Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran on calls in final series, learning from mistakes and Vols prep


On what he saw Saturday against Georgia: “Well, you know, the recipe that we’ve had is to have some ball control. At times we did, but we had two that were in the third quarter I believe it was where we went three-and-out, or fumble then interception. Put our defense in a bad situation. Then we came back that last drive and the recipe was really working. That’s what we’ve, that’s what got us here and we just didn’t end up finishing. You always wish you had some other calls and that you would’ve called something else when you went back, but I was proud of their effort and everything. We just gotta get, as coach talked about, more detailed. They came back today and had a fantastic practice. I’m fired up. Can’t wait.”

On how Jeff Badet and Garrett Johnson bounced back after their mistakes: “Short term memories. We had almost identical situations and they executed them perfect. And that goes back to focus. We do it in practice and we can do it in games, so that was really good to see.”

On if there’s a reason the dropped passes have come up the last couple games: “Focus. Focus. Edge and focus. And that’s what Coach (Stoops) talked about. Coach is right. They had it today.”

On if it’s a challenge to keep changing the wildcat to offer fresh looks to defenses: “Absolutely. I think as you keep going you have to keep changing. I think you’ve gotta add some wrinkles to it. But, at the end of the day, they can only do so much to it and we can only do so much to it. So, it goes both ways. It goes down to executing too and making sure you’re on the right guys.”

On if fatigue accounts for a lack of focus: “You know, that’s what Coach Stoops has preached from the get go. We had longer two-a-days. We got stronger, we got stronger with the guys that we’re playing. We’re playing a lot of guys. I think we are at a really good point right now, you know. It comes down to, in this grind, it’s the mental part. You’ve got to eliminate the clutter. You’ve got to have focus and that’s hard to do. That’s our challenge as coaches, but it’s also their challenge, you know. You look at the NFL, you look at a 16-week season, you look at four preseason games. And when you’re a pro, you’ve got to act like a pro and you’ve got to get your body right every week and do all the little things to help you get to the ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th game. We just gotta focus better. At the end of the day, have that edge and focus. I think they played hard, but you can’t will something. You have to go take it. So, that’s what we’ve got to get back to and that’s what we’ve done. In some of those games we have. We’ve made some mistakes, and we overcame them. This time we didn’t, and we had our opportunity. That’s what’s frustrating.”

On biggest challenges of facing Tennessee’s defense: “They’re really good. They’re really athletic. They do a great job on defense. You see the guys up front. They’ve got, Barnett’s a great pass rusher and the other ones are, too. I think they’re athletic at the linebacker position, too. It will be a great challenge for us, No. 1 being on the road again and then a really good football team.”

On if they’re closer to being able to use Jojo Kemp again: “Yes. Absolutely. Had a really good practice today and he’s in the third week of that and today he looked as good as he’s looked since he had that on him.”

On if he can take snaps out of wildcat with the hand injury: “Yes. Yeah. That was my biggest concern and watching him do that and all the other things you have to do, so that was good.”

On the calls in the final series: “You know, that’s what got us there (the wildcat package). I think they did a nice call defensively. I think we didn’t have them on the field enough where our recipe has been, they’ve been tired then and I don’t think they were. They were still going with some energy and, you know, we just didn’t get it done where we’ve been doing that. We’ve gotten into the fourth quarter and been able to take balls at that particular point and we’ve been able to punch them in. And the last play, I guess you can second guess every call you make. Yeah, I had about 15 of them after I watched it, I wish I had called. But if that would’ve worked, it would’ve been fantastic. That’s part of it. But, yeah, you live and learn there, too, as a play caller.”

On if they do anything differently with Snell as he carries more of the load later into a long season: “Just a couple of weeks ago (like) y’all asked me, just keep your thumb on him and make sure you stay humble. That’s the great thing about that room. They all want the ball, but we talked about being selfless. I think Boom’s handled it well. I think Benny’s handled it well. I think Jojo’s handled it well. Sihiem (King), you know, it’s been rough on him, but he’s got a role on special teams and he’s been doing a really good job. I know that if Sihiem ever has to come in, he’s going to be ready. And that’s my job to get him ready, and I think he’s handled that well, but that’s going to be a part of it. I think they’ve been really, really good. I think you see it on the sideline with them as they’re together, they’re encouraging each other, whether it’s Jojo, whether it’s Boom, whether it’s Benny.”

On what they can do to fix communication issues from Georgia: “Well, it’s kind of crazy because I don’t know if you get too up for a game and it got too big for just a little bit, but we made some communication errors that we have not been making. We just talked about it and said, ‘What’s going on?’ Obviously today that was a huge emphasis on talking. They were loud – especially down there you’re going to have to be loud and communication is going to be huge in everything that we do in that environment. We went to Alabama, and I thought the communication there was really good. The execution wasn’t so good, but the communication was. So they know they can do it.”

On if this game is any different for him since he’s returning to a place he used to work: “No. Just to see some good friends, some good people there. Spent one really good year there. There’s some really good folks. So that will be fun to see some of those guys on the sideline.”

On Luke Wright’s improvement: “He really has. Luke, being that he knew this offense he has really stepped it up. He’s pulling the trigger a lot faster and you can see the confidence in him and confidence our players have in him.”

On if Tennessee’s struggles against the run change the game plan at all: “You know, I don’t look at very many statistics. I guess just because – I do look at the turnovers, how they’re getting turnovers, what they’re doing, who the person is tackles for loss, who’s the guy making sacks and those guys making tackles because those guys can be game-wreckers. But how much they -- that’s all going to depend on us. I think you’ve got to be balanced. I think you’ve got to be able to do both, and I think we’re going to have to be balanced this week.”