Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Eliot on building depth, learning lessons from last year’s Vanderbilt loss

D.J. ELIOT

On what he learned from the tape at Alabama: “Did some good, some bad. I think that we are getting better at understanding our assignments and playing the run, but we're still not there. We could've played so much better, you know? Played a very good opponent and they're very tough to defend, but there's still a lot from that film that we could've done better, and I think our players see that. We're working forward on getting better on that.”

On what they have done better to cut down on allowing explosive plays:We really haven't done anything different. The players have just executed better. We've kind of stayed the course with what we do and just hoped with repetitions that the players would catch on. In some ways they have, in some ways they haven't and we're just coaching them every day to get better and play technique and execute and play hard.”

On what lessons they can apply from last year's Vanderbilt game:From watching the film from last year, we won a lot of third downs. We played pretty good defense. There's some things that we did well that our players that didn't play (last year) could see. Some of the players that played a lot last year did some things very well in that game in the run game. And I think it’s good for our guys that we’ve got on the field now to see how they execute and how they execute those techniques. Like anything, you’ve got to finish games and what sticks out in my mind from that game is they were able to put together a three-minute or four-minute drive at the end of the game and run the clock out and that can’t happen. We should’ve been able to stop them and give the offense back the ball one more time.”

On what outside linebackers are doing well: “I think they’re -- one they’re executing better and that goes for the whole defense and, two, they’re playing a little bit faster because they know what they’re doing. They’re rushing the passer better. They’re getting to the quarterback, so just continuing to work on getting them better every day and just harping on the little things. It’s one day at a time. You can’t jump two years from now. We emphasize what they do today and where they need to go to get set for Saturday and I think our players understand that. They’re not getting frustrated, they’re just continuing to work and continuing to harp on getting better every day.”

On how many more players are in the rotation than at the beginning of the season and if there is still room for even more players to contribute: “We still plan on getting more in the mix. We still have some guys on the shelf that we’re training, that we think are going to be ready to play soon. So, we hope to get at least a two-deep rotation at every position for the game. We don’t want a player playing every rep. We want somebody to be able to come in and spell every player at every position. And that’s our goal, and we’re getting very close that.”

On if he’s ever had a two-deep rotation since he got here: “I think that last year at defensive line – I think we were able to rotate at defensive line last year. And at certain positions we’ve been able to rotate, but I don’t think we’ve had all 11 since I’ve been here. I don’t think we’ve been able to rotate all 11.”

On what Eli Brown did well at Alabama: “Eli has really good instincts. I think Eli is very athletic. Eli is a very sure tackler. Eli, though, is a freshman. Eli was just with our scout team last year and didn’t get any reps within our scheme, so where he needs to work is continuing to understand the scheme and execute the scheme. He’s getting better, so that’s why Eli is getting more playing time and I think the better he gets the more playing time he’ll see and the more plays he’ll make.”

On how to get guys to play more disciplined and understand assignments: “Well, I think the more pressure situations you can put them in, the better they’ll perform in pressure situations in a game. Discipline, in a pressure situation, your habits rise to the top. And so, if they were disciplined to do things right all the time, when that pressure situation hits, then they’ll do it. But if they weren’t disciplined to do things right all the time, when that pressure situation hits, then they won’t do it right. So, we try to put pressure on them in practice, you know, have them feel that pressure so they’ll execute when they feel that pressure in a game.”

On what Vanderbilt does well offensively: “Vandy runs the ball very well, they’re a very physical team, they have an excellent tailback, they control the clock, they run a pro-style offense and they run it very well. They do a lot of shifts, motions. They get lined up and they try to posses the ball. They make sure that they’re gonna keep the ball in their offense’s hands, and they do that by running and effective pro-style offense, and like I said, they run the ball very well and we’ve got to be able to stop them.”

On what younger guys specifically are getting closer to playing more: “I think Kengera Daniel is getting closer. I think, um, we talked about Eli Brown getting more playing time and Kash Daniel’s getting closer. I think Jordan Bonner’s getting closer. I think moving forward you’ll see those guys on the field more often.”

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