Stoops Confident in Young Secondary

Recently I had a long talk with Miami defensive back coach Mark Stoops about the upcoming season. He had a lot of interesting things to say about a variety of players and coaches. He breaks down the goals for spring practice and also touches on what the depth chart might look like this year. Overall he is very confident in his secondary and has a lot of challenges in store for them.

G: First of all, what are your primary goals for spring practice?
MS: We definitely want to get the two-deep roster established. Basically all positions are open. Only Al Marshall has played a significant amount of time in "pressure" situations where the game is on the line.

G: Who are some of the leaders coming into spring to look for?
MS: Antrel Rolle has a very good chance to end up at the corner opposite of Al (Marshall). At strong safety Marcus Maxey has been real impressive this off-season. He looks faster and stronger. He has really hit the weights and has been running to get in top shape. At free safety we have Sean Taylor and James Scott. I expect big things from Sean Taylor. He has shown great tackling ability and football instincts for his age considering the level of kids he goes against in practice. I think you'll also see some very good things from Maurice Sikes and Kelly Jennings.

G: This being your fifth coaching position where you are working in the secondary, have you ever had to replace your top five players in the past?
MS: No. I don't look at it that way. I look at each year as a different group of kids and we go out and try to be the best group on the field regardless of who was here in the past. I am only concerned with who we have right now.

G: Of the recent signees, who did you personally recruit? Comments?
MS: I recruited Jon Peattie, Curtus Justus and Antonio Reynolds. We feel very fortunate to get Antonio. Being from the Ohio area I know a lot of the coaches up there and they lead me to him. After showing his tape to our other defensive coaches we agreed he was someone we wanted here and thought would fit in well. He is being brought in as a linebacker and if we fell he has to put his hand down and move to defensive end we'll deal with that when the time comes.

G: Do you expect and of the highly touted true freshmen defensive backs to contribute this fall?
MS: Yes we expect several of them to. Which ones? That is hard to say. It is simply a matter of who adapts physically and mentally to the college game the best. I wouldn't want to mention any names to put pressure on them and maybe not on the others.

G: What has your experience at UM been like compared to the earlier coaching jobs you've had?
MS: I've been around teams that had talented players but at Miami the depth is the difference. We have the top talent and a lot of it. I am most impressed with how hard they work and how much they care about each other. They work extremely hard to do the right things on and off the field. It is fun to be around players like that.

G: What are your long term goals for you personally?
MS: Ultimately I want to be successful. I don't set goals on being a coordinator by "this" age and a head coach by "that' age. I just want to learn and get better. I love it at Miami and am learning new things all the time. I do want to be a coordinator and a head coach, but there is no timeline on that. I'm just trying to get better and that what it's all about at Miami and I love that.

G: Is coach Coker as good as advertised?
MS: Yes. I knew no one here and he hired me. I will be loyal to him until the day I die. He's not an ego guy, he has his own way. People really respect him and they want to work hard for him. He doesn't just tell people what they want to hear. He is very honest and genuinely a nice person. This is the type of person I want to be as my father was very similar.

G: Any additional pressure with Florida in the Swamp so early in the year?
MS: At Miami we don't need a "We're playing Florida" to get us ready. Whoever the opponent is we want to get better. That has rubbed off on the players here. Whether we play them the first game or last game we are preparing the same way. No one wants to be the weak link, they want to be the next Ed Reed, etc. They know they have to work hard and earn it. I fully expect them to do it and have been very impressed thus far.

G: Does the return of a dominant front seven take some of the pressure off?
MS: We prepare separately and we want our group to be the best one on the field regardless. We have a lot of pride and the kids read the papers and know the pressure is on the secondary. Our guys are mature enough to handle the situation. They are very aware of what it takes.

G: Will we see J.R. Mounts in the secondary this year?
MS: We'll have to wait and see. We've made no decision yet regarding that. Until I hear differently he is working with the running backs right now.

G: Thoughts on Phillip Buchanon? Anyone close to him athletically?
MS: I talked with him early and tried to give him advice but ultimately that was a decision to be made by him and his family. He is a great kid and I wish him the best. As far as anyone athletically in his league, no one that is coming back that I see. He is a special type of athlete.

Overall coach Stoops is very confident and has an excellent attitude. He stresses hard work and really comes across as a caring coach that repeatedly spoke of how great it has been to work with the kids here. The microscope is certainly on our secondary this year but I feel very confident with coach Stoops back there. He stresses the system and seems very pleased with the progress of our young guys and feels they will step up this year and make a name for themselves as players in previous years have done.

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