Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: UK’s Eddie Gran calls competition at tight end ‘fierce’


On first couple days of fall camp: “Good. First two days, no pads. Running around you can tell that they know the offense in terms of the installation. Today was a little bit sloppy because first day of pads. And the execution wasn’t great. We’ve just got to clean up some things, but their enthusiasm and the way they came out and are competing, I’m excited about that.”

On team knowing offense and what UK can do more of this year that it couldn’t previously: “Well, we’re just — between the motions, movements — expanding the offense, we’re able to be further ahead. Right now, for day three install for where we’re at, we could use these three installs right here and play a game. And that’s something we wouldn’t do and couldn’t do last year.”

On if Lynn Bowden is practicing yet: (Silence. Shakes head no.)

On what A.J. Rose didn’t do well last season that held him back and what has he figured out now: “The biggest thing is being a sponge and learning the playbook. Just coming out everyday and competing. Really it just came down to maturity. He just wasn’t quite ready. You could see all the physical tools. He watched his buddy Benny (Snell) play and have some success. He took that to heart and came back this spring, worked hard in the weight room, did a great job for us, learned the offense. And you can see after three days he’s really locked in and wants playing time.”

On what stands out about Rose: “Physicalness, fast. It’s a little bit different, little deceiving. He’s got some juice. So, that’s what I like. He’s a big back. Hopefully the piles are going forward. Four yards and a cloud of dust is OK with me. That’s the toughness that we talked about.”

On first impressions of the freshmen: “I’m really, really excited. The athleticism, the way they come out with some passions. They’re competing. I really like that. You saw some flashes. Josh Ali, (Isaiah) Epps, just kind of stuck out. Bryant Koback had a couple of nice runs today. The big linemen are athletic, they’re tall, they’re long. It’s exciting to see.”

On if Ali and Epps are similar players: “They really are. We’re keeping them both outside. They’re tall enough, they’re fast enough. It changes out there now. You get the pads on them and I saw Josh get stuck on a couple of press situations. It’s not like that when there’s no pads on. They have to get used to that part of the physicality. I think that’s going to be the next week to see if they adjust to that.”

On how they get freshmen enough snaps with so many veterans back: “You got to do a good job as a coach to make sure that you get those guys the reps, the older guys, and then get them out. The first couple weeks it’s about getting some of those young guys in. Let’s put them to the fire, let’s see. That’s what we did with Benny. I always talk about it: ‘Put me in coach.’ Benny made me put him in because as he kept getting reps we’d come back into the meeting room and go, ‘Wow, this kid needs to play.’ So we just get them in there and coach adds some threes and fours to make sure everybody’s involved too.”

On how much the head start in spring practice has helped Clevan Thomas: “I think coming early, there’s no question that helped him. He’s so far ahead right now. Right now you’d say he’s probably going to be in the mix. We’ll see as it develops, but the other guys are where he was when he first got here. They’re swimming a little bit. We’re not slowing down. Tomorrow is install day four, and it’s not going to get any easier. So when you’re going fast and the bullets are flying and changing coverages and it’s all new it becomes tough. That’s where the maturity level comes in.”

On if he’s seen a response from Blake Bone on and off the field:There’s no doubt he had a good summer, you know? Didn’t see him on many lists. It starts there. He’s coming out and he’s competing. He has to compete every day. He made a nice play today in team, but then tomorrow when we come out and he gets the same opportunity, make the same play. That’s the consistency that I talked about. If he’ll continue to do that he’ll play for us. If he doesn’t then we gotta have somebody step up.”

On the competition at tight end: “It’s fierce. The three of them are battling every day. We’ve got three really good tight ends. Justin’s (Rigg) probably— the physicality part for him, he’s working on that. Coach Marrow is grinding him, but at 263 pounds he ought to be able to handle it now. They’re great. Those two tight ends, those first two, they work well together, they’re all about each other and they’re about this football team.”