Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Eddie Gran discusses Kentucky’s first full day in pads, leadership, competition


On offense’s day: “Fantastic. No rain.”

On first day in full pads: “Yeah, first day in full pads. Install No. 5 with more install going in. Thought they handled it really well. I thought they came out with energy after five days of practice and executed really, really well today. I was excited about it.”

On how much credit Drew Barker gets for keeping guys involved all summer: “That’s their job. Everybody was a part of that this summer. The first meeting we talked to them about we’ve got high expectations for this offense. With high expectations, you’ve got to pay a price and we believe they can do it, but now it’s about coming out here. And like coach talked about the fine strokes and you have the fine strokes. Then with the fine strokes, that’s the detail. What I saw today was the detail. Now with that comes the consistency part. If we can be consistent and do it, we’ve got a chance. We can’t be up and down as an offense throughout the year or you’ve got no chance. There’s going to be some highs and lows in the game, but you’ve got to be consistent when you’re doing it and recover in that short-term memory.”

On specific number of wide outs in a rotation: “You’ve got to play the best ones, the ones who are producing and that’s what we’re finding out right now. The one thing we have right now that’s a great thing at the wide receiver position is we’ve got guys who are competing. They’re competing to get on the field and they’re competing at the running back position to get on the field. Justin Riggs is pushing Greg Hart and C.J. (Conrad) to get on the field. It’s awesome. When you do that, you’ve got a chance. Landon Young’s pressing our guys to go out there and play. And when you have competition, then that’s what is going to make a better football team. And I think they’ve done a great job here of recruiting to make it so you do have competition.”

On what he likes about freshman TE Justin Rigg: “Soft hands, listens, loves the game, will stick (his) face in there. He’s 6-whatever … a hundred and 240 and can run. All those things I love.”

On Nebraska TE Greg Hart: “It’s interesting: Greg can run. He can run pretty well. He’s really good in and out of his breaks. They (him and C.J. Conrad) bring two guys that are athletic, that like each other and I think they push each other. I think that’s what makes them have fun every day and compete.”

On any two-TE sets: “No. (Facetiously).”

On if he feels good about the position even with Darryl Long transferring: “Can’t have enough tight ends. That’s the one of the toughest athletes to recruit, the tight end: big, tall guy that can have athleticism and run and do things in space. But yeah, we’ll be OK. We’ve got some fullback-type guys, bodies, that can do the same thing. So that works out.”

On what about Landon Young has stood out: “You know freshmen, I’m not going to jump on any wagon there yet. He’s got a lot going on with all the calls and everything, but boy you can see his athleticism. Saw a lot of toughness in him. It’s hard when the first couple days you go with no pads and then they put the pads on and you can just see he’s not backing down. He’s honing his craft, and I love that. He’s a good football player.”

On how much install is left: “Really today is our five installs and we’ve got it all in – third down, red zone – but we told you at the beginning that we’re going to challenge them. So tomorrow’s going to be interesting, because we’ve got a double day and we’re still installing another day. We’ve got another something that they have not done; they didn’t do it in the summer and they didn’t do it last spring. This is stuff from study that we felt like we could do and we were going to try it. So we’ve got some stuff that we’re going to put in tomorrow that will be interesting to see how they handle it, because now you’re putting new stuff in, and now we’re going to go back to install one and five, and now it’s a jumble of everything. And now we’ll see where they’re at.”

On if it’s a whole-part-whole philosophy: “Absolutely. You know, you can do it either way. You can throw it all up on the wall and see what sticks or baby them and say, ‘Hey, here you go, here you go.’ I’ve just been with guys and different coordinators that I grew up with – they threw it all up there and said, ‘Hey, let’s go.’ Then when we get ready two weeks out, let’s look at our cutups, let’s see what we’re doing well, what’s our best personnel, and then go from there.”

On if he has to adapt that philosophy to strengths of his players: “Personnel, absolutely. We’ve got to see what our personnel can do. What are we most successful at? What plays? It might be a scheme. Just take it out. Might be good against our defense right now but whoever we’re playing that week might not run that certain defense. That scheme is not good, so let’s take it out, those things that aren’t good against that and let’s put in the rest of it that we thought works against that defense and then go.”

On how Drew Barker has been throwing: “Good, on target. The last two days have been really good. Getting up in that 70 percentile, 68, 69, 70. If you’re there, you’re doing well. Those are in team, live-type team situations. So, he was a little low at the beginning. Shoulder pads on since April, you know. But yeah, last two days he’s been on target. Stephen (Johnson) has been on target too. I’ve been happy with him too in terms of his percentage of target throws.”

On Kayaune Ross: “Well, he’s lost a little bit, but he’s trying. He’s that big body that you love at the receiver position. And I tell you, he’s got more explosion than I thought. But he’s just kind of trying to feel and get back into it. He’s so far behind. Hopefully we can get him ready and he’s a guy that can help us, whether it be game three or game six. If he can be ready, then we’ll put him in there, but we want to make sure he’s ready.”

On if he’s seen an evolution in Jojo Kemp’s leadership: “Evolution is interesting with Jojo because he’s got to learn – you’ve got to know when to turn it on and turn it off in terms of when you’re going to have fun. Jojo, as you know, he likes to have fun and laugh. But when Jojo gets out here he practices, he gets after it. He and I are just kind of getting to know each other of when he needs to be like that and not be like that. He tries with the team. He is trying to be a leader, but he's just got to understand me and my personality because when we get out here it's different. When we're in our meeting room and we're going through things let's find – I laugh out here and we have a good time, but when we get inside the white lines, it's time to go to work.”

On if there's a player that mirrors his personality:That's a good question. I don't know. I don't know who that would be. (Maybe you're one of a kind.) No, I'm a little crazy. I lose it out there a little bit. You know, with the intensity, I like Nick (Haynes) and Jon (Toth) at the O-Line. They're locked in, everything that you do. You can hear them talking to the O-Line when something's not going right. So I'd say those two guys. They might not get as vocal as I do, but when they talk, they listen, and I think that's what you need.”

On what he saw from Boom Williams on his first day back in pads in a while:“I've been excited about Boom, what he's doing. He's running the ball vertical. It's got to be one cut and it's got to be vertical. We can't go side to side, now. Not in this league. If he wants to play at the next league, he better learn how to get vertical. That's what he's doing and he's dropping pad, and I'm excited where he's at right here.”

On what he's seen from Barker in the huddle:Well, I think what he's doing right now is he's managing everybody. If somebody's not lined up right, he now knows – 'Hey hey, c'mon, get over there. We got motion. You're starting there, coming this way.' And that's what he's got to do. If that back's on the wrong side, 'Hey, c'mon, (swishing sound).' We didn't see that much in the spring and I'm asking him to be more vocal that way because if the back's on the wrong side eventually it's gonna be him that gets his rear end knocked into the dirt. So he's got to be in control and he's got to know it all. “

On the competition at guard: “It's awesome. It really is. They're battling, and not only at the guard, though, but we're gonna move guys around. We're gonna put guys out from guard maybe out to tackle, because you got to develop three our four tackles, so that's what we're gonna do in the next – Coach Schlarman's doing that in some one-on-one drills and so forth. We'll start adding those guards to go out to tackle in team drills where they can get some live stuff.”