LEXINGTON, Ky. – The general impression new Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran has given since arriving in January is that he takes no (expletive redacted). From anyone, including the star quarterback, running back or wide receiver. And he expects things done his way, or else.
“He’s really nit-picky about doing everything perfectly,” tight end C.J. Conrad said. “He wants everything perfect, because those small things add up to big things. That’s what we respect about him.”
The same is true of co-coordinator and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw, who came with Gran from Cincinnati.
“Sometimes we get a little frustrated, because we feel like we throw a good ball, but if it’s not completed, to him, it’s not a good ball,” starting QB Drew Barker said. “Sometimes it can be frustrating, but we know he’s pushing us to be the best. It’s really helped us out a lot. We’re aiming smaller because we want to make sure the throw is perfect.
“In previous years, maybe we make a throw that we think is a good throw, but it’s not completed, maybe we wouldn’t have gotten punished or yelled at.”
Those days are over, and this staff plays no favorites.
“There can’t be anybody different,” Gran said. “I don’t care who you are, if you’re the starter or the fourth-team guy, we’re trying to make it the culture Coach (Mark Stoops) talks about: it’s team.”
More on that mentality and Day 12 of the Wildcats’ preseason camp here:
- How did junior running back Mikel Horton come back so quickly from what looked like a significant ankle injury in Saturday’s scrimmage? No choice. “Can’t make the club in the tub,” Gran said. “You’ve got those two freshmen wanting all their jobs. If I’m a running back right now, I’m not missing practice. … That’s the great thing about competition. It’s so awesome.”
- Horton already has Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp ahead of him, and 5-foot-11, 220-pound freshman Benny Snell is “really trying to make a move,” Gran said. “He’s done a really good job of understanding what’s going on in the offense and he’s shown that he can be physical.” Fellow freshman A.J. Rose (6-1, 200) is “still learning, but talent-wise, I’m really excited about him. I think they both have the talent to be SEC running backs.”
- Williams was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage and his contact was limited early in camp after offseason elbow surgery, but Gran said “he’s been in everything” this week, “getting whacked around; he’s in blitz drill now, everything.” That’s a positive sign for UK’s biggest playmaker.
- Gran feels much better about his offensive tackles than he did during the spring, improving against speed rushes off the edge. As the Cats look for a third tackle, their universal backup outside, sophomore George Asafo-Adjei and 5-star freshman Landon Young are getting a lot of work, Gran said.
- Who is the offense’s most consistent guy so far in camp? Center Jon Toth “for sure,” Gran said. “He hasn’t missed a snap, hasn’t missed anything. He’s the workhorse. He’s that guy.” Barker has also continued to encourage the coaching staff with his leadership skills.
- One negative: the offense struggled on several third-and-short situations in the first scrimmage and had to go for it on fourth down six “We were 5 of 6 on fourth down, so that was encouraging,” Gran said, but “we can’t not get a third-and-1. That’s ridiculous. We have to be 100 percent on that.”
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