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By LARRY VAUGHT
Junior safety Ashley Lowery was fifth on the team in tackles (43) last year despite missing four games due to injury and believes he can have a much better season for Kentucky next season under new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot. He has 59 tackles in 20 career games and feels he had a “great” spring practice to get him ready for UK’s first season under coach Mark Stoops.
Question: How do you like D.J. Eliot’s defense?
Lowery: “It is kind of different from the past defense, but it is a lot more simple so you can play a lot faster and not think as much. You just go, know your assignment and trust the other 10 people on the field.”
Question: What do you spend your summer months working on?
Lowery: “You just continue battling, working in the weight room and coming out every day trying to get faster. Work on footwork, loosening your hips. Being a DB (defensive back), flip your hips more to run with the receivers because the speed in the SEC is different and you really have to be out there and be ready. Then be in good shape because you have to be able to run all day being a DB. Just be prepared for anything really.”
Question: Do you feel better about this new staff now that you have been through spring practice?
Lowery: “I feel really good. The coaches push you every day and demand enthusiasm and being tough and physical. That’s what we need to be as a team to compete in the SEC, so we have to keep working on that hard as a unit to come together.”
Question: What did you do to catch the coaches’ eyes that have them so high on you?
Lowery: “I just come out and work hard every day and try to have a smile on my face and show body language that is good. I tried to step in and help lead because I am coming into my junior year. I am trying to step up and be a leader on the team. Not only sit back and do my role, but bring along the young kids.”
Question: After two years with no bowls and last year’s 2-10 finish, do you see things getting better team-wise?
Lowery: “We have a lot of time for improvement. We have three or four months before first game. We have to work hard in the summer and then going into fall ball we have to continue to work hard and battle and see what happens the first game.”
Question: How much better could the UK offense be next season based on what you saw in the spring?
Lowery: “A lot more better. Receivers are more confident in themselves running in and out of routes. The quarterbacks are seeing everything a lot better and making the good throw and smart passes. The offensive line has worked on footwork a lot and gotten that down. I feel like we will be pretty good. The running backs are good. With Raymond Sanders, JonJon George and Josh Clemons coming back, we will good in the backfield because all three of them have played before and know what it is like to keep coming out and fighting.”
Question: How different is the tempo of the offense this year compared to last year?
Lowery: “It is real different. Like last year I felt like they wanted to do a fast tempo but they didn’t … when they did, they could move the ball. But they didn’t do it much. This year they are doing it every time so they can move the ball pretty much at will. But you have to be willing to sacrifice your body to step in and make the catch across the middle and what not to make a play for the team and offense.”
Question: Did practicing against that fast tempo help the defense?
Lowery: “It helps a lot. We have to be able to get the call, turn back and read the offense to see what they are in and make our checks. It helps so that when you come up against a slower paced offense, we are a fast paced defense based on what our offense does and that helps us so we are moving fast and they will have to play to our tempo.”
Question: Will that eliminate a lot of the on-field communication problems from last year that often led to the defense not getting lined up right?
Lowery: “We just had a lot of different settings and defenses last year. By the time everybody would realize the formation and make a check because we had like three or four different calls going into one thing, it was confusing.”