By LARRY VAUGHT
No disrespect to the Mississippi State defense, but Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran says he is more focused on the UK offense going into Saturday night’s game.
“This thing is going to totally be about us. We’ve got to take care of the football, we’ve got to make sure that we stay ahead of the chains. This will be about Kentucky football, that’s it,” said Gran Tuesday.
Kentucky is coming off a bye week. In its last game, the Cats rushed for almost 260 yards against a Vanderbilt defense that stymied the running attacks of both Florida and Georgia.
“In any offense you’ve got to run the ball first. You preach it, and I think our offensive line has done a really good job over the summer when we talked about the movement. I think they’re handling the movement better, and I think the backs are hitting it up in there,” Gran said.
“Benny (Snell) has done a good job in bringing some physicality along with Jojo (Kemp). I think the last three week’s he’s gotten better and he looks healthy. Then you’ve got Boom (Williams) who’s got the explosiveness and that really helps. You can do a lot of things formationally, you can do a lot of things to help the run game.
“We’ve got to do whatever it takes to win the game. It’s great because we have run the ball, but you can get in that situation where you don’t run it very well and you’ve got to throw it to be successful. So, we’re trying to take whatever they give us. We want to run the ball, but we also want to pass the ball and we’ve got to be successful and we’ve got to be efficient when we do that.”
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says the combination of maturity by both the running backs and offensive line has helped the running game. He says the inside linemen have some “physicality and experience” that helps them handle things that happen so quickly when the ball is snapped.
“People don’t realize all the different, how quickly things happen to a lineman and how quickly they respond. For the good majority of our guys, they’ve been around for awhile. They’re playing some football and they’re growing up. They’re learning how to play better at a higher level,” Stoops said.
It doesn’t hurt that UK has more depth in the offensive line and is regularly playing nine linemen.
“And the depth that comes in are big, physical guys. It’s nice to be able to bring them along and let them play 20 snaps a game instead of 60 and be the guy. They can come back and kind of look at the film. It’s nice to get some depth and they’re doing better and better,” Stoops said.
Bunchy Stallings has actually moved ahead of Ramsey Meyers into a starting spot at guard along with Nick Haynes.
“(Coach) John (Schlarman) has really done a good job of managing those guys. And they’re healthy. When you play 60, 70, 80 snaps, they’re pretty much splitting them. I think that’s been huge. We talked about that earlier: When you get to game six through 12, 13, that’s when this is really going to help us,” Gran said. “I think that’s been really good for us, for them to get series off and then to come back in. I think it keeps them hungry too.”