Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Eliot on defensive line progress, facing a freshman quarterback

D.J. ELIOT

On the progress of the defensive line: “They’ve come a long ways. We lost a couple of guys last year and then even lost a couple this offseason, so we were young to start with and then we lost the guys we considered veterans, so these guys had to grow up fast. And they had to get their reps and learn from mistakes. I’m very proud of their effort and where they’ve come. And they’ve gotten a lot better. They played one of their better games, if not their best game on Saturday. We’ve developed some leadership at that position and they’re playing hard and executing their technique and assignment. They’ve come a long ways. You’re right, it was a real concern going into this season and I’m pleased with where they are and I’m pleased with their efforts.”

On what they liked from defensive line in that Missouri game: “Well, they were knocking them back. In the run game, they were really knocking the offensive linemen back and playing with technique. We had a third-and-1 and really knocked the offensive line back and Adrian Middleton made a tackle, which put them into a fourth-and-3 situation. They had to punt. And a couple other situations there, too, I think they really played physical. And that came with playing with better technique and better understanding of what we’re doing. Our younger players played more. We also played the most defensive linemen that we played in a game this season. I think we played eight, eight defensive linemen in that game. So we were able to keep everybody fresh so that they could play harder throughout the game. We had more confidence in some of our backups, to put them in the game, which we haven’t had earlier in this season. So, the combination of everybody getting better, playing more physical and playing more defensive linemen contributed to our defensive line playing good.”

On if he saw a moment where the light came on for Naquez Pringle: “I think I really saw him playing better… probably Alabama. I think I really saw him take it to the next level in the Alabama game. I thought he played at a different tempo and a different physicality in that game and then he’s progressed since then.”

On how defense handled Missouri’s tempo: “I thought we handled it well. There was a couple plays we were a little bit slow to line up. There was a vertical – I don’t know if you remember – that they missed. The guy was wide open. We didn’t get lined up fast enough for that. I think from watching other teams play them, we lined up really good to their tempo, compared to other teams that had played them. Sometimes on their tempo they hurt themselves – they jumped offsides. They were trying to go so fast they couldn’t execute. So, I was pleased with the way our players played with urgency, the communication. We had to get the call in quick but then we had line up quick and execute it quick too. We had to communicate, make sure we were all on the same page. Overall I was very pleased with how we handled the tempo.”

On if it’s trick to prepare for an offense like Georgia that is still looking for its identity: “Well, they’re very multiple, so that’s what makes it difficult for them. They have a power-run game but yet they can still spread it out and throw the ball around then execute a spread-run game. So I think what’s difficult preparing for Georgia is that they’re so multiple in their attack and you’ve got to be ready for everything.”

On if they do anything different against a freshman quarterback: “Not really. I think that with the week that we’re in now he’s got a lot of reps. You know what I mean?”

On if they do anything different when facing a freshman quarterback: “We plan this week and prepare for this week like it’s no other. Now, they’re going to have different schemes and different personnels so we’re going to adjust some of our calls, adjust some of our schemes and techniques based on that. But, we don’t look at this game any different based on the year of their quarterback.”

On what has impressed him from Jacob Eason: “I think that he’s been calm and collected when he’s gotten out of the pocket. Now, he’s made a lot of plays scrambling. Somebody might’ve gotten pressure so he’s on the run now. He makes a good decision and finds the open guy. He’s really been dangerous when he gets out of the pocket and makes decisions.”

On if it’s worrisome to think this might be the week where Georgia’s offense puts it all together: “I think that we’re expecting their best. Like you said, they’re a very talented team. You have to be ready to defend a very talented awesome and be ready for the best game they’re going to play. We’re expecting their best. Our players know what type of running backs they have, what type of receivers they have, they know what type of tight ends they have. So, you know, we’re going to be geared up and ready to go. Expecting a great game on Saturday.”

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