Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Matt House on what he wants to see in scrimmage, his goals this spring


On if physical play has been an issue on defense: “It’s been something we’ve tried to preach and get better at. I think it started off a little slow, but we’re starting to get it. I still think the pad level’s too high. We’re learning to strain.”

On if that gets fixed in flow of season: “I think it’s a fundamental thing. A rep thing. It’s an age thing. I think it’s a combination of those things and it’s a mentality.”

On young players adding depth at linebacker and defensive line: “You know it’s added a bunch of competition both at outside backer and inside backer and the interior. You’ve got guys like T.J. (Carter) and Kordell (Looney) and (Ja’Quize) Cross are all battling. It’s been fun to watch. Certainly looking forward to see what they’ll do going forward.”

On Darius West: “You know, he’s moving around pretty good. He’s a little rusty like you’d expect coming off an injury like that, but he’s getting better and better every practice.”

On what rusty looks like: “Maybe not as fast thinking as you’d want. Maybe not as quick to anticipate. It’s been a year since he’s played football really, so that takes a minute.”

On how much change he’s made in plays, names of plays, and other things since he’s taken over as defensive coordinator: “At the end of the day, you try to keep it as close in terminology as you can because here’s what you don’t want to do: You don’t want to -- we’ve got a lot of kids that are first-year players. You don’t want them to come back and learn a new language, so you try to blend language as much as you can. You try to group language and teach in concepts. A color means this, so the kids are able to group them together and play faster.”

On changes in Courtney Love: “He’s moving around better. I think he’s playing a little more confident. Just like all of them, he’s gotta get better and that’s what spring is all about.”

On what he wants to see in scrimmage: “No. 1, we want to play more physical. We’ve got to play better first and second down defense. That’s something that’s been a huge point of emphasis for us and we must improve on. That comes with stopping the run, leveraging the football and tackling.”

On rotating eight or nine on defensive line: “Yeah, that’s about right.”

On if he expects a full complement of first, second, third teams: “You know, that’s the great thing about spring. Today was practice five, so we’re a third of the way through spring and now with the new rule, I don’t know how many training camp practices we’ve got. But we’re on the tip of the iceberg. So right now it’s all about competition for anybody. And certainly don’t want to start limiting down the pool this early. You want to really build it and expand it.”

On Kordell Looney and T.J. Carter: “You know, both of those guys are athletic kids. They’re big guys that can move. They just have to continue to learn how to play.”

On competition at cornerback: “I think that’s the great thing about spring, it challenges you all to raise your level of play. And at the end of the day, we’re a third of the way through spring and you look at all the training camp practices and you never know who’s going to emerge. I mean, that’s the great thing about football, every year is different.”

On if Davonte Robinson is a kid he’s expecting to emerge: “He’s doing a good job right now. He’s competing, he’s learning, he’s flying around. I’m certainly excited to see him play, especially when the coaches are off to the side Saturday.”

On if he’s seen anyone unexpected emerge: “I’ll tell you that as we get further in. I think you need -- I really do think you need a couple scrimmages to really evaluate that. There’s guys who have flashed certainly, but again, playing the game when the coaches are off the field is a lot different than an organized team period.”

On if Josh Allen and Denzil Ware are taking the next step: “Yeah, I think they both improved. I think there’s continued room for growth, but the thing about those two guys is they’re communicating more, they’re a lot more confident in their game, which allows them to play the game better. At the end of the day, they’re able to be more aware of what’s going on within the game instead of just focusing on their job.”

On if that helps them become leaders: “Yeah, no question.”