Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran on ball security, offensive line depth and getting key players back


On what he saw on Alabama film that he liked:I thought they competed for 60 minutes. I thought they fought. They were in a heavyweight fight and they fought. The last drive was 15 plays and they converted on a fourth down, so that's what I was really excited about. What I wasn't excited about is that we had a chance – you saw three or four plays where we made competitive plays, a couple that Tavin (Richardson) caught, Juice (Garrett Johnson), some competitive runs and blocking. And then there was times where we had a chance for a couple huge plays and it was all based upon maybe alignment and technique, and that's unacceptable against anybody but especially the No. 1 team in the country when you're fighting and scratching for yards. That changes everything. That changes everything on the first drive, changes everything on the third drive, and we're gonna get points. And then us leaving three points out there, knowing the situation and not turning it over like I said on Saturday. So we got a lot of things that we can improve on, and if they fight like that all the time we're gonna be OK.”

On if playing more will help Stephen Johnson improve ball security or if they do something different in practice:Well, he's running that blaster over there every day. We're trying to strip it every time he has the ball. I'm not gonna beat a dead horse. He knows the deal. He can't do it anymore. It's unacceptable. That's the deal. So we're gonna keep coaching it and coaching it hard and he's gotta handle it. He's gotta take care of the rock.”

On what percentage of plays in the offense are run/pass option:Almost every run. Almost every run. And then it depends on what they're doing coverage wise that you can maybe take 'em out. But yeah, you'd like to have one on every play to give 'em a chance to have a read.”

On if it's up to the quarterback to make the read:Based upon the defense, yes. Yes, absolutely.”

On value of Landon Young getting experience as a true freshman:I grabbed him around the neck the other day and told him what a great job he's doing. It's tough. A left tackle is like a corner. He's like the quarterback. Everybody knows, everybody sees it and you've got to have a short term memory. He's gonna continue to grow and get better. I just told him, hey, you're doing a great job. Keep working. What he does is if he sees what he did wrong, he usually fixes it, and if he'll do that he's gonna be fine. But yeah, he's had two opportunities that not many freshman get, so I think he's embracing it and I'm really proud of him.”

On how Cole Mosier's return affects that left tackle spot:Well, right now he's gone a little bit this week already, so really like it. What it does is it just gives us that depth. Now, you got a fresher Landon, you got a fresher Cole, and so it just helps us in terms of the depth and then the plays that they're gonna get. Now you don't have to play Landon 60 plays, you don't have to play Cole 60 plays.”

On biggest change in Bunchy Stallings: “He’s so athletic and what we’ve got to do is we’ve just got to tone down Bunchy. Sometimes he gets discombobulated with his footwork sometimes. But he’s got power and he’s so athletic that he can do some really good things. There’s a good battle there and that’s good when you have competition. Both of them are going to play, so he’s been playing well.”

On what stands out about Vanderbilt defense: “They play hard. They play physical. They’re very, very — they’re coached very well and they will fight you tooth and nail every play. It’s a team that all my years at Ole Miss and everywhere that I’ve been and Auburn and Tennessee, we battled with them every year. Look at them this last week, they went 13-6 against Florida and had their opportunities. So I respect the heck out of them.”

On their defensive lineman Adam Butler and what he can do: “Very active, very, very active. He’s a load, and so we’ll have our hands full, you know. They rushed the ball just for about 100 yards, Florida did, 3.8 yards per carry and they were tough yards. Our running backs are going to have to run hard and we’re going to have to finish.”

On getting Baker back: “Well, the one thing about Dorian is he hasn’t had much game time experience yet. But what he brings is that physicality, big body, fast, strong and does all the things you want a receiver to do. Now it’s going to be how many reps do we do? Would we put him in there and what he knows. We’ll know that at the end of the week. Excited to have him back. Helps with our receivers and their depth, too.”

On if Baker has been full go this week: “Everything’s been great. Yeah. He started yesterday and practiced today, so everything is really good right now.”

On balancing his return with Tavin Richardson’s snaps: “Well I think they both know they can’t go 60 plays, 70 plays apiece. They know that. And if they’re splitting that time or whatever it may be, if there’s a third one that has to go in there, bottom line is you’ve got to go full speed on every rep. And that’s what we’re getting out of our receivers. They’re not getting a lot of balls in some games and they’re still busting their tail. They’ve embraced that and I’ve been proud of them for that.”

On Richardson’s play as of late, including third-down catches versus Alabama: “I think that’s what the biggest thing is the competitive catch right there. Those are big-league catches with a guy on your back and then shakes him and gets a first down. That’s what you want to see from your wide receivers. That was awesome That was really good to see.”