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By LARRY VAUGHT
During his first six seasons at Kentucky, linebackers coach Chuck Smith went to five straight bowl games from 2006-2010. However, the last two years UK has won just six of of 21 games and is 1-8 this season after losing Saturday at Missouri. Smith won five straight state championships at Boyle County from 1999-2003 and made six straight state final appearances before he came to UK in 2005. He was named UK’s recruiting coordinator in 2009. He shared his thoughts on this season, his players and recruiting:
Question: Considering how much you value winning, how difficult has this season been?
Smith: “Obviously anybody that coaches or plays this game loves to compete and loves to win. It’s always our full intention to win, and is still our full attention now. Obviously, it hasn’t worked out the way we want it to work out. If you see the players giving it their all and making progress and getting better at their positions, it makes up for it. It makes you feel like you are headed in the right direction and doing the right things. You feel like they are responding to you, so we are inching towards what we want. But obviously it has not come fast enough for anybody that is a competitor. That is them, me and the rest of the coaches for that matter.”
Question: How have Avery Williamson, Bud Dupree and Miles Simpson, all guys that were starters in the spring but new starters this year, played overall?
Smith: “Avery just continues to get better. He is such a hard worker. He is just so committed and hungry to be the best he can be. We switched Bud’s position. He did all spring and all fall training camp as the rush linebacker and the first couple of games played there. Then we moved him after the second game to the Will linebacker. He has been a little slow to go at that. Slower than I want and slower than he wants. I have been on him that if you change positions and help the team out by doing that, now let’s do something with it and make the best out of it and work at it. Myles is way better than he was the first part of the season. He is really moving better. I really think he is a cold weather guy any way. Seriously, he gets physically exhausted so fast when it is hot or humid outside. When the weather is cool, he is really looks like a different guy. I don’t know why that is, but he’s that type of guy. He is moving around and having a really good year.”
Question: What have you seen from freshmen Khalid Henderson, Pancho Thomas and Josh Forrest?
Smith: “They are freshmen and play like freshmen and actually practice like freshmen, which is not an excuse or not acceptable. I think they have to pick their game up. All three do. Learn what it takes to play at this level. Learn what it takes to be great at this level. The game experience they are getting is valuable to them, but we are still a long terms away in that I have to know how to practice, I have to know how to prepare for a game. All those mental things that you deal with as a freshman. It’s not the best thing to do to have to depend on them. You don’t want to have to depend on them. You want to be able to use them like we have been.”
Question: Since you had not returning starting linebackers this season and UK will have its top eight linebackers all back next year, what does that say about the future?
Smith: “Hopefully they are better. That’s the plan. I see them all working harder. They have practiced well. After we took that woodshed whipping that Arkansas gave us, they have kind of responded. They have come back and worked hard and practiced hard. That’s a good sign when they respond. They are competitors, too.”
Question: Has the losing record impacted recruiting at all?
Smith: “No, not to this point. The players committed to us and players we have been recruiting since the summer have all been positive and all are staying up with us and continuing to follow us and continuing to support us. It hasn’t been negative at all to this point.”