Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Kentucky offensive coordinators Gran, Hinshaw discuss key playmakers


On if the team scrimmaged today or were just practicing at stadium: “Practicing.”

On how the offense looked: “You know, we went into this morning as we watched a little bit more of the scrimmage and evaluated it, what we talked about is not wasting a practice because you can have a habit of doing that when you get into 10,11,12,13. They came out with some enthusiasm. We had one lull in the practice where (defense) got us a little bit but then after that I thought they competed. What we really talk about now is getting better and detailing this offense. I told them if we do not make the routine plays, throw and catch when you’re supposed to throw and catch and take the perfect step up front, block when you’re supposed to block, it sounds simple but we’re not doing that all the time. When we do that we’ve got a chance to be really, really special. But we’re not doing that. When we have to throw a hitch and the guy is wide open and we drop it, or we throw it too fast, it’s not on time. Somebody breaks down, we’re not going to be successful. We’ve got enough players to make plays, and we did that on Saturday. The big plays will come. Now it’s about us being consistent and being able to make the routine plays. That’s what we did today.”

On his definition of really special: “Special is doing everything right all the time with our standard of playing with unbelievable effort. Then you’ll have a chance. If you do all the little things right the big things will come. The standard is everyday of practice when the ball is thrown, we’re sprinting. We’re going to be physical. We’re going to run and everybody is going to cover. That’s what’s happening right now. We’re making some progress. For you to be special, you’ve gotta strive for perfection every day knowing you’re not going to get there, but we’re certainly going to try.”

On the offensive linemen: “I think they’re really smart. I think they really understand what’s going on. In the second year we’re able to do that. I think Coach Schlarman does a great job understanding their abilities. Then mixing that around and putting guys in different spots, which helps you in the long run for depth.”

On how much those guys are fighting for starting spots: “Yeah, they all are. Coach switches it up sometimes every drill. Somebody’ll go in with the first team and then the next drill comes and the next guy. It’s great. It’s great competition. They’re fighting. They’re fighting their rear ends – but they know they’re gonna play, too. But you want to be the starter. You got to take pride in that. So there is great competition at that position.”

On what Justin Rigg has shown in practice: “Athletic, can run the field vertically and I think he’s getting better in his run blocking. He’s really trying. He’s got to learn how to strain all the time. He’s gotta learn that this is big time football, and it’s tough, hard and he’s got to learn how to do that. He’s getting there. He really is. I’m excited about him.”

On the progression of Drew Barker: “Progressed pretty well, meaning that after the scrimmage – he got those two series. Went down and led the one team down there and we scored. Wasn’t too sore and came back today and actually is getting in a little bit more. So really like the progress of where he’s at.”

On the conversations he’s having with QBs about the future at that spot: “Well, I think they both know — all of them — to have a really good football team, you better have quarterbacks, and we’ve got some really good quarterbacks. And I say plural, that I think all of them are doing a really good job. I think we’re in a great position. You talk to ‘em about competing and winning the job and then when your time comes you better be ready to go. Just like Stephen. His time came last year and he made the most of it. You just don’t ever know. That’s what the conversations are.”

On how Dorian Baker has been practicing: “Really, really well. It’s been good because he hasn’t missed practice for an injury or anything like that. We really wanted him to get through the whole spring and then get through the whole summer. That’s what you’re looking for in him and that consistency. But he’s one that you got to say whoa to. You don’t have to say giddy up to him. He loves practice and he goes.”

On what that says about Baker: “That he loves to compete and he loves the game. Absolutely.”

On Garrett Johnson: “He’s doing OK. He’s not where I need him to be right now, he’s not where this team needs him to be right now, and I think he’ll tell you that. That’s gonna be on him. He’s got it in him. He knows what he needs to do, but I like the other guys that are pushing him. Like the other guys — Chuck Walker today had an unbelievable practice. That’s a really good thing for us.”

On if he’s seen progress from A.J. Rose: “Yes. Night and day from last fall, understanding the offense, being more engaged and he had a really good run the other day. Through our catapult (system?) seeing how fast he went, he was at 21 miles an hour. That’s rolling. That’s getting it. He really is; he’s really learning the offense and I’m excited about his progress.”

On inconsistencies from veterans and tuning out the noise: “Those are the difference between — expectations is everything out there, you know — our standard is that they’ve got to make that play. If they’re looking at that and they’re reading Twitter and blogs and all that, they’re going to have a serious issue. We talk about recovering; we talk about moving onto the next play. That’s what they’ve got to do. I think they understand where we’re coming from. They’re trying. They’re making some contested plays out there. Another day of contested plays and that’s exciting.”

On import of identifying running backs other than Benny Snell: “I think it’s really important once we get through this spring. You look at Saturday and the production we got out of Si (Sihiem King) and A.J. was really encouraging. I talked to you guys a couple of weeks ago about we’ve got to find 1,000 yards between a couple of other backs. If they’ll continue to produce like that, there’s no question we’ll be able to do that. But we’ve got a long way to go and hopefully they’ll keep doing what they’re doing all the way through 30 practices before we get to our first game and through the summer. We have a chance. Those guys have a chance.”

On Benny Snell stepping up in leadership: “Yes, he has. His passion for the game is so great. And so you’ve got to kind of control him a little bit, slow him down. Again, another one you’ve got to say, ‘whoa’ to and not ‘giddy up.’ And I’d rather have it that way. He is, he’s trying to do everything right and he’s doing everything full speed.”


On how they looked during the scrimmage: “As far as the quarterback position, we’re competing. Drew really did a good job of coming in. We gave him a series and he took them right down and scored, which was really good to see — really proud of that. He’s starting to get a little bit of the rust off, if you know what I mean. He’s really coming along. Stephen’s playing at a very high level. Again, I’ve got to continue to coach him for the little things now so he can continue to get better, and better and better so he can be perfect. And Gunnar Hoak is really coming along. So, I like that we drove down in the scrimmage, we scored on the first drive. Again, the whole offense in general now is really clicking. We’ve got to continue to take it to another level because the defense is getting better and better and coming after us.”

On if Drew’s play in the scrimmage surprised him: “Well, I’ll tell you, when you fall off the horse you’ve got to eventually get back on. He got in the game, and really, I think he surprised himself. He played really, really well. He played like the old Drew Barker. And in practices it hasn’t been that way because I’m trying to throw him in here and there. The other thing too, with the back injury, the scar tissue has to break up. It takes time. It’s a different type of scar tissue. Think about all the movements you do as a quarterback. All the different things we do — hand it off, up, down, sideways. It all affects the back area, so he’s finally getting into a comfort zone where the pain level, he’s able to throw. And the hardest thing was being able to just put that mustard on the ball and be able to get it from point A to point B, and he’s doing it now. It’s good to see a smile on his face.”

On his contract extension: “I’m very excited about it. Again, want to be here for a long time. Very appreciative to Mark Stoops and everything that he does for me and my family. So, really looking forward to being here for a long time.”

On if the university came to him about an extension: “Oh yeah. We met after the season and talked about it. This program is doing a lot of great things, and, again, my family and I are very appreciative of what we have here. Again, it’s a long contract, so we’re looking forward to being here for a long time. I know my kids are.”

On what exactly they want to see from Garrett Johnson to become a better leader: “It’s just like anything. When you start taking it to another level — where we are offensively — we want to see the leaders or the playmakers be able to become better leaders. That’s doing everything right off the field, doing everything right on the field. There’s a certain level we’re expecting our standard to be at, and if our leaders aren’t doing more than that then no one will follow. That’s why we want Juice to be literally the best person he can be, the best player he can be. So, that’s all that Coach Gran means, and we’re going to continue to coach them all really, really hard. But we want him — because he’s a playmaker, we want him to be doing everything 10 times better than everybody else off the field and on the field and then everyone follows.”

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