Morriss, players eager to get 2001 off the ground

Kentucky was featured during Thursday's session of SEC Media Days in Birmingham, Ala...

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.  --- Comments from Kentucky coach Guy Morriss, linebacker Ronnie Riley and wide receiver Dougie Allen during Thursday's Q&A session at SEC Media Days:

Head Coach Guy Morriss

“I'm ready to get started. I know our kids are excited and looking forward to the season.”

Guy Morriss

On Concerns:
“Our biggest concern right now is how the kids react to all the changes we've made when live ammo starts flying. We have a new defense, a new special teams philosophy and new wrinkles on offense. How will the kids respond, and how effective will we be?”

On Chad Anderson:
“The last word I heard is Chad will have to take some type of correspondence course. I wouldn't rule him out 100 percent, but I've had no contact for the last three days.”

On the new offense:
“Everybody thinks because the new head coach at Kentucky is a former lineman, all we are going to do is pound the football. That’s not the case. We want to continue to throw the football and stay wide open. We want to spread the field with multiple formations, but in the SEC you've got to be able to run the football and knock people off the ball. If you don't work on it and give it some attention, you're not going to be very good at it.

“I don't think we're going to run the football a heck of a lot more, but when we do run it we want to be a heck of a lot better at it. We've added some misdirection. We’ve added the I formation, and we put our linemen back in a three-point stance. We’ve done some things that will help us be a better running team. Our basic philosophy is still the same. We're going to chunk the football.”

On the NCAA investigation:
“When we took over the program, we were beginning our winter program. We walked up on groups of players and all they were here talking about were sanctions, penalties and coaching changes. I told them there was nothing they could do about what happened, and we were not going to worry about it. We can't control it anyway, but what we can control is what we do as a team.

We had 85 players pulling 85 directions, and we had to get those guys refocused. The things we could control were conditioning and those things that go on in the winter months. Two or three weeks later I could tell it was making a difference. You walk up on the same kids, and they're talking about conditioning and the things you want them to talk about in the month of March.

On receivers:
“We expect Dougie Allen to be a vocal leader. I think he will respond to that. He’s one of several players who epitomizes what a football player is supposed to be. He’s a bright kid, a good student and a good character kid who cares about his teammates and people around him. He's a talented football player. He's 100 percent back, and he expects to have a big year. He needs to have that year for us to be successful. He wasn't healthy last year, and he wasn't working on two good legs. Now he's had the surgery, and he's back and doing well.”

On expectations:
“Honestly, I don't know (about number of wins). We haven't fired a shot yet. There are questions I still have about what kind of football team we'll have. There are questions about how kids will respond in a new defense, new offense, with a new staff and things like that. Our kids think we have enough talent and they're good enough to win enough games to get us back in a bowl. If we can get everybody focused and playing together, during any given season who knows what will happen.”

On defense:
“The whole system is different. We'll play an eight-man front. The kids really respect coach (John) Goodner. He comes through the door in the same mood. College players have to have an environment of predictability to be successful, and he gives them that. That consistency has been very good for our kids. He has developed his system over the last 17 or 18 years at places like Baylor and Texas Tech. He understands big-time football.

“The system is very simple. We will allow our personnel to line up and run to the ball without a lot of thinking. The changes we made in our conditioning program will allow us to do that. Hopefully that will make a big difference and translate into more wins.

“The last four years we finished at bottom of SEC (in defense). We have some areas we have to improve. Our staff is aware of what it's going to take, but you won't know until you play a few games.”

On being head coach:
I would like to have received the job under better circumstances, but all I ever asked for was the opportunity to prove that I could do this job. Administration gave me what I asked for. It's been a lot of fun, but it’s been challenging. We're on track to get things headed back in the right direction. There are some hurdles we'll have to overcome, but we have a plan for that. Only time will tell.

I'm 50 years old. It was a dream and a goal to become a head coach. You don't see too many offensive line coaches become head coaches, which is a shame. That's the nature of the beast.

I was beginning to wonder. I had opportunities to go to some smaller programs, but that wasn't what I wanted to do. I feel fortunate to be the head coach at Kentucky.

The part that was a little surprising to me was the realm of administration and how broad it was dealing with those problems. The biggest deal is finding out who's in place to help you and the protocol you go through to get that help.”

On a contract:
“The contract is basically done. They've added four years to it. That should be finalized pretty quickly.”

On Lorenzen as starting QB and his weight:
“We opened every position up to competition. We don't have a starter yet at any position. Competition makes better players out of all of us. You've got to earn your job year in and year out.

We haven't discussed his weight in public. Since we played Tennessee at their place last fall, he's dropped 35 pounds. He's getting close to where I want him. I have a target weight for him, and I think it will improve his mobility and mechanics. I fully expect him to get where I want him.”

On contact in practices:
“It’s just a question of style and philosophy. Obviously, I think we need to do more hitting in practice. We have tried to create a game-type tempo that is close to what we see on Saturdays. You don't know how get a football team ready to hit on Saturdays if you don't do that during the week. You walk a fine line on how much is enough.”

On recruiting:
“The first thing we talk to them about is letting us do the talking for Kentucky. There is a lot of negative recruiting out there. We just ask our kids to let us do the talking for us. If any questions come up, they call us because we're the ones in touch with the NCAA for Kentucky. Most of our recruits have been positive about those things, and they have called the office and said so-and-so saying this about you.”

On defensive line:
“This is the first time in Dennis Johnson's career that he has been healthy. There were great expectations out of high school, and some of those were a little bit unfair. If he had chosen to go to another university, he would have had the luxury of redshirting. At the end of his sophomore year he was a second-team all-SEC defensive lineman, and if we'd have had 10 other guys like that we'd have been pretty healthy. He is healthy, and he had the best off-season of his life. He’s in tremendous condition, and he’s up to about 275 pounds weight wise. He wants to atone for the last couple of years. We have him for two more years. We need him to be the kind of player we all thought he could be.”

On Brent Pease:
“I think Brent is a little different in that he likes to get the ball further down the field and not do the dinking and dunking that Hal preferred. The thing about Brent is when we shared some information with him in the past, he's in the same philosophical mode as the rest of us. He's kind of a puncher and counter-puncher. He can take advantage of what people give him. He'll be up in the press box calling plays, and he’ll be able to see the field. He does a good job of adjusting to what people are giving him. He's got the ability to adjust during a series and play to play. He has a good sense of what's going on. He knows what to take advantage of and who's playing where.”

On Lorenzen as starter:
“We were asked what we thought. I was kind of against it myself, but I was an assistant coach at that time. Coach Mumme paid me for my opinion. I gave it to him, and that's where it stopped. What he did with it was his business. The decision was his to make.”

On playing quarterbacks:
“It used to scare me to death. We only had 2 quarterbacks in the whole system to start with, and the backup was not getting enough reps. We were one hit away. In my opinion the backup needs to not just practice reps, he needs to get on the field and know what it's like.”

On receivers and Harold Jackson:
“They love Harold. They are typical college kids. They all think they're NFL bound, and they know that Harold's been there and done that. They respect what he's accomplished, and he has little trouble getting their attention. We expect them to catch about 100 balls a day. They make every different catch that's possible from the jugs. You don't have enough quarterbacks to service 15 to 16 receivers. Sure he's made some adjustments (technique). The bottom line with Harold is catch the football. Catch it, look it in and that stuff.”

On the Louisville game:
“It’s a huge game for us. It’s our No. 1 priority right now. It's an in-state rivalry for bragging rights. It’s kind of recruiting so to speak, and these rivalries are good for college football. The only thing buzzing around the state right now is the game. There is a lot of excitement about it. It's a game I guarantee we'll not take lightly. It's very important to us. They've beaten us two years in a row. The kids are upset and ready to atone for that.”


LB Ronnie Riley
On the defense:

“This year we are taking a different philosophy on defense. We are going to stop the run this year and just try to overpower offenses. We have a good defensive line, and we will have a lot of guys getting to the ball. Our main focus on defense will be keeping our opponents from scoring, and that’s how you win football games.”

On the attitude of the team:
“We are not worried about last season. We are focusing on this year and the goals we have set for this season. I think we are in a good position in the conference because we have no expectations for this season, so we will be able to surprise some people.”

On the NCAA investigation:
“It’s not hard to keep a positive attitude about that, but we are looking forward to winning games this year and going to a bowl game, so that is the attitude we have right now. It is really out of our hands, and we really can’t worry about it.”

On hitting in practice:
“I think we will be better tacklers this year. We are practicing hard and everyone knows you play like you practice.”

WR Dougie Allen
“I think hiring Coach Morriss had a lot to do with what the team felt. As soon as we found out that we needed a new coach, three or four of us went to the athletic director and told him we wanted Coach Morriss. He is very intelligent and a nice guy, and we wanted him to be our coach.”

Dougie Allen

“The biggest thing for us now is to be in shape and well conditioned. As far as the investigation goes, that played a big part in January and February but it is not on our minds anymore.”

On Jared Lorenzen:
“He is having a good summer and really slimming down. He is definitely a better quarterback, and it is going to show when the season gets started.”

“We are definitely a really different team. We have a lot of great players. We have a new offense and a new defense. It is going to be hard for other teams to prepare for us. There are different players everywhere. I think that is definitely an advantage for us.”

“I think confidence is very important to this team. If we go out and get three early wins, we will get confidence and momentum going and then we are bound to have a good year.”

“Coach Morris has been good for the players. I think things are really going to pick up. He is the best thing that has happened to this team, and he’s a great motivator. He demands so much out of us and when you have a coach like that, you don’t want to let him down.”


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