Cats prepare for a typically fast Florida defense. UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran not buying talk across the SEC that the Gators are down.
Kim Klement/USA Today
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Spare him the stats. Save the scuttlebutt. Eddie Gran is having no part of the "Florida is vulnerable" talk leading up to Saturday's game at Kroger Field.
The Kentucky offensive coordinator said Tuesday that the Wildcats (3-0, 1-0 SEC) are preparing for the same big, fast, nasty defense they've seen for a long time.
"Really good up front, their front four and the depth there," Gran said. "Really stout at linebacker. They've got a great secondary. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
When it was noted that Florida is particularly young in the secondary and UK is experienced in the receiver corps, UK assistant coach Lamar Thomas said, "They're the University of Florida. We don't want to give them any bulletin talk. We don't want to give them anything to get all Gator-ish about.
"They're good players, and (UF defensive coordinator) Randy Shannon does a great job over there, an old teammate of mine."
Despite that characterization, the Gators (1-1, 1-0 SEC) rank 13th in the SEC in total defense (437.5 ypg), 13th in rushing defense (199.0 ypg) and 12th in scoring defense (26.5 ppg).
Florida lost eight starters from one of the nation's top defenses a year ago, and 16 players on the two-deep depth chart are either freshmen or sophomores.
Asked if he saw any weaknesses on film that UK might be able to exploit, Gran stood firm.
"In this league, I don't see a lot of weaknesses," he said. "We're going to have to create some stuff to get some yards, whether that be formationally or just coming off and whipping someone's tail. This is an SEC game, you know. I look at last year's game, and it wasn't so hot."
Kentucky had not yet hit its offensive stride last year when the Cats and Gators met at The Swamp in Week 2. Starting quarterback Drew Barker re-aggravated a back injury that would ultimately lead to surgery, backup Stephen Johnson was trust into a tough situation in one of the league's most hostile settings, and Benny Snell Jr. had yet to record a rushing attempt in his record-breaking freshman season.
The end result: Gators 45, Cats 7.
Kentucky ran 48 offensive plays, picking up 149 yards of total offense. It had as many pass completions (3) as interceptions.
Entering this year's matchup, Gran did concede that he's more focused on his personnel than that of Florida.
"It's about execution," he said. "We talked about it last week, make simple better. The cliche, it's always about us. We're going to have to finish, we're going to have to compete. And we're doing that right now. We're playing at a high level, meaning our intensity. We're giving effort. When you do that, you've got a chance."
* Gran said film review of the 23-13 win over South Carolina revealed the Cats were good but could have been even better. "We had a chance to be incredible, 12 out of 16 (on third down), if we had executed right." On the nine third-down conversions that UK did have, Gran said "We had 11 guys all doing the right thing."
* Junior running back Sihiem King touched the ball only once in the win over South Carolina, but it was a huge play, an 18-yard reception on third down that helped extend a scoring drive. Gran said he wants to get King more involved with the offense based on that playmaking ability, and that he's concerned about putting too heavy a load on Benny Snell Jr., who had 32 rushing attempts.
* Kentucky is still seeking a third running back to step up, Gran added. He noted that redshirt freshman A.J. Rose had a good practice Tuesday and freshman Bryant Koback has been "coming on strong."
* Sophomore offensive lineman Mason Wolfe, who has moved up on the depth chart at right guard, played a career-high 52 snaps at South Carolina. Gran praised his performance, noting that he was in the rotation on both of UK's long drives for touchdowns.
* Stephen Johnson was asked about the viral photo of him running with his tongue sticking out during the South Carolina game. According to the UK quarterback, the defensive back who was attempting to run him down, D.J. Smith, was one of the Gamecocks who refused to shake hands with the Cats during the pregame coin toss."