Clemson Looks Like a SEC Team to Mark Stoops


Mark Stoops wants his team to hoist another trophy in the Gator Bowl. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Mark Stoops didn’t have to see a lot of Clemson to know what kind of opponent Kentucky will face in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Dec. 29th in Jacksonville.

“A very good football team. Very consistent. They’ve been winners and won a lot of games for a lot of years,” Stoops said. “So credit (coach) Dabo (Swinney) and his staff. Very talented football team. You look at them, and they are a team built like just about everybody we see in the SEC. Very talented, very physical. Very good team.”

Talented and physical certainly are part of most SEC football teams. Clemson, though, is not quite like the Clemson of a few years ago that won two national titles. Clemson has lost four games but one was an overtime loss to unbeaten Florida State and won was a double overtime loss at Miami. The Tigers also lost at Duke and North Carolina State.

Stoops and his staff have been not only recruiting high school players who can start signing with schools Wednesday but have also been dealing with the transfer portal — both players wanting to come to UK and players who might want to leave Kentucky.

Tight end Jordan Dingle had put his name into the transfer portal but took it out Saturday. Earlier receiver Shamar Porter did the same thing.

That hectic schedule is why Stoops had coordinators Liam Coen and Brad White spend some time alone in the football office last week working on Clemson preparation before UK resumed practice on Friday.

Kentucky has some players that will not play in the bowl game but quarterback Devin Leary and running back Ray Davis both will. Cornerback Andru Phillips and linebacker Trevin Wallace have both declared for the NFL draft but indications are both might still play in the bowl game.

“I think it was just assumed everyone wanted to play in the bowl game which says a lot about what coach Stoops has done and the culture around here,” Leary said.  “It is exciting to see guys planning to go to the NFL who want one last ride to wear that blue and represent Kentucky one more time.”

Stoops is selling his players on having a chance to hoist another trophy like they did with the Governor’s Cup after UK beat Louisville in their final regular-season game.

“There’s two games of the year where you’re going to walk off the field with a trophy or not. And believe there’s a big difference in how you feel,” Stoops said. “We took care of one, and we want to take care of the other one because walking off the field of a bowl game with a trophy or without is a much different feeling.

“They have to fundamentally get better. We have to get prepared for Clemson and we want to win this game but I like to do it in a way they enjoy the experience. It is not my mentality to have them despise going out there and beat the heck out of their bodies and feel like they cannot enjoy it.”

One Response

  1. Dabo got his training in the SEC so it stands to reason his team would look a lot like a SEC team. KY will have to play their best game of the year to beat Clemsen.

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