Just before Kentucky kicked off at Missouri, the BBN found out long-time offensive line coach John Schlarman was unable to make the trip. The former Wildcat has courageously battled cancer alongside the team. Saturday’s trip to Columbia was his first absence since he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer two years ago.
“It’s been incredibly difficult. You miss the heck out of him. I think that goes for our whole team. I think we all miss him. We all just want the best for him and for him to be better,” said senior offensive guard Luke Fortner.
Without Schlarman, Kentucky’s offense struggled mightily at Missouri. The Big Blue Wall accepted all of the responsibility for the offense’s woes. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said the group is embracing the challenge to right the ship.
“Big men lead the way. It starts up there. It was everybody, it’s not just one thing, but I can promise you as I talked to the O-line, they know and they want it on their shoulders. They do, they want it. We’ve got to be better there. We’ve gotta get better in a lot of places, but if we get better there, we’re going to be just fine.”
Kentucky’s offensive line will undergo the tall task of opening holes against the SEC’s best defense. It’s even more challenging without Schlarman at practice. In his absence, Drake Jackson has acted as a sort of player-coach, collaborating with Gran and graduate assistants to make sure the Big Blue Wall is ready to play Saturday.
“It’s kind of funny to see all that he knows because he’d keep his mouth shut when Coach Schlarman was talking. Now he’s telling you everything. ‘Wait a minute, I thought that’s what Schlarman would say?’ You can tell that he’s worked really hard to get to the point where he’s at. He understands things your average starter doesn’t. He’s a smart guy and works his butt off,” said Fortner.
“Thankfully we’ve got a class of really experienced guys and I think you could sit Drake (Jackson) up in his chair and he could probably tell you exactly what Schlarman would say on every single play in every single piece of tape we watch. I think that’s a real positive thing. We’re just pulling for him and we’re going to do just okay without him.”