Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran says Kentucky should be plenty motivated for Southern Miss


On the unknowns with young receivers: “I think always in a first game, you go out there and you don’t know what to expect with the team that you’re playing. They’ve got the same staff back, but there’s always going to be something and it’s going to be a matter of those young guys when they get in, they just focus on what they’ve been coached and if they’ll do that, they’re going to be in great shape. Their talent will take over if they’ll just do what they’re coached to do and don’t get out of the realm of just the game. It is, it’s taking what we did at practice and coming out and making sure that they use their technique and fundamentals. Can’t get into the past, can’t get into the present. We’ve always got to be focused and centered. There’s going to be some bad things that will happen, but I think we’re mature enough when those bad things happen to come back, regroup and get it fixed. Then we’ve got to move forward.”

On getting Drew Barker into game if possible: “Absolutely. Again, it’s going to depend on the flow of the game. We’d love to get him in the game. So it’s just going to depend on how the game is going, where we are, where we’re at in the game and just play that by ear.”

On the Southern Miss defense: “You know what, they’re fast, they’re twitchy up front, a lot of movement and they cause some problems. The biggest thing they feed on is getting you in second and long. We’ve got to be efficient on first down. I’ve talked about that a lot. We’re good when we’re efficient on first down. When we’re not, then you’re behind the chains and that’s when they feed off of what they do well. So, we’ve got to stay out of third and longs. That’s not a very fun call. And we’ve got to execute when we do have that though. We call it our money down. We’ve got to make sure that we convert.”

On what his mental state is right now: “I’m really excited about playing a game and hitting somebody else. I’m excited to see where we’re at. You get in your second year of an offense and they know what to do. We’re gonna see if they can go execute now. It’s not gonna be anything magical. It’s really gonna be about going up there, executing and coming with an attitude.”

On if any lessons can be taken from last year’s game even though they’re different offensively: “Yeah, we were different. You look at us from the first game to the sixth game and we were a different offense. I think as we go into this year we know who we are, we know our personnel and we’ll try to use that to our benefit.”

On if Kyle Meadows has gotten more comfortable playing left tackle: “Yes he has. And I think Coach (John) Schlarman has done a good job mixing those guys around. We’ve got a lot of guys that can play different positions and that’s a good thing for us. Kyle has definitely become more comfortable there.”

On if they need to settle into a rotation or if they’re OK with switching all season: “Yeah, I don’t know about all season but we’ll see who’s producing, and those guys will obviously get more reps. I think if you have a good two-deep and you’re not dropping off when you get the next guy in, and there’s gonna be some positions like the wide receiver position — they’re gonna have to make plays and we’ll see who makes plays. And we’ll see who makes the plays up front to see who’s doing a good job protecting and run blocking and doing all the things we ask them to do. And those guys will play more. As we get through the season we’ll decide as we go.”

On if any of the young receivers are stepping up with Dorian Baker out:“I think it’s a group thing. I think you’ll see a lot of them play. I think we want to be fresh. We want to have vertical speed. I think you’ll see a lot of them in there in the game. We’ll see how they’re doing. We’ll look at those young guys early. Get them in and make sure they don’t have big eyes. See them on the sidelines and see how they’re reacting.”

On how many carries get Benny Snell warmed up: “I don’t know if there’s a number. We’ve gotta get him going. There’s going to be some, like I’ve talked to him about, there’s gonna be some bad plays. That’s what happens when you’re running the football. Sometimes you gain one, sometimes it’s 2nd and 10 and all of a sudden you spurt that 60-yarder or that 40-yarder and you get an explosive play. We’re gonna have to find out what works well for us against them. But he does. He does get better as it goes on. Hopefully that’ll be to our benefit.”

On when he saw the light come on for Sihiem King: “I think now that he really knows he has a chance, it was hard last year because he worked like crazy everyday at practice and then he didn’t get an opportunity. For him to come out and come where he left off, in spring he really felt like he’d be able to contribute. He solidified himself as the second running back and he’ll be the first one in when Benny needs a breather.”

On if the coaches change the offense more in the first game than in other games: “Yes we will. I think in Game 4 when you have three or four games to evaluate, you know a little bit more about your opponents. There was not a staff change there, so that’s gonna help us, but there’s going to be some stuff that they have that we haven’t seen. There’s no question. There’s stuff that we have that they haven’t seen. So, it will be a chess match, and at the end of the day we’re going to have to execute when that time comes. But it does get easier, I think statistically, when you’re getting numbers, when you have three or four games to evaluate.”

On what Charles Walker brings to the offense: “That’s a good question. I think he’s had a really good camp, and he’s a guy that he’ll be in there when we go 10-personnell. He’ll be a guy that goes in there. He can do different positions for us, which makes him very valuable. I think you’ll see him catch some balls this year, whereas last year he was kind of a spot guy and more special teams. I think he’ll be a big part of this thing.”

On how much they’ve talked to players about last year’s game as motivation versus just technical teaching: “A little bit of both. No. 1, I don’t think we’re going to have to get them excited about the game. I hope not. You wouldn’t think so. They know. We got our tail whipped. That’s the bottom line. We only scored 35 points in the first half and we scored zero in the second half. That’s unacceptable. I think that they’ll have a good attitude going in, and then you got to learn from the mistakes. The second part of that question was what did we do wrong or where did we go wrong? Calling plays and also what did we do wrong in terms of us fundamentally and technique wise.”

On if any Southern Miss defenders stand out on film: “Yeah, I think their front four. I think their front four is really good. They’ve got a junior-college player that has come in and is big. They’ve beefed up their inside, and I think they’ve got really good speed rushers. I think their linebackers do a great job: They run to the football, they’re coached very well, they understand where they need to be. So, I think it’s a heck of a defense. For our first game, this is going to be a huge challenge for us.”

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