Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran on evolution of offense, bowl prep, freshman running backs


On how team looked since they shifted into bowl prep mode: “Been good. Coach really stressed here the next three days really honing in and when we leave here on Wednesday the game plan is in and everybody lock in and focus so when we arrive, everybody knows what to do. I thought today was a great start. A lot of energy and good to get outside and then to come back in. You mix that up a little bit, creates a good atmosphere.”

On strengths of Georgia Tech defense: “I think they do a good -- they know where to go, how to line up -- I think Coach (Ted) Roof does a great job. They’re a lot like Vanderbilt in terms of just schematically, they know their gaps, they’re athletic. They’re not as big as some of the teams, but they’re athletic and their linebackers run down hill. Their two safeties tackle really well. So they do a good job.”

On if mental break helped Stephen Johnson: “Yeah, I think it helped them all. He finished on a good note. You come back and hopefully you go into the next game with some confidence and you have that break and you come back and you get back going again. And the one thing you liked at the beginning of the season is you’re in a routine. This takes you out of the routine, so you’ve really got to make sure that you prepare and you lock in and you focus. So you go up until Wednesday and then you get another five days off until you go again. So we’ll see how that goes, but I think he’ll be up for the challenge and I think he’ll continue to get better.”

On what he imagined offense would look like versus how it looks now: “I don’t know how it occurred, it just occurred. When we went into this thing, we thought it was going to be a lot different. And when Drew went down and Stephen became our quarterback, and we had to re-evaluate, all of our coaches did a great job of what will the recipe be for us to score points? What will the recipe be for us to win games? And we started with the wildcat and we just kind of evolved from there. As Stephen got better, the offense was a little bit more productive.”

On if they sat in a room and hashed it out or was it organic: “Well, first you start with the run game. We said: How can we get the ball in Boom’s hands and the running backs? So we started with the wildcat and we kind of just evolved from there. Each week we kind of added and I think we hit the off week perfect where we actually were able to add a lot. And I think that really helped a lot with all of the motions and some of the trick plays and just to keep people off balance and then we could see how Stephen was going to evolve in pass game and then we grew from there.”

On if it’s surprising that Snell wasn’t in game plan in early games: “Yeah, he would’ve eventually been in it just like he had in fall camp. You look at our camp and he kept getting better and better and we kept saying, ‘Wow. This kid’s got a chance. He’s going to be good.’ Would he have had this many carries? No. Would we have had two 1,000-yard rushers? I don’t know. It just, the way it happened, it worked out well for where we were and what we were doing.”

On A.J. Rose’s versatility and what he’s showing coaches: “He is versatile. One of the things we really talked to him about was learning our offense and making sure he really honed in on that. I can already tell he is light years away from where he was in the fall. He’s really locking in. But he really does have, he’s got some talent. He’s been back there and he’s done the wildcat there too. I think that’s a really good thing for us. You’ve got another guy in there and he’s a big-bodied guy. He’s really fluid, too. This practice, what we’re doing right now, is for guys like that. You can tell they’re getting a lot better.”

On if there’s any other young guys who’ve stood out in the last week or two: “Yeah, I think Luke Fortner. Just off the top of my head. Watching him the other day and watching him come around and pull on some of our gap stuff. He’s really athletic and he’s really big. He’s got me excited. Able to move Justin Rigg around a little bit now after his long layoff. I think we’ve got some young guys that have a chance to help us next year.”

On how much Johnson’s even-keeled demeanor helped him through the quarterback change: “Well I think it was good because he never flinches no matter what we do. It just doesn’t matter. He doesn’t flinch — good, bad or indifferent. And I think our guys respond to that. I think that’s a great trait for a quarterback. Whether you rip his tail or you try to give him a high-five and hug him, he just has the same demeanor. No matter what we did, whether we pulled back or went ahead with it, he was all in.”

On how he would qualify what Johnson did to help the team through the bad start and all the way through the bowl bid: “It’s huge. I mean, it really is. We didn’t have a lot of friends after the first few weeks. I think Coach said it best. When you get in those situations you go one way or the other. He pulled it together, Coach did a great job and our kids believed in what they were doing. They never faltered in that and sometimes that’s hard to do. But they did. They believed in it and they stuck to it. I think you have to give a lot of credit to Coach Stoops.”

On if he’s seen anything like that: “No. I have not.”

On how this bowl prep from Stoops compares to his other stops: “It’s been great. Love the schedule. He went, he talked to some people. We were together for three of them at Florida State. And his time at Arizona. He talked to his brother Bob and you look for people who’ve had success in bowl games and you do it. I love it right now. It’s been a really good setup for us so I’m excited. It gets to be, you’ve got to switch it a little bit. I think that’s what he’s done really well at. Kept them motivated and locked in.”

On if it’s tough to balance the work and fun of a bowl: “Yeah. There’s no doubt. And I don’t think we’ll have a problem with our kids wanting to win the game. You know? Then it just becomes, ‘Can you do both?’ Can you have fun? Yes you can. And can you be locked in and focused to go out and take care of your business. But, yeah. It’s a great question. It is. I think there’s a balance there.”

On how he keeps his offense in that mindset: “You know what, you just stay on them. You don’t change. I don’t think you change. We really talked about execution of offense, like we talked about a long time ago. On offense everybody’s got to be on the same page, doing the same thing, doing it right all the time. No pre-snap penalties, stay ahead of the chains, win on third down, got to be great in the red zone and we’ve got to win in situational football. So nothing changes for us that way.”

On how interactions in community have changed as season improved: “It hasn’t. I imagine there were some that said some things I don’t know about, and that’s fine. It’s not the first time. It’s all good. You know what? They’re fans, the community, and all they want to do is win, have success. I get that, and I don’t blame them. What they’ve got to know is that’s all we want too: We want to win, and we’re going to do everything we can to win. But the community here has been absolutely phenomenal. They’re welcoming, and Lexington has been really, really good.”

On how Boom Williams has changed since he got here: “You know, he and I, just starting our relationship and how we interact with each other. I think he’s become more accountable and really tried to be a leader. Everything he’s trying to do running the ball, whether that be a downhill guy, getting north and south -- some of the things we’ve talked about – being a better pass protector and being an all-around back, I think he’s bought into that. It’s just – I love being around him. He’s been really, really good. He’s matured that way that when you can push him. I think you’ve got to do it different ways for different people. I think he’s really understood the way I am. It’s been a good relationship.”

On how much playing a bowl game in Florida helps recruiting: “I think anytime with as many people as there are in the state of Florida, I think it’s great. It’s great for recruiting, and I think the day that it’s on and when we play, I think it’s really fantastic.”

On how much it means to players from Florida: “I think it’s huge. Yeah, I think it’s a really good deal for them to get a chance to go back and play another game in Florida, especially some of them it’s their last year.”

On if going against an offense like Georgia Tech’s affects how he calls a game: “No, not until it needs to. I think you’ve got situations, and Coach stays on that really well. It’s been like that some this year. We went back and we looked, and you might lose a possession in the whole thing, but we looked at plays and how many people usually get and it’s about what we’re getting, 73, 74 plays. So, you know, if we stay on track and we do what’s right I think we can have the possessions that we need. But you do, you have to – I told them earl that one of the things we’re going to have to do is we’re going to have to score touchdowns. I don’t think field goals are going to get it done. We’re going to have to sustain drives, and we’re going to have to be really good with our possessions.”

On if Georgia Tech has any advantage having to face a run-heavy offense in practice: “I think maybe the only advantage might be that we’re not going against each other all the time where you can work your younger guys a little bit more, maybe. But other than that, no, because the same thing, their defense has to work against that stuff all the time. So I don’t think there’s any change there.”

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