Gran Keeping the Pressure on ahead of South Carolina
Kentucky might have exploded for 62 points and nearly 700 yards on Saturday, but Eddie Gran isn't taking his foot off the pedal when it comes to pushing his team.
Not with a grueling Southeastern Conference schedule upcoming.
“We're far from perfect,” Gran said. “The first thing I said to them on Monday was if you think you've arrived we're in bad trouble. You'll get humbled in a heartbeat, and it'll be ugly.”
It wasn’t ugly, but the Wildcat offense got somewhat of a humbling at Tuesday’s practice after a solid start.
“Defense, we got a little bit going against the defense and I thought they got after our rear end,” Gran said. “We’ve got to be able to punch back. I don’t know if we did that great today, but I think they will tomorrow. Their effort and their attention to what we’re trying to do and the detail was really good.”
That attention to detail better continue heading into a Saturday matchup with South Carolina (2-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference). Though the Gamecocks might be giving up more than 415 yards per game, they are allowing just 17.3 points per game.
“They’re a great third-down team, they’re a great red-zone team,” Gran said. “And we’ve got our hands full. They are a good defense. The yards don’t mean jack. We can have 200 yards and 28 points -- I’d be fired up. This 400-600 yards stuff and you come out with 17 points, that’s bad ball.”
Opponents, thus far, have tended to play bad ball against South Carolina. The Gamecocks have allowed just 15-of-43 (35 percent) third downs to be converted against them and only five touchdowns in 16 red-zone tries.
Gran isn’t surprised to see the Gamecocks playing good defense under Will Muschamp. The first-year head coach has a reputation as a leading defensive mind, a reputation Gran learned about firsthand when the two coached together at Auburn from 2006-07.
“Will is going to do what he does, and that’s what makes him such a really good coach,” Gran said. “We’re watching last year’s game – he’s watching. It’s the same thing. You look at his schemes from where he’s been. Has there been a major change? No.”
The two also forged a lasting friendship during their time as peers.
“The one thing I always remembered about Will was his competitiveness and how he loves football,” Gran said. “The other thing about Will was you have loyal friends in this business, and when we got let go at Auburn there was one guy that called me every week when I did not have a job. He was one of them. I had about two or three guys that would call me, ask me, ‘How you doing?’ Will Muschamp called me on a weekly basis. What can I do for you? And he was instrumental in calling Lane Kiffin for me to get hired at Tennessee.”
They aren’t exchanging phone calls this week though. Muschamp is too busy getting his defense ready and Gran is dealing with an uncertain quarterback situation. On that subject, Drew Barker has not been ruled out, but Stephen Johnson is treating this week as if he’ll be starting.
“Well, that’s still ongoing. Don’t know where (Barker is) at right now,” Gran said. “Stephen is the guy and they’re still getting evaluated and still getting in stuff with Drew. That’s all we know right now. Right now, Stephen’s the guy.”