Each season begins with unknowns. How will the players react in a live 11-on-11 setting? Are they ready for a gameday distractions? What kind of new wrinkles will the opponent add to their scheme? Those are some of the questions the coaches typically ask before each season opener. This year, Kentucky’s offensive coordinator is just hoping they make it to the season opener.
“Just getting to the 26th with a full group, that would be one of the unknowns with everything going on. You really have to sit down and think about it,” Eddie Gran said on Tuesday.
“You have to prepare, move guys around. If somebody gets tagged (with COVID-19) and can’t get on the plane, there’s just a number of things you have to think about. If I do, who calls the game? How does it all work? That’s probably the biggest fear.”
Today marked the first day where the bricks of the Big Blue Wall were re-stacked. Darian Kinnard moved from right tackle to right guard, then got reps at left tackle. Backup center Quintin Wilson played guard, right guard Luke Fortner played center and Drake Jackson got reps at guard.
“We’re just seeing kind of what the best fit is,” Gran said.
The same applies even more so to the receivers. Josh Ali has already learned the inside and outside positions. Allen Dailey was moved inside, while Clevan Thomas worked outside.
“If you’re not consistent you get moved down the next day and let the next guy try it. There’s a lot of competition right now from all of them.”
The same cannot be said about the running backs. There’s really only one position for them to play. To ensure one positive COVID-19 test does not take down the entire group, Chris Rodriguez said they’ve taken precautions.
“In the locker room, no one’s near another running back, just in case one of of us was to fall and take two weeks off, he wouldn’t take the whole group down, so we’re all scattered around the locker room,” Rodriguez said. “There’s really no way you can prepare for that because you never know when it’s going to come, when it’s going to happen. All you can do is hope for the best.”
While preparing for all of the uncertainties, Kentucky must keep Auburn in its crosshairs, a team that has a new offensive coordinator (former Arkansas head coach Chad Morris) and a plethora of new personnel on defense.
“It’s an SEC opponent,” said Gran. “It’s going to be a dogfight. It’s going to be a grind. It’s on the road and it’s a top ten team.”
Room to Improve in Scrimmages
Gran described Kentucky’s first fully padded scrimmage as “okay.” UK’s offense moved the ball fine, until they reached the red zone.
“I didn’t like the way we finished. We moved the ball decent inside the 20s and we kicked some field goals. We gotta get those converted into touchdowns,” he said.
“I liked the way Terry, for the first time in a long time he was in the pocket with bullets and he looked very comfortable. That was really good to see. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. We gotta be more consistent. I get it. It was the first scrimmage, so I’m not gonna panic yet. But offense is about execution and we just gotta be better at that this next Saturday.”
Benefits of Tae Kwon Do in the Trenches
Long before offensive guard Kenneth Horsey was playing football, he practiced martial arts. Initially, Tae Kwon Do was just another extracurricular activity to keep young Horsey busy. Years later the lessons he learned are paying dividends on the offensive line.
“I’ve been working on my athleticism and having light feet, having strong hands and having a strong mind for years before I even got here. Now the things I’m learning are just more of a reinforcement of what I’ve been taught and it shows me that the teachings that I was learning then, they’re all true.”
Too many running backs?
After Gran heaped praise on JuTahn McClain, one has to wonder how UK’s offensive coordinator can share the carries. Chris Rodriguez isn’t worried about all of the right now.
“We got a lot of competition in the room. It’s nobody’s job yet, so we’re all working and we all make each other better,” the redshirt sophomore said.
“We play ten SEC games this year. We’re going to need everybody. If their time comes where they need to step up, they’re going to be ready.”