Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Hinshaw on bringing Kentucky’s offense, quarterbacks along


On if he’s ready to carry burden of improving UK’s QB play:Yes. Yes. I’ve heard that many times, that the quarterbacks have not performed well here. Now we’re installing the offense and we’re on Day 3, and it’s a gradual process, as far as being able to put everything in from red zone to third down, everything we do offensively. And then the quarterbacks to be able to learn it, it’s like riding a bike. They’re gonna have to fall down before they’re gonna get good at riding wheelies and doing stunts and all that kind of stuff. We’re still in the infant stages right now. We have progressed from Day 1 to Day 3. The goal is to go from Day 1 to Day 15 and really progress so that we can go into the summer and then we're gonna re-install and re-go through everything and detail it evens more. But again, the biggest thing with quarterback play is targets and decisions. We’ve got to throw the ball on target and we’ve got to make good decisions with the football. They’re making good decisions right now and we’ve got to get better at throwing on target, and that’s what footwork and being able to move your feet and mechanics and all those things we work on from Day 1. On Day 1 we started doing drills and it was like infant stages of drills. They’re feet aren’t right, they’re not where they need to be. We got better from Day 1 to Day 3. So from Day 3 to Day 6 we’ve got to get better, and we’re still installing new offense so what happens is your brain starts to go crazy because you’re installing new offenses, new plays, new schemes to be able to attack defenses, and we’ve got to be able to have things – and I call it like tools in a toolbox. You have to have plays that can pull from, from your toolbox, to go attack different defenses at different times. So we’re gonna build our toolbox so we have tools that we’re able to go work with, and once we’ve got the toolbox built, we’re gonna get good at using those tools, and that’s gonna take time and process, but we’re in the process of doing that right now.”

On if there’s drill work specific to their scheme that these QBs haven’t done before:Well, again, I don’t know what they’ve done in the past, but their footwork wasn’t where it needs to me. What I mean by that is what I coach is not taking big steps in the pocket. When you take big steps, you’re not able to throw the whole time that you’re stepping, OK? So I teach ‘em to take smaller steps so they’re feet are underneath them, and they’ve got to be able to move their feet quick in the pocket to be able to deliver the ball. Well, they’re not used to doing that so we’ve got to start from scratch with a lot of that stuff. Again, they got better from Day 1 to Day 3, but that’s how you’re able to throw the ball on target because you’re feet are underneath you. That’s why you see the NFL guys do so well. Tom Brady, that’s why Peyton Manning has had so much success. His footwork is incredible for such a big guy to be able to throw on time and be able to get the ball out. That’s what we got to build, is great footwork with our releases and everything else we’re doing.”

On if all the QBs are on the same level right now:Yes. They’re all at the same level as far as learning. Now, you got different maturity levels, obviously, with Drew (Barker) and with Gunnar Hoak. Gunnar still should be in high school, and he’s doing a good job of learning for where he’s at. They’re all gonna have a little bit different learning styles, so I’ve got to learn them as we’re going, too, on how they learn and how I coach them and what to do. Again, one guy makes a mistake here with a rout and the next guy makes a mistake with the same route on a different mistake, and they’ve got to learn from each other. So every time they’ve got to get mental reps, continue to get better and then continue to learn the offense as we go from practice to practice to practice.”

On how Stephen Johnson has adapted to the leap from JUCO to UK:Again, he’s a mature kid. He’s actually the oldest kid – he’s very close to Drew – but he has a really good maturity level. I really like that a lot. Game completely different from junior college ball to SEC football, so he’s realizing right now that they run a lot faster in the secondary. He can’t hang the ball up as long as he could. I’ve got to get him to throw the ball. He’s got a good arm, good pace on the ball. He’s putting on weight. He came in at 169. I think he’s at 187 right now, so he’s gaining weight whereas what we want him at. And he’s going to lost weight – after you go through spring ball you’re going to lose a little weight this summer. We’ll get it back up, and we’ll continue to put weight back on him. But he’s progressing nicely.”

On if they have a goal weight for Johnson: “Well, I told him 200 pounds is probably – once you get to 200 he’s going to end up coming down from that, but I think 200 pounds is reasonable for him. He’s got a big frame. He’s eating, he’s working at it. Like I said, from 169 to 187 is 18 pounds he’s put on since he got here in January and we’re in March. So, not unrealistic that he could put on 13 more pounds by August.”

On how Davis Mattingly’s skill set for a walk-on: “I tell you what, Davis had a really good day today, and we’re playing everybody. I’m letting all five quarterbacks play. Drew and Stephen are getting a little bit more reps than the other three, but they’re all five playing and they’re all five progressing. Davis had a heck of a day today. He’s a valedictorian and is really smart, which is really big to be at quarterback. So, he’s doing a heck of a job learning the offense. He’s repeating everything I say. He’s learning how to say it the right way. He’s a leader. I like a lot of things about him. Again, he’s progressing well, so we’ll see how he continues to do well. But his skillset is just as good as any of them. His footwork is a little bit behind, but so is everybody else’s, and I told him we got to get better.”

On if players have been receptive to footwork demands: “Well, when I show them film of Drew Brees doing it in college, the same drills – I said this is before he’s making $20 million a year. I’m showing them Drew Brees doing the drill, and then I’m showing them Gunnar Keil at Cincinnati, who just threw 50 touchdowns in two years, showing them Brendan Kay, who went to the Pittsburgh Steelers doing the same drills, it makes them understand that we’re not just doing them to do them. And then I take the drills and then show them game footage of us using the drills in game footage. So, when we’re doing them, it’s not just we’re doing drills to do drills, we’re doing drills we actually use. When I’m throwing dummies at them and they’re having to get out of the way, then I show them a clip of Drew Brees having a linebacker fly right at his face. He gets out of the way and throws a completion. That’s why we do the drills. So, there’s always drills that we do that pertain in particular to what we’re going to do in a game. So, the whole key is to be comfortable at being uncomfortable. We have to be comfortable at being uncomfortable in the pocket. If you get so comfortable back there and then they bring a blitz, and you threw a ball 50 feet over the receiver’s head because you’re not used to being uncomfortable, that’s what’s happened here in the past. That’s what I’ve got to get them to understand: We’ve got to complete that ball even though the linebacker is in our face. So we’re going to be doing drills and all kind of things to get them to understand. Then we’ve got to go play the game, because at the end of the day we’ve got to go play the game. So, as much reps as we can get it’s going to make us better and better.”

On if he’s physically heaving tackling dummies at QBs: “Oh yeah. We’ll do all that stuff. We’ll do everything to them. They’ll have so many things happen that the actual game is easier for them. So it takes time. We can’t just do all these drills in one day, but over 15 days we’ll have all these drills thrown at them, where I’ll be moving them, moving them, making them feel uncomfortable and then be able to go progress to the next level when we go out to go play in scrimmages. Again, Saturdays will be our test day, because we’re going to have Saturdays where we actually get to play live football. We won’t be live as quarterbacks, but you’ll be able to move the football. A lot of the drills we do, we throw a touchdown and the ball has got to come back to the same spot. You don’t get that feeling of being able to be successful all the time. We’ve got to change that culture and be able to get good at that too.”

On how involved he is with the WRs: “Right now we’re all meeting together every day. So Coach Thomas and I meet with them every day, with the receivers. So, they’re all together all the time. They’re hearing the same things I hear the quarterbacks as the receivers are hearing the same things that I tell the receivers, that Coach Thomas tells to the receivers, all those situations.”