Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran on running on Louisville, rivalry games, options at running back

On Stephen Johnson’s return to practice: “Good. Had a really good day today. Our seven-on-seven was sharp. Moving around really well, so it was business as usual.”

On what stands out about Louisville defense: “They do a great job on defense. They’re multiple, they’re athletic, they’re hard to move up front. They’re fourth in the country, I think, in run defense and they’re one of the top defenses in the country. So, we’ve got our hands full. We’ve got to do a great job. We’ve got to sustain blocks. We’ve got to get to the second level. I think they’re safeties tackle well. We’re going to have to do a really good job.”

On if practice feels different against a rival: “There was a little bit more energy day. I do. They know. They know what this game means, but like coach said at the beginning of the week it’s about us. We’ve got to go play our best game, especially on the road. But I did like their energy today when they were out there. I thought our execution was really good today.”

On if he tells RBs anything to motivate them against a really good run defense like Louisville: “Really, it’s been that way all year. Vanderbilt had a good defense, Florida, Alabama. Every defense that we’ve faced this year has been pretty good up front. At the end of the day it does become about us, our technique, our footwork, how we communicate. That’s what we’ve done a great job of. We’ve done a really good job of just communicating and guys knowing and seeing indicators so when you do have that movement we’re able to pick it up.”

On what makes Louisville’s run defense so good: “They’re pretty stout up front in terms of they do a good job two-gapping. They understand blocks. When you down block they are going to try to play over. When you zone block they understand how to press. They get it. They’re coached very well.”

On if he looks for anything early to as a red flag in a rivalry game: “Yeah, I think you don’t play the game early. That’s a great question. You don’t play the game on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. You’ve got to come -- you’ve got to be ready to go on Saturday. I learned that at an early time in my career with the Auburn-Alabama game. You get so hyped up it’s not conducive to having a good Saturday. So, in a way you’ve got to treat it like every other game. You do. You have to prepare. You have to be better. When you play good teams that’s the one thing we’ve talked about: This is about us. We’re going to have to play a great game, and we’ve got to take care of the rock, we’ve got to score touchdowns in the red zone, we’ve got to stay ahead on first down – it’s the same recipe – and we’ve got to convert on third down.”

On if Louisville’s offense forces them to play faster: “You know, we’re going to do what we’ve been doing. I don’t think -- We’re no huddle. We’re trying to go at a tempo that we can get it in for our quarterback so he can make good decisions and he can see what’s going on and he can make calls, our offensive line have time to make calls. I don’t think that will change. I think the hurry-up stuff, I think there’s a time and place for it and we always have that in our package to get it going faster.”

On how fresh legs for Jojo Kemp affects RB rotation: “Jo’s had the top two, the fastest times the last two weeks, so that has been good. He was out for two, three weeks, so he should have faster legs. Some of it is by play, some of it is by how they’re going, but we’ve got four guys that can do so we’re going to need them in this game and we’ll see how it goes. As we get ready to start our openers and what we’re doing then we’ll see who gets in there early and by situation.”

On if there’s any particular reason Stoops said they might ride Boom Williams this week: “No. I think Boom had less carries last week. You know? I think he’s fresh. You play a fast defense, you want fast guys. But we’re going to – At the end of the day, hopefully we’ll ride them all. Hopefully we’ll have enough plays that we can do that. But, I’m excited about it to see how we react and we go and we play.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader