Eddie Gran excited by way Kentucky offense practicing
Every Kentucky offensive lineman peeks around the corner into John Schlarman’s office at some point during game weeks.
Sometimes they talk about classes or ask a technique question or want a more detailed scouting report on the next opponent.
The Cats’ position coach likes to quiz them about their goals for the upcoming game. Most players will offer up something quantifiable: a number of knockdown blocks or a percentage they hope to grade out at on Sunday.
Not George Asafo-Adjei.
“He just says, ‘Coach, I want to play consistent football,’” Schlarman said of the senior right tackle. “It’s a great answer.”
It’s fitting because coaches and teammates argue that if consistency had a name it would be “Big George.”
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound senior and former Lakota West (Ohio) High School standout has played 41 games in his UK career.
“He has immense respect from everybody because he’s been a professional since he stepped on campus,” sophomore center Drake Jackson said of Asafo-Adjei. “He’s been a professional in the weight room, in the film room. He’s someone who really had to work to learn the playbook, and he did.”
A weight-room professional? What does that even look like?
It looks like Big George, teammates said.
Asafo-Adjei was Jackson’s lifting partner when the center arrived on campus. “He taught me how to be a professional,” Jackson offered.
That means doing every single lift the right way, doing every rep to its completion, making each rep have a purpose.
“It’s easy for guys when there’s just three people in the weight room, it’s easy for guys to skip a rep,” Jackson said.
“He showed me how to attack the weight room when you’re tired, when it’s 6 a.m. and you’ve already lifted three days in a row and Coach says, ‘Line up, we’re going to go run.’ Stuff like that.”
For that consistency, for that desire to always do the right thing the right way, Asafo-Adjei was voted a team captain by his teammates before the start of the season.
Jackson assured: “I’m sure he got a vote from everybody on the team to be a team captain.”
That meant a lot to Asafo-Adjei.
“Just to know my teammates think that highly of me and they respect me means a lot,” he said quietly. “It means the times I did speak up, they did listen. That means a lot.”
Although Asafo-Adjei isn’t a big talker publicly or in the media, the right tackle is a key voice in meetings and at practice.
“I’m pretty vocal with my team,” he said. “Having other people see me as being vocal or not, I don’t really care. I want to be real genuine to my teammates, and that’s all I care about. I don’t care about who sees it or what they think about it.”
Asafo-Adjei doesn’t even need to use his voice to get a point across.
“Just kind of leads by example, but he grabs somebody if he needs to, kind of straighten you out,” Coach Mark Stoops joked of Asafo-Adjei on his coach’s show Monday night. “I don’t think anybody wants to mess with Big George, because he’s a big, intimidating-looking guy.”
Who does things the right way. The senior doesn’t just say he wants to be consistent. He is consistent.
To Schlarman, consistent means no missed assignments, it means looking sturdy in pass protection and communicating with the players around you.
“It looks like hustling on and off the field, being a leader, congratulating guys when they score touchdowns,” Schlarman continued his list. “Picking up a guy when you know he’s down because something happened to him.”
Consistency looks like Big George.
“He’s become a model of consistency for us,” his position coach continued. “That’s awesome. I’m so proud of him. It’s been four years for him to work his rear end off and get to that point. And he just continues to stick with it.”
Consistency paid off Monday in the form of a Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week award, the third in five weeks for a UK lineman.
It’s an impressive group that has helped the No. 13 Cats become the No. 12 rushing offense in the country and the top in the league. Kentucky is tied for second in the conference in sacks allowed with just four.
This week at Texas A&M promises to be a game won and lost in the trenches. The Aggies are the best rushing defense in the conference, permitting just 85 yards a game.
Kentucky is going to need a big game from players like Big George, who had a key block to spring A.J. Rose’s 24-yard touchdown run against South Carolina last week.
Asafo-Adjei doesn’t care about the statistics, but they were pretty impressive last week.
The senior graded out at 90 percent with two knockdown blocks and 19 blocks at the point of attack. He had zero missed assignments and didn’t allow a sack or pressure on Terry Wilson.
“You can’t say enough good things about this kid,” Stoops said. “He’s just an incredible young man, the epitome of consistency, just always there, the players love him.”
No. 13 Kentucky at Texas A&M
When: 7 p.m. EDT