Cats Get What They Need from Fall Camp

Eddie Gran is known for his exacting standards. 

He asks a lot of his offense. And when he doesn’t get it, players hear about it.

So, was Kentucky’s fall camp up to his expectations? Did he get what he wanted out of the two-and-a-half weeks of work?

“Yeah, actually, got more,” Gran said. “Got more in terms of capacity of the install.”

Capacity has been the name of the game throughout camp, with Mark Stoops constantly preaching both to the media and in the locker room that his team must be able to handle more if the Wildcats are going to break through this season. On that front, camp has been a success.

“We have to be strong, and that’s what this camp was about,” Gran said. “It was us getting mentally strong. We have pushed them. Coach has almost doubled the impact on these guys from the past couple of years. That’s what he’s been talking about with capacity.”

The idea is that by building capacity and good habits now, game day becomes easier to handle.

“On Saturday, when we play Southern Miss and we continue the season – when crud hits the fan, we don’t panic,” Gran said. “We move. And I always talk about recovering, and we talk about short-term memories. That’s what I’ve seen. And we’ve been able to do that. Can we now do it when he create habits, and those habits come to the top when pressure comes? Hopefully, we’ve created enough habits now that we don’t worry about it.”

That – like everything else in the game of football – started up front.

“These guys have done a great job, as I’ve talked about, they’ve got to be a sponge,” Gran said. “But we’re really smart up front. Those guys really know what to do and they understand it. We can make adjustments. Coach (John) Schlarman’s done a great job, so we actually got a little bit more in.”

It's impossible to have enough depth along the offensive line, but good recruiting and a productive fall camp have helped UK reach a much better spot.

“We have a decent two-deep on the O-line,” Gran said. “John has done a nice job of moving guys around, if you’ve got an emergency situation. So he would put some guys at center, some guys at tackle. And we’ve been able to do that in camp, which you have to do.”

At the skill positions, UK might be in an ever better place from a depth perspective.

“I think the receivers and running back corps have really just pushed each other,” Gran said. “So, now, if somebody’s not getting it done, or they’re not doing it the right way or they’re not doing it our way, we can pull ‘em. And we can say, ‘Hey, you know what? If you don’t want to do it this way, then we’ll let another guys step up.’ And that’s a good thing.”

That’s a reflection in an attitude shift that’s taken place over the course of the last three-and-a-half years.

“I think it’s everybody collectively, with Coach Stoops and the culture,” Gran said. “He’s said it’s time. It’s time to grow up. It’s time to finish. He’s had a buttload of not, and you got to be accountable. And we’ve held them accountable. We’re going right from the head football coach.”

But before the Cats can finish, they have to start. Their first opportunity will come next Saturday against Southern Miss and coaches have already begun their preparation. After a break for the first day of classes on Wednesday, they’ll start readying their team.

“It’s about winning,” Gran said. “And, yeah, you can’t win ‘em all unless you win the first one. And we want to win this first one; we want to get started off on the right foot. We’re home, and that’s important. You want to get a win at home. So, pressure is what you put on yourself. We have to coach, get them ready to go, and hopefully we’ll be prepared and you’ll see that.”

Come Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m., there are no guarantees. Gran does feel good though.

“We do have tools,” Gran said. “The name of the game will be us being consistent. We can’t go two quarters sky high. And then the next two quarters, we don’t get a first down. You can’t do that. Your mindset has gotta be different.”