With seven practices officially complete, the UK football staff is starting to get a feel for the identity of this year’s team. But with the spring season just beginning and three totally inexperienced quarterbacks all getting reps, the team is still finding its footing. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran spoke with the media today to discuss the team’s first scrimmage and what they have to work on before their full-tackle scrimmage this Saturday.
The main takeaway? He’s seen “the good, the bad and the ugly.”
“The good was that when we were on third down, both groups were 60 percent. That’s a positive because we always talk about the ‘money downs,'” Gran said. “And we were pretty good at first-down efficiency. I thought their effort and their physicality was really good.”
Improving on third-down efficiency is vital for the Wildcats this year. Throughout both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, UK’s third-down conversion percentage was hovering under 40 percent. In last year’s bowl game against Northwestern, it was an incredibly low 10 percent. This is an area where the Cats can really improve, and it sounds as though they’ve been doing a good job of doing that so far this spring.
“We had two pre-snap penalties, which was awful,” Gran said. “One by an offensive lineman and the other one by our receivers. That was ridiculous, especially because we just got done talking about that.”
After a season plagued with mental errors, missed assignments and pre-snap penalties, this is an area in which the team absolutely has to improve. Although they’ve continued to make these mistakes so far this season, Coach Gran isn’t too worried at this point because “that’s what the spring is for.”
Thankfully, it looks as though the offense is working on correcting these mental lapses – Gran went on to discuss how the team recovered from both pre-snap penalties to secure the first downs.
Offensive lineman coach John Schlarman also touched on the “bad” aspects of spring football so far, but reiterated the team has been quick to correct their mistakes.
“Today and the last couple of practices, we’ve made progress and eliminated some of those mistakes,” Schlarman said. “We’re not seeing those [missed assignments]. When guys just bust assignments, you don’t even have a chance. If you get beat on technique or the guy just has a good pass/rush move or something like that, that’s a different deal all together. When you turn them free, that’s not good.”
“The ugly was two interceptions and a dropped ball in a critical situation. We had a lot of missed opportunities in the pass game.”
With such inexperienced quarterbacks, interceptions and a struggling pass game is understandable. With that being said, two interceptions is acceptable in a spring practice; two interceptions during a regular-season game is not. But, again, “that’s what the spring is for.”
The Cats will have another opportunity to put themselves to the test this Saturday, when the team is going through a full-tackle scrimmage. At that point, Gran says they’ll have a better idea of where they stand, and which “bad and ugly” aspects still need the most work.
“It’s encouraging because we’ve got a chance at being pretty good,” Gran said. “So we just have to get that cleaned up between now and Saturday. And then Saturday, when it’s full, live tackle, we’ve got to be able to execute and fix all of that stuff.”