By LARRY VAUGHT
Running back Jonathan George believes he has the versatility and experience that will enable him to fit into Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown’s offense. He’s rushed for 737 yards — 4.4 per carry — and six touchdowns and caught 23 pases for 233 yards and another score. But he was a state high school champion in both track and wrestling in Alabama as well as a two-way performer in football. He has played in 34 games with seven starts in three years at UK.
“I can run with power, catch the ball and my blocking has dramatically improved,” said the senior running back. I really believe I can do good things this year and fit great into this offense.”
Here’s what George had to say about practice, the offense, Brown and more.
Question: What excites you about spring practice?
George: “It is open competition. Nobody has a set position. Whoever works the hardest and best will get it. It is a new coaching staff with a fresh start for everybody. Nobody has a set position, so we are going to come out and work for it and that’s great.”
Question: Are you happy with your receiving skills and how they fit into this offense?
George: “I am. I think I have pretty decent hands. It is just working in the offseason and catching extra balls to help myself to be in better position to catch the ball.”
Question: How is practice different than what it was before?
George: “Just a little bit more up tempo. The coaches have high expectations for us and expect us to come out and play fast and fly around the field. There are a lot of guys stepping in and working hard, not just the guys who will be seniors. We have high intensity as players and coaches. We have goals set after last season to be a lot better.”
Question: What did you think of offensive coordinator Neal Brown on the field?
George: “He’s a very intense guy. He has very high expectations of us, too. Everybody is working hard, but he’s the head man of the offense and we are listening to what he tells us to do and trying to be on point with everything.”
Question: Is Brown a yeller/screamer?
George: “He can be loud. He is a very vocal guy, but that is what you need on the field. We know what he expects out of us and we are attacking it.”
Question: Do running backs like this offense?
George: “It is a great offense. It’s not just a passing offense. It’s a running offense as well. This offense gives us the opportunity to take advantage of both aspects, running and passing. If you are doing it correctly and running at the tempo you need it, it can be a highly successful offense both ways.”
Question: It is an easy offense to learn?
George: “If you study it, it is not too hard. It’s just a process right now because you are thinking on the field and adjusting to the new plays and new tempo. The tempo is probably the biggest adjustment. The offense is not too hard if you study it, but there is plenty of installation every day and every day it is something new. It is up to the player himself how he studies it and if you study it enough, it will be easy.”
Question: Does it help that UK ran some up tempo offense last year?
George: “I feel like it does because we have an idea what they want from us and how it goes. The tempo is very fast and you have to have great conditioning.”
Question: What do you expect out of this quarterback battle?
George: “They are all great quarterbacks. They will all compete and coaches will make the right decision.”
Question: How different is the team attitude this year?
George: “It is just different. With the losses we had last year, a few players were kind of down about it. We are all coming out with new attitudes and just attacking it every day whether it is in the film room or the weight room or on the field.”
Question: Doesn’t this offense expect to gain big yards running the ball?
George: “It is a great offense. I love this offense. You can take advantage of running. If you do it great, you can run the ball.”
Question: What was running backs coach Chad Scott like on the field compared to the meeting room?
George: “He’s laid back but on the field he is the same as coach Brown and all the coaches. They are all very vocal. They are pushing us all to be great, and that’s what we need to be great.”
Question: Are you in better shape physically than a year ago?
George: “We changed how we eat and doing a lot of things to take care of our body. We have even learned more about how important it is to get sleep.”