Following Kentucky’s second practice of the week, Eddie Gran and a few offensive players met with the media. Although Gran was hesitant to share too much on the quarterback situation, Kentucky’s offensive coordinator liked what he saw in practice.
“It was a good practice, a lot of energy. You could really tell out of the bye week,” Gran said. “There was just a lot of juice today. It was great to see.”
A practice where the coaches stepped back to the sideline to make it more game-like, there were four things in particular that jumped out to Gran.
1. Chris Rodriguez Never Wavered
The redshirt freshman running back did not start the 2019 season off on the right foot. Even after a few minor setbacks, he continued to fight everyday in practice. That bled over into the South Carolina game. The game was all but a foregone conclusion, yet he still ran hard on the final fourth quarter drive, setting up a touchdown run, his first as a Wildcat.
“After those first two games, it was humbling for him,” Gran said. “He never wavered and all he’s done is gotten better every single game. I’m really excited about him. He’ll get in there. What he brings is that physicality, that move the pile, but I’m excited about him. He really pays attention to the details. I think in the next few weeks you’ll get to see him in some situations.”
The coaches rewarded Rodriguez’s efforts by giving him their weekly ‘pride’ award. I’m sure he’ll be even more grateful if his number is called more in the coming weeks.
2. Three Freshmen Impress in Bye Week
The Bye Week gave freshmen who will redshirt more opportunities to take live team snaps. It gave Gran and the rest of the coaches a chance to provide more feedback than usual, an important part of the development process.
“Coach talked about sowing your seeds. It’s hard for a redshirt freshmen because they don’t see those seeds growing. But with that young man I have seen it.”
That young man in particular is running back Travis Tisdale. Now that he knows what he’s doing, Gran sees a “night and day” difference in his play. The same also applies to tight end Nik Ognenovic and offensive guard Eli Cox. It may take some time before they see the field regularly, but they’re on the path to success.
3. Establishing the Run
Benny Snell could get the ground game going regardless of almost any scenario. Establishing the run game has been more difficult in 2019 and Gran blames himself.
“You’ve gotta have patience. I got a little impatient in the South Carolina game when we got stuffed. They (Carolina) did a good job with it, but if you go back and look at our first down stuff, we weren’t hateful,” said Gran. “I’m looking for answers. Is it the scheme? So we’ve talked about it as a group, everybody knows what we’ve gotta do. I’m excited about Saturday night.”
4. What Arkansas’ Defense Does Well
“They’ve gotten better each week. Their front seven is rock solid. Again, the SEC, it’s an unforgiving league. You gotta play well. You gotta strap it up,” Gran said.
Coached by John Chavis, the veteran defensive coordinator has been in the SEC since 1989, coaching at Tennessee, LSU, and Texas A&M before moving to Fayetteville. No stranger to Chavis, Gran knows what to expect from the Razorbacks’ defense.
“Players being at the right place at the right time. He’s going to have them playing hard. They play mistake-free for the most part. He does a fantastic job.”