Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Stoops, Gran, Eliot at UK football kickoff luncheon in Louisville


On how anxious he is to get into his new digs: “Very. I left today and all the coaches’ offices are done but mine. Mine’s last, which is fine, which is good, but they’re working on it now and I’m excited to get in there. I know the players are as well.”

On what he hopes to see: “You’re always looking for physical things. You want to get bigger and stronger, run faster and all that. But the big thing with me is that the training, mentally, being able to handle it. And physically, like I talked about all offseason: just that capacity to do more, to handle more, the attention to detail for longer, longer practices. And I see that. I see it right now. With what we’re allowed to do with them in the summer, I see them more consistent. I see them bigger. I know we’ve been pushing them running. And I just want to make sure we have the endurance to be able to handle camp, to be able to practice more physical and be able to practice longer. It’s important. You’ve heard me talk about many things, but we have to be really in tuned to (inaudible) and the only way you do that is to practice and play, and you can’t be so fragile that you can’t handle what we’re asking you to do.”

On if that was a problem before because of inexperience/youth: “Of course. Of course. I take the exact same structure that I left Florida State and I came here with it; whether they can handle it, that’s a big question. So those were things I worked with for years, of course. We were deeper. We were deeper with some very athletic football players (at FSU). So you’ve got to always look at what you’re doing to put your players in the best position to be successful.”

On less frustration now: “I do. I feel good about where we’re going. The results, who knows what’s going to happen? I can’t control the results right now. We can control what we’ve done to prepare to put ourselves in position to win. I feel much better about that, and I think it’s fair to say that part of that’s frustration, whatever. Whether you’re getting into practice, you’re getting into camp, you’re getting into the amount of reps that you’re doing, the lengths of practices. As you look at injuries and depth and all those things, I think we’re in a much better position.”

On if there was a reason all three players who made trip to Ethiopia were transfers:No, I think it just happened that way, and we always look for three guys that we feel like it can make and impact and talk to them and see if they have an interest in going, and it just worked out that way.”

On how much leadership he expects to get out of those guys:I think you can get an awful lot of leadership and I think you can see the players be grateful and talk about all the things that we have, not all the things that we don't have, whether we're in the old building, old stadium, new stadium, new building, whatever it is. We're all very blessed and sometimes we don't always look at it that way. It's human nature, and it certainly is in sports, to want more. But I think it's a great example. They've been very good at getting the message across and talking with the guys and being grateful for what we have.”

On if he minds Lamar Thomas ruffling feathers on Twitter:Really? What's he said? (Laughter) Unless something needs to get to my desk, I don't know. I've said it before, I like the way Lamar coaches, I like the way he goes about his business. If it was just the flair I wouldn't be very into it. You got to have some substance behind what you do and you're coaching and you're teaching and that's what's most important to me. And also getting your players to play at a high level and having confidence, but you don't get that by talking. You get that by work and being very detailed in the way that you coach and go about your business, and personality's a big part of it as well with coaching, whether it be recruiting and whether it's getting the most out of your players and getting them to play for you and listen to you. I want to see results with our wide receivers, by any means necessary.”

On the wide receivers having freedom to create routes: ”They don't have free reign. They just have to adapt to certain things. They have to be able to alter their routes, but they don't have free reign. They just got to have a good understanding of what they're seeing. And that is new, yes. Not new to coaching offense, most people do it that way.”

On where he is working now if his office isn't ready: “Well I've been working out of our staff room. The coaches have been in since Monday because we had to move computers and get to work on practice plans and everything that we're planning for, so we've been able to do that this week. I have a desk in my office. They're finishing up, but all the coaches' offices are done and our staff rooms, offense, defense and the total staff room are done. So there's still a lot going on. With the players, it's our understanding that they will work out of the new building next week. They're gonna wrap it up Friday, pack up their bags and try and get some work next week. Now we obviously taper. We report Thursday, so next week's a low impact day as far as lifting and running, so we give them a couple days to kind of rejuvenate. They will still be in there doing some things but the strict summer program will end Friday.”


On the versatility of wide receivers: “Just conceptually right now them learning the offense over the last -- from spring ball to the summer -- they’re all going to be used interchangeably. We’re going to use some guys inside, some guys outside. The thing about our wide receivers right now is consistency. That’s what we’re looking for from day one when we start on (Aug. 4) is that they become consistent. We’ve got to maintain consistency. That’s in everything they’re doing: how they align. Really, it’s everybody on offense, just make have to make sure you’re catching the ball with consistency. When we have opportunity balls, make sure we compete for the football because we play for very good DBs. So if they get six of them thrown to them in a day, they need to catch 50 percent of them. That’s gotta happen. We can’t be one of five or one for six. That’s not consistency in my mind.”

On what Lamar Thomas adds: “Someone who’s been there. Someone that played at a great program, somebody who played in the NFL. All these guys want to play at that level played at that level. He’s been there, so he brings credibility. He gets after their tail and lets them know that you can’t perform like this if you want to get to here. I think that’s what he’s brought to us.”

On Drew Barker’s intangibles: “I think it’s been really good that we named a quarterback. He earned it after spring. Our kids went to him as being that leader. He had information all summer long where he was out there running our practices. He had to do that and the kids looked to him for that leadership and he did that. They were able to continue where we left off in the spring with this offense. I think that’s the biggest thing that he is the leader and he’s the one that has to do what he has to do at that position.”

On newcomers: “It’s a good group as a whole. Coach Stoops and D.J. and I were talking about it as we were coming in. They really seem like they’ve come in with a purpose, not only in the classroom but just (inaudible) it’s a good group. I like the two running backs. I like Benny (Snell) and A.J. (Rose). They look the part, the physical part of it. I’m not sure mentally when everything starts flying and the bullets start coming, that’s going to get a little bit different, they’ll find out. And then Landon Young, he looks fantastic out there. All of those guys we recruited, I feel like on offense are high achievers. It’s hard with freshmen because you don’t know until you put all the pads on them and everything starts going and you get to about seventh, eighth, ninth practice and they want to go home. It’s rough, you know. But I’m really excited about that group.”

On who will play or redshirt: “You know I never talk redshirt when I recruit a kid because something always happens. Something always happens physically, something happens in terms of them mentally not being there. Somebody gets hurt and they need to step up. One might be ready game five, might be game six. We might not be able to because everybody’s healthy. At that position, gosh, you’re lucky if you get through camp. We’ve got great depth, but you’re lucky if you get through camp and you don’t have somebody that’s out for a couple weeks.”

On expecting to have to review basic offense early in camp: “Hopefully none. Matter of fact, we’ll go through our first five installs and finishing up the playbook and making sure everything is right there. We’ll actually should be throwing more on them Day 6, Day 7, our first double day. It’s time to grow. Coach talked about the capacity; they had a job to do this summer and they’ve done it. And now the ones that aren’t ready and haven’t done what they’re supposed to do, we’re going to pass them up and we’ll get the guys that are ready to go. But we have to; we have to grow it. Because we’ve got be able, after 29 practices, to figure out what we do best, what’s our best personnel, and then piece it together as we go into Game 1.”


On coaching outside linebackers now: “I feel really comfortable there. I’ve coached that position before with a lot of success. I do like coaching those guys. We’ve got a good group of guys with Denzil Ware, De’Niro Laster, Josh Allen, Kobie Walker. We’ve added some good freshmen there too: Jaylin Bannerman and Jamar Watson. So, I’m excited about it, along with the addition of Jordan Bonner at that position. I’m excited about it and I really do enjoy the group that we have.”

On if coaching the position is different now than at Florida state because of evolution of defense: “It is in the fact that we’re probably more multiple here than we were at Florida State. We run more 3-4 schemes. We ran some at Florida State, but not as many as we do here. So it is different, the fact that there’s different techniques that you need to emphasize more often with our scheme than we had to at Florida State.”

On what Matt House adds to defensive staff: “Matt brings an excellent experience to our defense. He has coached not only in the NFL but has been a coordinator at two different stops, at Pitt and Florida International. He also brings an energy to our group that is really good. He’s done an excellent job of working with the players in the summer and being energetic during our workouts. He also is a guy that is very detailed and can help in a lot of ways in game-planning and practice preparation.”

On if he thinks DBs will be strength of defense: “I believe so. I think that with our corners that ended up starting last year for us – Chris (Westry) and Derrick (Baity) – they were able to build this spring and this summer off of their first-year experience as freshmen in the SEC. Along with some other players in the secondary, they’re currently the strength of our defense. Fortunately they were able to get a year under their belts so now they have a little bit of experience to go with that talent. I’m very excited to watch them play this fall.”

On if any newcomers stand out: “I’m impressed with all of them. The little time we’ve got to spend with them without pads, getting to train them, they’ve all impressed me. So we’re looking forward to working with them in training camp and seeing how they play when they put the pads on.”

On Alvonte Bell’s growth: “Alvonte Bell, he and Courtney Miggins both didn’t get here until training camp last year. They weren’t here in the summer, so they weren’t able to train with our team and prepare themselves physically as we would have liked to have had them. But Courtney seemed to be a little bit further along. Courtney was physically more ready than Alvonte last season, and we were able to get him in the rotation to get him quite a bit of reps during the season last year. And Alvonte we didn’t think was ready physically, so the biggest improvements we’ve seen in Alvonte are the strength and his size, his speed, along with a lot of fundamentals.”

On if it’s fair to expect Jordan Bonner to make an early impact since he won’t be here until camp: “Every player is different. Like I said, Courtney was able to. So we’ll see when he gets here.”

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