but as far as football reps you’re losing some things there. So, we’ve got to go back to looking at where we play guys. That’s where we need to be better.
“Marcus McWilson is a guy that needs to play better. I was counting on him coming into the year to play well. Darius (West) got hurt, but I thought that Marcus would battle him for that spot all along. With Darius going down it weakened us. He’s got to step up and play better there. Then maybe we can play Blake (McClain) back at some nickel and continue to use Kendall in nickel and dime. He’s coming along but doesn’t have a lot of reps.
“Our corners are – the two young guys, sometimes they’re seeing things for the first time still. Different plays, different things and all that. Really, they’re good press guys. As people are getting us in pinch sets and doing some things where we need to zone off a little bit, in particular that’s not Chris (Westry)’s strength. We need to work on that for him, at playing off. He’s a good press guy.”
On helping secondary disguise some weaknesses:
Stoops: “Yeah, I think – it’s team defense. As I’ve mentioned, when we have opportunities to get people in second-down-and-long you have to do it. It’s hard when they’re not behind the chains, when it’s second-and-medium, third-and-short-or-medium. Last week, again, in the game, two third-and-mediums where they run the ball on us that we have to be able to stop. On a mixed down you have to be able to play something that’s good against the run and the pass. So, to answer your question, you get put in some situations where sometimes you’re trying to protect a guy here or there in what you’re doing and it will weaken you somewhere else.
“You’ve heard me talk about it a long time: There’s no getting around putting pressure on those guys outside…But there’s no getting around putting pressure on the outside corners. You’ve got to win out there. You can’t lose your nerve. If you make some mistakes you’ve got to go to the next play. To play that position you’re going to lose some battles, but you’ve got to come back and win some. And it was nice to see Derrick (Baity) come back with that interception as well. And he really made a nice play or two – we almost picked it, he had to kind of throw it away.”