Coach's Corner with John Goodner

John Goodner says the UK defense is playing hard, but must get better at stopping opponents on third down...

LEXINGTON, Ky. --- This edition of "Coach's Corner" features the thoughts of defensive coordinator John Goodner on his unit's performance against Ball State and its preparation for Florida:

BBD: What were your overall feelings after reviewing film of the Ball State game?

"We're a long, long way from doing the things we want to do. Our kids have played hard, both games. That's the good thing, and I don't think that's going to change. We had some guys come up with some great individual plays --- like that last sack Dennis Johnson had --- but overall we were kept off-balance and struggled a little bit.

DT Ellery Moore (99) stuffs
a Ball State runner. Moore had seven tackles against the Cardinals.

"We were also able to develop some depth --- some guys who really haven't played very much at all --- and we got out with a win. When we can bring some of these injured guys back, we should only get better.

"But I don't think you're ever pleased when you give up 20 points and 450 yards, even if you've got some guys hurt. You never want to use that as an excuse. We've got to always be ready to play competitive with the players that we have, no matter who those players are.

"On the other side of the coin, I give Ball State credit. They did a great job of out-scheming us, keeping us off-balance. As a result, I made some bad calls, especially against the option. I should have had players in a better position to make plays a few times... That quarterback draw really gave us problems, kept us off-balance. We've got to work harder on that, keep getting better at recognizing it and making the play."

BBD: What areas of execution need to improve most?

"Third-down conversions are where we're getting hurt most right now. We're at around 50 percent right now (14 of 31), and that's just not good. You're not going to win many games at 50 percent. You've got to get off the field. That number's got to be down around 33 percent at the highest. (UK opponents are holding the Wildcats to 36 percent, 8 of 22).

"Ball State had a 19-play drive on us. Any time you have a 19-play drive, there's going to be a bunch of third downs in there, and probably a fourth down or two. You've got to find a way to get there and stop the thing. We, as coaches, have to get them in the right place, then once they're there, the players have to get the job done. It's as simple as that."

BBD: The secondary has struggled at times, giving up a few key plays and failing to get an interception. Have you made any changes to help those guys?

"You can't go out and re-invent yourself. I think that's where people get in problems. So what we've got to do is keep mixing it up --- we've got to rush some, we've got to cover some. And whatever we do, we've got to do it better than what we've done so far... It's kind of one of those things that's a two-way street. You're always talking to your secondary about covering longer, but you're going to have to get (to the quarterback). So you tell your front people, 'Hey, we can only cover them for so long. You've got to get there after a while.' So it's one of those Catch 22 things. We've got to do a better job on both ends."

BBD: Is the flip-side of that you're not giving up a lot of big plays, quick scores?

"We're not giving up many big plays at all. That's true, and we like that. But all it takes is 3 1/2 yards a play for a team to get a first down. You've got to stop a few of those, too. That's what I'm talking about on third down. We had chances all over the field to make plays. We have to start making those if we're going to have a chance to win some games in the conference."

BBD: How do you think the players will respond to getting Jamal White back in the lineup?

"First of all, I can't say enough about Michael Beirne. He stepped in there and really did a nice job when we needed somebody. If he'd been around at linebacker for four years, I think he'd be a heckuva player. I wish I had him for longer.

"But the kids are excited about having Jamal back in there. They know he's one of our best players. The thing about Jamal, he's as good a athlete as we've got out there. Anytime you put somebody like that on the field, it's a big lift.

"It's also good to see Mo Lane and good ol' No. 6 (outside safety David Johnson) back out there. Anytime you can get athletes like that on the field, it's going to help."

BBD: How would adding Jeremy Caudill to that list help?

"If we can get him on the field, we'd sure like to. He's an awfully good player, and a good kid. The thing about it, he wants to play awfully bad."

BBD: What are your thoughts on Ellery Moore's progress?

"Ellery's growing up. He's really getting better every week. We just have to do a better job of getting him lined up right."

BBD: Have you ever faced a Steve Spurrier offense, and what are your opinions on the Gators' offense?

"No. I think this will be the first time.

"I think they're pretty good. [Laughs] It don't take you too long when you throw the film on to notice two or three things. First of all, they know what they're doing. I mean, they know what they're doing. Second of all, they've got the people to do it with. They've got good players and they're well coached.

"Being in different leagues, I never really focused in on what they were doing. But you always knew they did a great job just by being a fan on Saturday night and watching them on ESPN. I've always enjoyed watching them because they're a wide-open bunch, and they play to win. I enjoy the way he coaches his kids and gets after them. He coaches his quarterbacks the way I coach linebackers. So I've got a lot of respect for those guys."

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