LEXINGTON — Kentucky defensive line coach David Turner knows he has the most experienced unit on the UK defense and expects his players to be more consistent and much better against the run this year than they were in 2011.
“My guys know what I expect and what we should be able to do,” said Turner. “We have not performed as well as I would have liked this spring. Some days we just are not as consistent as we need to be, but we have had a couple of days where we look like we are making progress. But we are a work in progress is what we are right now.”
Turner offered these other insights on his players after Saturday’s scrimmage:
Question: Is it time for junior tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph to become dominant players?
Turner: “Yes is it. It’s time for them guys to step up.¿You are talking about two guys who have played two years and their careers are half over. It is time for them to get to the next level in terms of consistent play and they haven’t done it as quickly as I would have liked, but they are still working.”
Question: What have they not yet quite gotten?
Turner: “Really it is the whole group. They have to understand that every day you have to come out and compete every day to get better. Every single day. Our MO¿has been we will have a pretty good practice and come out with a lot of emotion and fly around and then we kind of think we have arrived and the next practice we come out flat. That has been our deal for the last year and a half that I¿have been here. I¿have been trying to talk to the guys and tell them that everything starts with us up front. If we go hard, everybody goes hard. We have to understand every day is a new day. We have to come out, compete and get better every single day whether we feel good or not.”
Question: Who has made you happiest at defensive end?
Turner: “Right now the most consistent guy has been Farrington Huguenin, who has not played a snap of SEC football. He comes out every day, doesn’t say a word and just keeps working and getting better. He has moved up to the first team. He is a guy who every single day shows up. He is banged up, but he doesn’t say a word. He just keeps going about his business and getting better. He is a sponge soaking up all the coaching and learning what to do. He’s asking questions and playing at a different level than some of them older guys.”
Question: Do you hope that attitude rubs off on the older players?
Turner: “I hope the older guys will rub off on him, but right now it is visa versa. In terms of pointing to one guy who has been consistent, it has probably been him. Then the other guy who has been a pleasant surprise this spring is Tristian Johnson who has stepped up and been a surprise. It’s kind of the same thing with him. Every day he just works and is getting better and is showing up on film.”
Question: How much better is the defense, though, if the tackles can be dominating players?
Turner: “No question it helps. We need those guys to be those types of players. And we can’t talk about what we want to do. Those guys have got to decide they want to be those kind of players. They have got to want to be a dominant player inside that shows up every day and then on Saturdays.”
Question: Do Cobble and Rumph have that type talent or are you expecting too much?
Turner: “I have gone round and round on that. They have the talent. I¿have been around some pretty good players. Donte Rumph is talented. Cobble is talented. I tell them I¿can’t want it more than you do.¿You have to want it. I can sit here and coach and yell and scream and pat you on the back, but if you don’t want it, it ain’t happening. I have seen improvement and hopefully a light will click on and they will start coming around on a more consistent basis. That’s the whole deal, consistency.”
Question: What will the line’s depth be like?
Turner: “I don’t know. We started out pretty good and got some guys banged up and moved some guys around. You never know. You don’t want to count on incoming freshmen. I have pieces to the puzzle here and we have a chance to be a decent front, but those guys have got to start understanding it will not be easy. It goes back to just every day working to make each individual better and being a consistent player day in, day out. The consistency, or lack of, is what we are missing right now.”
Question: How much will sitting out spring practice with an injury impact end Collins Ukwu?
Turner: “I don’t know. It obviously hurts him because he can’t get any reps and he needs all the reps he can get. Hopefully mentally he is staying sharp.¿He is coaching up some of the young guys. He knows this summer is vital for him. He has to work rehab and every day he is in there doing double time and putting himself in position to have a healthy senior year. We can only do what we can do. When he gets out there, we will go to work.”
Question: With as passionate as you are in your coaching, do you see big jumps coming for your unit considering how many players you return?
Turner: “We have a lot of guys back and the expectation for the defensive line should be different than what it was last year. We have six or seven guys that have played in SEC games. We are young in the back end and young at linebacker where we lost two great players (Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy) and now the onus is on us and we have to rise up to it. We are either going to rise up to it or bow down to it. One of the two. We have to rise up.
“Those guys have to understand with the responsibilities they have, they have to live up to that, be accountable and get better. I tell guys all the time, ‘We will put the defense on our backs. The will go as we go.¿If we don’t go, we will have a bad defense.’ It’s that plain and simple. If we come out here and every day work to get better and start shutting down this run game and getting consistent pressure on the quarterback, we will be better. We control that. Nobody but us controls that.”