Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Eddie Gran on start of spring ball and key position competitions


On how Benny Snell is adapting to being "the guy" in the running back room: “Well, he's running with the ones right now. I wouldn't say he's the guy. Let's not use those words. He's got a lot of work to do. We need to make sure when you are considered that guy there's a lot of responsibility with that. Right now after two practices, he's doing really well and he's taking that responsibility well. But Sihiem King, he really had a tough deal last year with all the running back that we had, and he had to sit out. This is his time, and you can tell. He's got a lot more energy and he's explosive and I'm excited to see him to try to compete for that job. They all should.”

On where A.J. Rose fits in the mix: ”The next guy. I mean, he's competing, too. He's trying to get Benny's job, and that's the great thing about it because we got competition. I think that's what made us so good there at that position last year because guys had to compete every day to get on the field. When you have that happening, you have a chance to be good.”

On if he had to say anything to King to keep him engaged last year:Oh yeah. Yeah. All the time. Every week. It was hard. It's the hardest thing as a coach, it's the hardest thing as a player who wants to compete and wants to play. We always talk about being humble and having the humility and it's tough, but he's gonna learn a lot from that later on in life, because he's gonna get a chance right now. Now you gotta produce. But yeah, it was a hard deal for that kid because, you know what, he's well-liked by our team so they were rooting for him, too.”

On if Sihiem King has a style that complements Benny Snell's: “The scat-back type? Yeah. I don’t know if he’s got the explosion all the way down the field, but for the first 20 yards he sure does. He’s got great hands. He really does a good job of being a receiver out of the backfield.”

On where he sees their red zone offense with the loss of Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp: “I don’t think that’s going to change much in terms of the red zone. We were pretty decent down there. You’ve still gotta get better. With our personnel as it changed, it’s like I told them the other day, Boom (Williams) and Jojo (Kemp) are gone and that’s somewhere around 1,500-1,600 yards. You know? We lost Jeff Badet and I don’t know how many yards per catch and what yardage it was, but there’s no excuse there. We lost Jon Toth, there’s no excuse. We’ve got backs that have to get that 1,600 yards we lost. We have receivers that have to make up what that is. And they’re there. It’s our job to coach them. I’ve got to get 1,600 yards out of two more backs, if it’s three I’ve got to get it out of three. Coach Schlarman is prepared. You know, we don’t have Jon Toth. He was like a quarterback. He was unbelievable the stuff he got us in and out of. But you know Bunchy’s out there today, he’s doing an unbelievable job. We’re getting two other guys right behind him ready to do it. There are no excuses. We lost some guys. There’s some dudes gone. We’ve gotta move forward.”

On if it’s important to solidify the center spot going into the fall:“It’s a competition. Everything is a competition. Everything. You have to compete for a job. If we don’t have guys competing then you’ve got no chance. I think that’s where this program is now. I think everybody is having to compete. If you wanna play you have to compete.”

On Bunchy Stallings: “He’s athletic. He’s really athletic. He’s smart, he gets it. We’ve gotta get him going a little bit faster. He wants everything to be right and perfect but that will come with time. I love what he’s doing. He competes, he’s passionate and he’s got big shoes to fill. I think that’s important to him.”

On how this spring is different for him compared to last year:“Night and day. We are so far ahead right now. It’s so much fun teaching technique, coaching the fundamentals. It’s a cliche and what everyone talks about, but last year I was coaching to get guys lined up. I was coaching just to get a play off. Right now they know where to go and what to do. Now they’re playing fast and I can coach the little techniques. Every coach can. That’s what makes it when it’s in a system for the second year in a row. And then when we’ve been able to put new things in as we went out and studied and got new stuff, now it’s not so crazy for them. We can put that stuff in and not fall behind.”

On quarterbacks Stephen Johnson, Drew Barker and Gunnar Hoak: “We’ll start with Stephen. Just right now watching him, faster decisions, ball out, check downs, seeing the rotation quicker. The defense hasn’t done a lot yet in two days, but it’s a lot better. A lot better. You can just see it happening. This time – I bet we had, I can’t tell you how many just balls on the ground , just not knowing where to go. Now it’s a lot better.

“With Drew, I don’t know. I think it’s a day -to-day, week-to-week deal. I don’t know how much he’s going to get out of the spring. We’ll know a lot more when we come back after the 10 days whether or not he’s going to get in there. Gunnar is progressing. He’s -- Today made a lot of really good decisions. We had some stuff in protection where he’s got to look hot for some things, and we missed a couple, we got a couple, but I do like where he’s going. He looks like he’s gotten better. Really looks like he’s gotten more confident. You can just see him, his face, everything about it. His body language, and that’s exciting. Luke Wright is in there battling and so is Danny. He’s a true freshman in there with the bullets flying and it’s crazy. But I know this, he’s up there every day. Those guys are up there, especially those quarterbacks, because they’ve got to know this whole thing. So they are battling.”

On if there are any WR he’s pondering to take over Badet’s production: “Every one of them. Every one of them. They have to. They have a great opportunity, you know what I mean? We had some yards per catch -- but there’s no reason why Tavin Richarson and Kayaune Ross. We’ve got to get some production. They’ve got to earn their scholarship. It’s time. They have to quit eating free food. But part of that, too, is we have to get them in. I should’ve gotten some of those guys in last year when I didn’t. I apologize to those guys because there were some things I let go and I shouldn’t have. You’re going to practice. You’re going to practice hard and up to our standards, Coach Stoops’ standards. If you don’t, you don’t play. Period. The end. So these guys are going to be competing and I can’t wait. I can see it already in two days how excited they are.”

On Drake Jackson: “Again, I’m going to go back to this area that’s so important up front: He’s smart. He’s athletic. He’s never on the ground and that’s huge. He can get us into the right protections, get us into the calls and so that’s really good at that position because he is the quarterback.”