Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A: Gran discusses putting finishing touches on offense before opener


On if he’s ready to score 50 points on Saturday: “One more than the other team.”

On what stands out about the Southern Miss defense:Their athleticism, their front. They’ve got a lot of guys that can rush the passer. I think they’re gonna be quick. I think they’ve got a lot of depth there. And then their free safety (D’Nerius Antoine), I think is a really good player. He’s a good tackler and he’s one that we’re gonna have to account for.”

On if he has seen Jojo Kemp understand being a leader these last few weeks:“I have. Yeah, absolutely. He’s really trying. He probably has been the most consistent back throughout this camp. He’s doing everything that we’re asking him to do, and he’s understanding when to turn it on and turn it off, and that’s what I asked him to do and he did it.”

On what he likes about Kemp as a runner:He’s a little deceiving. Sometimes you look at Jojo and it looks like he’s a little hurt. It looks like he’s an old man. But he does have some burst to him. I like his toughness. I like that he’s gonna – if you’re an offensive lineman and you gotta guy that’s gonna go and he’s gonna get those extra yards for you, that’s what you’re looking for. He’s a perfectionist. He really wants to do everything right. So you have a chance. You know you’re gonna get everything from him.”

On if he’s satisfied with what he’s seen from Dorian Baker of late:Well, I haven’t seen him in the last 10 days, so up until then – I guess it hasn’t been 10 days. I can’t even remember now. I don’t know what day it is. Up until he was out for a few days? He was as good as we got. He was practicing fast and physical, competing and doing everything we asked him to do.”

On Tavin Richardson stepping up in case Baker isn’t 100 percent:It’s awesome. It’s the great thing that we have right now, right? Right now, Tavin’s the guy. You just got to move forward. You can’t worry about it. You’ve had some competition and those guys get the opportunity. He’s made the most of it. He’s gone out here and competed and so I’m proud for him. I really am.”

On if he’s antsy before his first game at Kentucky:Ahh, no. I mean, you know what? There’s a plan. I really believe that. For me, it becomes my faith and everything that I try to do. I’m gonna give my best, this team’s gonna give their best and we’re all in. The nerves and all that, yeah, they come. I don’t want to coach anymore if I don’t get up on Saturday and I got some issues. Like I said, I try to hammer ‘em during the week and then on game day, we know what to do. Now let’s go have fun. This is where you get to – and that’s the best thing about college football – you get to have so much fun on Saturday. I think this atmosphere – I can’t wait for that. First game here at the University of Kentucky, I’m really excited.”

On the relationship between Drew Barker and receivers and how it’s come together:Probably consistency. You got guys now that were throwing and catching a little bit more consistent. I think that was something that when we came from the spring that needed to get done. I just see guys not being selfish.”

On utilizing big receivers and height advantage: “I think you have to. You have to throw the deep post; you’ve got to throw the short posts. You’ve got to throw the slants. When you’re in the red zone, you’ve got to be able to catch a fade and absolutely. Those tall guys you can do that, use the inside guys for speed vertically down the field and stretch them horizontally, so love those big receivers out there, to try and bang them. Sometimes you can have a guy right on you with those big guys and they can basketball you and that, but you’ve got to catch them. You’ve got to compete. That’s what I think I’ve seen from them. They’ve made competitive catches and now they’ve got to do it when the lights are on.”

On what he means by guys not being selfish: “There’s one football and there’s going to be a time when Juice (Garrett Johnson) and Jeff Badet catch two balls in a game and you know what? The next week they’re going to catch eight. How are they going to act after they catch two? How are they going to act after they catch one and we win the game? Then there’s going to be that time. Maybe you lose that game. What’s our reaction going to be. That’s what I’m looking forward to. You’ve got to move on. You’ve got to be able to have a short-term memory and go to the next game. I want to see them when they don’t get the ball, are they running? Are they sprinting? Are they helping out their partner? When we get -- and that’s what’s happening right now -- I’m really exciting. They have bought in. And Saturday night there’s going to be some times when it’s not going to be so fun. There’s going to be some ups and downs. That’s what I can’t wait for: How are we going to respond to the downs?”

On what he will be looking for from Drew Barker in pregame: “You never know, you know what I mean? We’re going to keep him relaxed. Hopefully we’ve gotten him ready to go. Friday night when we get done, when we get done with our last walk through on Saturday, he knows exactly where to go with the ball. Coach Hinshaw’s done a fantastic job. Now it’s time to go play. I’m excited for him. I think we’re right where we need to be. We’ve got a couple more days to put the finishing touches on it, but I’m excited where we’re at.”

On install and prep for this game compared to when he started at Cincinnati: “Night and day just because we’re so much further ahead here. It was hard. We didn’t know who we were. Going into it at Cincinnati, we went one way and it really was the other way in terms of personnel. So we had to switch midstream, but we did that and when we did that, we were successful. We feel like we’ve gotten enough now that we know who we are personnel wise and so we were able to add a little bit more and create a bigger package.”

On running back rotation, number of guys: “I think there’s a chance to see shoot maybe even if we get enough plays to see where we are to maybe see all five of them. I don’t know that for a fact. We’ll see what the first call is and who that first person is going to be and we’ll go from there. I don’t know whether to add too many you look at last year and you kind of gauge how many guys really played a full game anyway. How many guys can really go 50, 60, 70 plays? I’m not sure we’re there yet. I’d like to by the end of game 13. But right now if they’re fresh and they know what to do, I say ‘Let’s go.’ And in the fourth quarter, let’s hope our legs are fresher than theirs.”

On debate between him and Darin Hinshaw about plays that will work, etc.: “It’s already done during the week. As much as you can. Statistically and what’s going on and what you see and we’ll change depending on what they’ll give us in terms of the data that we have.”

On if he and Darin Hinshaw disagree on plays that might work against a team: “Sometimes, yeah. It’s good stuff. It’s healthy to be like that, but we don’t sit there and spend an hour talking about something. I think that’s wasted time. I think when we really get onto it, we talk, we make our points, we ask everybody else to be involved. I think that’s very important. We try to get it knocked out within a reasonable time, because you can sit there and you can talk about one play or one defense for an hour and a half and it’s ridiculous. I’ve been to that meeting before, and it’s not fun. So, be efficient. I think that’s what we are. And, ‘What can our kids handle?’ I think that’s the most important thing.”

On if he’s found his third and fourth offensive tackles: “Yes. Coach Schlarman has done a great job. When he comes and you get a chance to visit with him, we’ve really moved a lot of guys there with George (Asafo-Adjei). We’ve even switched Kyle (Meadows) to both sides and we’ve put…(Nick) Haynes has been out there a little bit. So we’ve had about a four-man rotation just in case there was an emergency.”

On what he sees from Southern Miss defensive scheme from watching Alcorn State tape: “Well, they’re very multiple in what they’re doing. They’re in an odd front, jumped into an even front. So, I think we’re going to get multiple stuff. We’re going to get stuff we haven’t seen. That’s when you hope your rules hold up and that you’ve prepared them. What you don’t want to do is chase ghosts. You can sit out there – that’s the hardest thing about this week. We’ve had our game plan in for awhile. You sit there and you look and you look and you look and you say, ‘Maybe we should be doing more of this and more of that.’ Well, we’re not going to do that. We’re going to have to adjust on the sideline -- that’s our job at halftime – and give our kids a chance. That’s the bottom line: Let’s give our kids a chance.”

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