Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Defensive coordinator Eliot on second day of spring practice

D.J. ELIOT

“It’s good to be back on the field. I’m excited about working with the players. It seems like it’s been a long time, and here we are again, another spring ball. Every year is a different challenge. This year I think we have a very talented group, and I’m very optimistic and excited about it. We have guys that are experienced in different spots, and we’ve been experienced before. I think that we have secondary players that for the first time have some experience to them. We have guys that played a lot for us in the backend that are coming back. And we have linebackers that are inexperienced but are very talented. We have guys that have the ability to be successful.

“So far we have had two great practices. We’ve had guys that have played hard. We’ve had great communication, great enthusiasm. It’s been up-tempo, and it’s been very encouraging to see. We weren’t perfect. Today was not as good as day one. We installed more, and with that sometimes you make more mistakes, especially if you have young players at certain spots. I think that these guys are a group that is going to be mature, and I think they’re going to get better every day. And I think that they’re going to finish spring out good, but it’s baby steps so we’ve got to take it one day at a time.”

On inexeperience at linebacker: “That’s right. At linebacker we’re very young, but like I said we’re very talented. Courtney Love has been a starter at a major college program, so he’s been there. He’s been in the fire. He’s very mature. He just needs to pick up our scheme. Now, I’m not concerned about him not having game experience in a hostile environment because he’s been there and he’s been successful. So, that’s encouraging to have at MIKE linebacker, at that position. Our other linebackers really don’t have much of any game experience, but they’re very talented. Jordan Jones can run, Eli Brown can run. Nico (Firios), Kash Daniels have size and speed. So they have all the tools. We just have to get them ready.”

On if that turnover makes it easier for a guy like Daniel to play immediately: “Well, you’re right in the fact that nobody really has that experience, so you don’t have anybody that’s a little head of the game assignment and technique-wise. Like I mentioned though, Courtney has been in that fire and he does have that experience under the limelight. But, these guys, I think are all on an even page right now, and I think that anybody could earn the job. And I think they all have the talent to do that.”

On De’Niro Laster and where he will play, what he does well: “De’Niro has been playing outside linebacker for us and I’m seeing a guy who is very fast and is good in space for an outside linebacker. He again has a great attitude, plays with a lot of enthusiasm. He, like Courtney, has been there. He’s played in some big games at big programs and he brings that to the table as well.”

On Josh Allen and what he got out of last season versus redshirting him: “Josh Allen was a guy that could’ve been redshirt, could’ve played him, so what he got out of that was he was involved in every meeting. He was involved in every game plan. He did not practice with the scout team; he practiced with the defense. So he wasn’t running somebody else’s defense all season. He was running our defense. On where he may have missed out is a few more lifts because his body had to be ready to play on Saturday. We couldn’t push him to the limit because he had to be 100 percent on Saturday. But he definitely got the football experience by not being on the scout team and not being redshirted.”

On what a full offseason in the weight room has done for Allen: “That’s big, huge for him. And he’s a guy that has a very big frame, but not necessarily carrying all the weight that he can carry. So a good offseason of lifting and eating is really important of him because I think he will put on the weight.”

On how a redshirt helped a guy like Eli Brown: “Correct. Yeah. It helped Eli because he was able to hit the weights and he was able to do all the conditioning drills and get faster and get quicker and also it helps him in the fact that it gives him another year of eligibility. There’s the give and take with redshirting and not redshirting. So Eli’s coming into this season just as a freshman.”

On Kobie Walker and if he’s back out there and doing things coaches were so excited about at this time last year: “He is. We are. We are. Kobie, for his size, is very athletic. He can cover like a DB, but yet he’s big enough that he can play the run like a linebacker.”

On battles between wide receivers and secondary: “Well, that’s the only group we’re really veteran at and I say veteran and they’re all sophomores for the most part. But they have experience. Most of them started that are working with the ones last year. And so I think that they’re a little bit ahead. They know our defense. The wide receivers are learning a new offense. So (the secondary) may be a little ahead at times, but I’ve been excited about the wide receiver play. I think those guys have made plenty of plays on their own and I think those battles are about 50-50 right now.”

On if the leadership can come from the secondary this year: “Certainly. Anybody can lead. Anybody can be a leader. A lot of times guys get put in leadership position because they’re good players, people respect them. So they have the opportunity to step up and lead.”

On his install schedule: “We go a new install every day, but we won’t have 15 installs, we’ll probably stop halfway through the spring depending on how fast we pick it up. If we feel like the players aren’t picking up the defense fast enough, then we’ll back up on our installs, put some of them off until later spring. But what we plan on is to have a new install every day all the way up to about 10 practices.”

On Regie Meant’s position: “Regie so far is just playing our defensive tackle.”

On nose guard and where Matt Elam is: “Elam has been working with the ones at nose guard, yes.”

On replacing starters on defensive line and if he’s optimism about the latest new group: “Well, unlike our linebackers, all of those guys have played and all of those guys actually started at some point in the season. So I don’t look at them in the same way. Matt Elam started the whole second half of the season. Regie was an on and off starter with Cory Johnson and Courtney Miggins got a lot of reps as a two behind Farrington (Huguenin), so I look at the D-line as a little more experienced than the linebackers because most of those guys started or played a lot last season.”

On bringing in Naquez Pringle: “Well, we needed, we felt like we needed some more nose guards on scholarship and we felt like we needed some veteran nose guards. So what a junior college player brings in is he’s a guy who is physically developed right now to play. You don’t have to wait a couple years for him to catch up and he’s already played two years of college football. He’s played at the junior college level.”

On growth expectations for Chris Westry: “I’m expecting Chris to build off what he did last year and the fact that he not only has to understand how to be a good technician, but he’ll start understanding the game better, expecting things to happen before they happen.”

On high school ball versus college ball and freshmen who have surprised him so far: “The difference in high school and college is usually the speed of the game. I know even Kash (Daniel) after practice one, said, ‘Man, that’s the fastest thing I’ve ever seen.’ You know what I mean? The speed of the game is the biggest difference, so everything they see in college is happening so much faster than how they saw it in high school, whether you’re a quarterback, whether you’re a lineman, whether you’re a linebacker, whether you’re a DB, everything is happening faster. Some of the newcomers who have come in and done a good job, I think they all have. Offense and defense. I’ve been impressed with everybody that’s come in mid-year for us.”

On if Miggins slides down to a five technique or if he’s strictly a defensive end: “Well, in the 3-4, we have two ends and when we get into our four-down fronts, he still plays the end and he’s a five.”

On Alvonte Bell and how he used his redshirt year: “Well, Alvonte Bell and Courtney Miggins, both of them, they didn’t get here because they had summer school work. They didn’t get here until August. They not only weren’t here for the offseason training, they weren’t here for the summer training, so Alvonte Bell was able to put on muscle and get in more condition and put himself in position to play this season.”

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