Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: With Gran on scrimmage video, offensive line chatter and more


On what he saw from scrimmage film: “That’s right, I haven’t talked to you since the scrimmage, huh? I loved the third-down conversions we had, kept the ball moving, had a lot of really good competitive catches and throws and really good protection. I was a little disappointed in our third-and-short stuff. We had to go for it on fourth down six times. But we were five of six on fourth down, so that was encouraging because we always talk about recovering. We always talk about going onto the next play. We were in that part of the field where we could go for it and we executed. So there were positives in that. We can’t not get a third-and-1, that’s ridiculous. We have to be 100 percent on that. I thought Drew (Barker) was efficient. I thought Drew knew where to go with the ball. I thought we caught the ball well. I thought we ran the ball well at the point of attack. We have a long way to go, but it was exciting for the first scrimmage. We’re so far ahead of where we ended spring. And that’s where we want to be in the first scrimmage of camp.”

On how he feels about offensive tackles now: “Better than the spring. They did a lot of work this summer. We really wanted to make sure the speed rush, the up and under stuff that we were getting those guys contained. You saw in the spring game, that wasn’t so good at times. They’re getting better but with a lot of work left to do.”

On offensive line assessment: “We’ve got good depth and that’s exciting. We’ve gotta keep moving some guys around, develop a third tackle. George (Asafo-Adjei) has been out there a little bit. So at certain parts in team, we’re moving him out there, just to be sure. Landon (Young) is getting some work over there. He keeps developing. I think that group is really smart. I like them. You can tell them one thing and they do everything they can to get it fixed. You don’t have to keep correcting it. I really like that group. They’ve done a nice job. We were a little sluggish today. You could tell we’re about No. 10 or 11 (practice) now. We were on the ground more today than we’ve ever been. Coach addressed that and that’s where we’ve got to change. That’s where we’ve got to be tougher. They’ve done that. It’s been so far, so good. It’s going to be good to get their bodies right now and then come out for a double day tomorrow. It’s our third double day and they’ve got to push through. This is where we’re going to find out and define our football team as Coach Stoops said. That’s been the challenge to all of them.”

On guy who has been steady all camp: “You know what? I think (Jon) Toth for sure. He hasn’t missed a snap, hasn’t missed anything. A couple of our guys have had cramps, gone out and he’s the workhorse. He’s that guy. Drew’s led pretty well, just going out there. We always talk about playing in the game, every snap every rep that you’re playing the game at quarterback. I would say Jon Toth. He’s our dude.”

On Dorian Baker: “(He had) another great play out here today. A little bit of inconsistency, but he’s playing faster than he’s ever played. He’s trying to play more physical than he’s ever played. And you get banged up out there and you’ve gotta fight through it. He’s gotta get through the whole camp. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m looking for him to finish the camp and getting into the season so we can count on him. But right now, boy, he’s done a good job.”

On how he’s changed his approach: “Well, I don’t know. I guess since I’ve gotten here, it’s just everybody’s the same. You know what I mean? There can’t be anybody different. I don’t care who you are if you’re the starter or the fourth-team guy, we’re trying to make it in the culture coach talks about it’s team. You know, I talked about that early that we’ve got to be on the same page, no selfish players and all together. I think that’s what we’re creating, you know? Nobody. You can’t be late to meetings. You can’t not do the things we’re asking you to do and I think that’s what we’re getting right now. I really feel like it’s becoming a really tight-knit group and they’re getting tougher. I love that.”

On how much having depth helps with that: “I think there’s a fine line. I think there’s a fine line, there’s no question.”

On freshman RBs playing: “I would say it’s too soon to tell. I would say Benny (Snell) right now is really trying to make a move. He’s done a really good job of understanding what’s going on in the offense, and he’s shown that he can be physical. But again, we’ve got another scrimmage, so I’m looking forward to Saturday when the lights are on and we crank it up and everything is in. But right now, he’s done a really good job. A.J. (Rose) is still going and still learning, but talent-wise, I’m really excited about him. I think they both have the talent to be SEC running backs.”

On how many backs he can play: “I don’t even – you’ve got to have five healthy ones all the time. We’re not going to play five. If two are going and they’re getting it done, we’ll go with two. If we need three, we’ll take three.”

On Kayaune Ross: “He has, the last probably two days, you can see he’s starting to pick up the offense. Love his big body. He had two really good catches in the scrimmage, a good touchdown where you can see you’ve got the one-on-one mismatch. Gave him a chance to catch the ball. So his is going to be, like any transfer, about learning the offense, learning how to play at this tempo. Sometimes you don’t play at this tempo, how fast the bullets fly. I think he’s really improving, and he’s got to continue to do that for him to be on the field for us. He might be one that, I don’t know, we’ll see how it goes: If he’s ready, maybe he gets some snaps; if not, might be the sixth game before he helps us. But that’ll all be on him as he progress.”

On the plan for easing Boom back into action: “Yeah, so far he’s been in everything. He’s getting whacked around. He’s in blitz drill now, everything. We’re just moving forward each day as it goes, and Coach Stoops makes the decision on where we’re going to go with the next step.”

On Sihiem King: “Good. Started out slow. He had a death in the family, and then he came back, missed a couple days. I think he is now back to where he was before spring. He really looked good the last – probably his last three practices. He looked like he did in the spring. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but he came back and he was sluggish, didn’t like where he was at. I like where he’s at right now.”

On Stephen Johnson: “He struggled a little bit in the scrimmage at times making the decisions, finding his check-downs, overthrowing people, over-striding, but he did some things that guy can do in open field, making plays, scrambling, running the ball. Then he made some plays. Just what I would say right now is inconsistency with him. If he picks that up, we’ve just got to get him a little bit more fine-tuned for Stephen.”

On if he was surprised Mikel Horton came back to practice so quickly: “Uh uh. You don’t play here – can’t make the club in the tub. You’ve got those two freshmen wanting all their jobs, if I’m a running back right now I’m not missing practice. That’s the last thing I’m going to do. Right? That’s the great thing about competition. It’s so awesome. You ain’t making the club in the tub.”

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