Live chat took place Tuesday, April 20 at 12 p.m. ET
Tyler : Hey Coach Gray, in what ways can this D-Line improve from last season and what do you expect out of Sweet Pea Burns this year? How much improvement has he made?
Michael Gray : We've improved on stopping the run. We expect Sweet Pea to have a strong senior year. He led the conference in TFLs last year and we hope he builds on that.
catfan1 : coach gray,what kinds of `swarming` drills does the defense practice?
Michael Gray : We do a "pursuit" drill to start every practice. All 11 players do some up-and-downs and then get off the ground and "pursue" a set of cones set up down the sideline. In the team period, we do pursue to the ball every snap. All 11 guys have to have their angles toward the football.
flowboy : coach gray, do you see ricky abram playing a big role in the defensive schemes this season. and will the defense go to four down lineman a lot this year, and if so who will be the fourth man?
Michael Gray : I see Ricky playing a backup role because depth is important in this conference. Ricky's learned nose tackle and defensive end, giving us some flexibility. We'll play a little with four down linemen. We'll do it if needed.
David : Which is more important for Kentucky's D-Line to do this year-stuff the run or pressure the QB?
Michael Gray : I would say stop the run is what we need to get better at. If you can't stop the run, they'll just keep running on us and they don't even need to throw the football.
Joseph Dominy : What is the d-line's greatest strength?
Michael Gray : Experience. From Ellery to Trey to Lamar to Vincent - we have four guys with game experience. They have a better understanding of the scheme we're playing this year.
Dustin Cordell : hey coach, i was wonderin what you are gonna do to try and keep to many double teams and preasure on Sweet Pea?
Michael Gray : There's really no control if an opponent wants to double-team Sweet Pea. But if they do double him, that opens opportunities for other guys.
stan pekachowski : Yall open with the cards again this year. They have a big experienced O-line coming back this year. What are you telling your players to get them ready?
Michael Gray : With their good offensive line and outstanding running backs, we're working to stop the run.
Frank Pruitt : The DL has been the strength of our defense the last several years, and I'm expecting that to be the case again this year. Tell me about some of the new faces we'll see in the rotations this year, most notably R. Abren and B.J. Parsons. Please discuss your expectations of their contributions and their strengths, etc. Thanks Coach!
Michael Gray : Both Ricky and B. Jay are having a good spring. I think they give us some depth in different ways. Ricky can play two positions and has a bigger body. B. Jay plays on more the pass rush and has great speed.
Mark Cornette (Pikeville, KY) : Where does the present group of D-Linemen talent at UK rank with D-Linemen at other schools you have coached?
Michael Gray : The starting three, I would say they rank very highly in my experience of the Division I defensive lines I've coached. The key is to develop depth.
Steve : Could you tell us your thoughts on Travis Day & Trey Mielsch
Michael Gray : Travis has the physical tools to help us on the defensive line. He's a talented guy and needs time to develop and grow. Trey has developed into a starter physically and mentally. He's much bigger and stronger.
Cherokee : Besides Sweet Pea who has impressed you the most this year in practice? Thanks Coach and good luck on the year.
Michael Gray : Trey Mielsch and B. Jay Parsons have impressed me this spring. Trey with his physical changes - he's bigger and stronger - and he understands the scheme better. With B. Jay, him being able to contribute already as a newcomer has been a welcome addition.
Tommy : Are your D-linemen doing a better job of sticking to containment this spring instead of just trying to get to the QB? Thanks
Michael Gray : As our defense develops, our defensive ends have to learn how to contain a quarterback instead of thinking about sacks all the time. They've done that much better this spring understanding pass rush lanes.
Andy : We all know that confidence is important when playing QB, CB, etc. Can you expound on how much confidence plays a role in being a successful D-Lineman.
Michael Gray : In the defensive line's development, confidence physically and mentally is crucial as they get older in their class. Confidence makes their reaction sharper and their physical develpment gives them the confidence to do the job.
Tom : Have both Nii Adjei Oninku & Myron Pryor Qualified for 2004? They are important parts of keeping the DL stable for the future. Thanks
Michael Gray : No player officially qualifies until their high school graduation. We expect both of these players to achieve qualification.
Tom : Did you go to the Catspy's? Thoughts?
Michael Gray : Yes, I enjoyed the evening and seeing all the athletes from all the other sports.
Steve : We have 3 Senior DL this year. How hard is the coaching staff hitting the recruiting trail for DL and how many do you expect to sign next Feb. Thanks Steve
Michael Gray : Very hard. In Division I football, defensive line has to be one of the priorities every year. It's really too early to tell how many we expect to sign. It will probably be anywhere from three to six.
Tom : Are there any of the LB's that you would like to maybe "borrow" for a series or two from Coach Archer or Coach McBride? ;) ;)
Michael Gray : I'm going to borrow Cedric Koger as an edge defensive end rusher in certain situations. Raymond Fontaine and Durrell White are also possibilities as edge rushers in certain situations.
Steve : If you could, tell Karen Brooks and coach Brooks that UK fans are very sorry for their loss and that we wish their family the best! Thanks
Michael Gray : We appreciate all the kind thoughts and prayers from the fans. We appreciate all the great support the fans give us.
ukathletics.com : We would like to thank Coach Gray for his time in answering your questions. We'll have another live chat next Tuesday with Head Coach Rich Brooks.
Michael Gray : It was my pleasure. I look forward to seeing all of you this fall at Commonwealth. Bring your barbecue on out and let's have some fun and win some games. Go Cats!!