Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran on Boom Williams’ progress, offensive line depth, facing No. 1 Alabama


On what kind of challenge UK faces in Alabama: “Well it’s a great challenge. The No. 1 team in the country, we get to go on the road. It’s exciting. That’s why these guys came here, to play in this kind of atmosphere. We’re going to have to go out and play our best football. Anytime you play the No. 1 team in the country you’ve got to play your best football. We’ve got to be detailed, we’ve got to do a great job with the ball, we’ve got to help our defense by staying on the field. So, had two really good practices in a row and they seem to be really locked in.”

On if the playing time at Florida helped prepare Stephen to play at Alabama: “I think so. I think that’ll help him. He got that little introduction there. It wasn’t very good so we’ve got to obviously build, we’ve got to move forward and we’ve got to move forward very fast.”

On what he thought of Johnson’s performance: “Well I think the biggest thing we talked about after the game is that we’ve got to eliminate the turnovers and then him still managing the game. Making decisions when he’s out of the pocket or wherever he’s at — if nobody’s open git rid of it or run. And a couple times he didn’t do that. I think he’ll take a step forward here in this game. We have to. And I think that’s what I’m looking for. That’s what we’re looking for in this game.”

On if how the Florida game went makes the offense want to prove more this weekend: “You know what, yes, but shoot it’s all about Alabama right now. I’ve forgotten the last game. You’ve got to move on in this deal or you’re in trouble. And it’s hard. You’ve got to take the victories and be happy for about 12 hours and then you’ve gotta move forward. It’s the same thing with losses. They hurt a little bit longer but you can’t worry about it. They know in the back of their head they didn’t play well on the road and we have to be a lot better.”

On his relationship with Boom early on and how that’s progressed: “It’s progressed really well. I’m really proud of him. I think he matured like crazy just looking at the game and how excited he was just to win the game and be a part of a victory, congratulating everybody on the sideline, his demeanor and everything has been fantastic. You know, we’ve had our ups and downs, but I think the relationship is good. He knows me now and I know him. I think that’s been really good for both of us.”

On Boom’s progression as a runner: “You know, the biggest thing is one-cut back, we’ve got to be a one-cut back this weekend. We can’t go side to side on any of these SEC teams. I will say this, he can sometimes, but you’ve got to pick and choose when you do that. I think he’s still gotta learn that when it’s not there, stick your foot in the ground and get us three yards. And I think he has progressed that way. We’re not there yet but we’re getting closer.”

On how the offensive line has played: “Doing pretty good. You know, Cole right now is day to day, but I think more anywhere I’ve ever been, we’ve got more players in in four games than I’ve ever been a part of. I think John’s handled that really well and I think our kids have been able to rest a little bit more. I think their bodies will be in better shape when we get to the latter part of the year and I think that’s been really good for us.”

On if offensive linemen expected to run the ball on every play in the fourth quarter: “Well, you know, you get in a rhythm and when you’re doing that it’s not smart to throw a pass at that time when we’re getting yards. The play-action stuff off of that is really good, but they were controlling the line of scrimmage, and so you just let it ride. It was really good to see them finish that way. That doesn’t happen very often, but that was good. I think we’re running the ball well. We’ll have a challenge this week, the best in the country in run defense, I believe. So it will be a challenge. You’ve got to stay on blocks, you’ve got to run the boards, and you’ve got to sustain. If you don’t sustain it’s going to be a long road.”

On if he changes play calling at all when defense is struggling: “Yes, it does. You’ve got to be smart. Like, for example, even when they’re getting after it we were on a roll running the ball and then I threw the deep pass and we got sacked after we had just come from the 12-yard line to almost the 35. I took a shot. You know what? We were controlling it, doing it pretty well, and I’ve got to make sure to keep running the ball there, get to a manageable third down and then convert. Same way if they’re not doing well, we’ve got to make sure you just don’t go three-and-out. You’ve got to really try to make sure you get a first down and keep it going and keep them off (the field). So, I’ve screwed that up a couple times this year.”

On if getting the run game going is part of easing Johnson into the starting job or if he’s full-go with the offense now: “Yeah, it’s full go, but if we can’t run the ball we’ve got no chance – in any game. We’ve got to be able to run the ball, because that’s just going to help our passing game. So, we’ve got to do that. That, we have to.”