Thrown into the Fire, Young Embraces Challenge

Eddie Gran doesn’t envy Landon Young.

As highly touted and talented as the Lexington native might be, Young is still a true freshman at one of the most difficult positions to play in college football: left tackle in the Southeastern Conference.

“It's tough,” said UK’s head coach of the offense and co-offensive coordinator. “A left tackle is like a corner. He's like the quarterback. Everybody knows, everybody sees it and you've got to have a short-term memory.”

There was no time that was truer than last weekend, as Young was thrown to the wolves Bryant-Denny Stadium against the top-ranked team in the land. More specifically, against dynamic Alabama edge rusher Tim Williams. As is to be expected, Williams got the best of Young on an occasion or two. For a perfectionist like Young it’s difficult to move past those moments, but he knows he has no choice.

“If I let up a bad block when we’re on our half of the field or something like that or it ends up being a fumble, that’s really hard to forget,” Young said. “But you have to at this level. You can’t let it affect you or you’re going to start stacking up plays instead of just letting one and doing your best on the next.”

That’s exactly what Young did, and the result was, overall, a performance to be proud of. 

“There is no doubt that he just saw one of the most difficult situations he’ll ever be in,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “He’s a true freshman and did some good things and got beat some. That’s going to happen. That experience, you can’t replace that. He’s a great kid. The nice thing about him is it won’t faze him, he won’t flinch or lose confidence.”

Even though Young is keeping his confidence up, he’s also his own harshest critic. He mentioned getting into his setup on pass rush more quickly and staying in low position to battle bull rushes and outside rushes as things he wants to do right away to improve.

“It’s a mental thing with myself,” Young said. “It’s always a battle with myself and I’m always trying to improve on myself. I don’t care what other people say. Of course I’m going to listen to the coaches and their critiques, but also it’s a big mental and self thing. If I do something wrong, I gotta get it better for myself or else I’m not happy.”

That self-motivated attitude is the driving force behind one of his best attributes: that when he makes a mistake once, it’s not likely to happen again.

“That’s been the great thing about him,” offensive line coach John Schlarman said. “If they get him with something the first time, a lot of times he makes the adjustments, whatever it might be technique-wise or assignment-wise and he doesn’t let it get him a second time. That’s been huge, especially for a young player.”

Young’s nature positions him perfectly to capitalize on the unique opportunities he’s had to play as a true freshman in hostile SEC environments like Alabama and Florida.

“I think it’s invaluable,” Schlarman said. “I think going into those places and going against that quality of competition, that caliber of player is going to pay off huge dividends for him. I’m sure there’s so much that he’s learning each and every time he goes out on the field. At this level, he’s learning in a hurry that you can’t have little subtle mistakes.”

“He's gonna continue to grow and get better,” Gran said. “I just told him, ‘Hey, you're doing a great job. Keep working.’ ”

Gran likely doesn’t have to worry about Young doing that. Down the road, he envisions himself facing another challenge the one he faced last weekend. He plans to be ready.

“I think it’ll help a lot and I really hope by the time I get in my junior, senior year I get put in it again because that’s the only way to be the best is to go against the best,” Young said. “That’s how I’m going to improve my game is by going against the best guys I can.”