TIREY: Van Note Says Line Play Has To Improve

For a guy who played one position for one team for eighteen years in the NFL, Jeff Van Note was a man without a position at Kentucky. He showed up in Lexington as a running back, saw time at linebacker, and eventually found a home at defensive end.

For a guy who played one position for one team for eighteen years in the NFL, Jeff Van Note was a man without a position at Kentucky. He showed up in Lexington as a running back, saw time at linebacker, and eventually found a home at defensive end. It's funny how things work. Van Note played center for the Atlanta Falcons for an astounding eighteen years. Two things strike me about that. One, in this day of free agency and players changing teams like they change socks, give me odds on another player staying that long with one team. I'll answer that for you: nil. And two, I respect the hell out of a guy that spent that long on the offensive line of an NFL team, AND got his jersey retired by that team. This guy knows his football. So I decided to pick his brain a bit about his alma mater and what can be done to fix its' problems.

Van Note sounds like a lot of UK football fans when talking about the offensive woes of this team for the past two years. "I think the key," said Van Note, "is obviously in the switch of offensive philosophy and more than anything, the fact that Joker Phillips will be calling the plays rather than Ron Hudson. I think most fans and people who follow the program were very disappointed in the offensive output of Kentucky the last couple of years, and their ability to move the ball, and their lack of putting pressure on other people's defense.

Whatever was happening there the last couple of years, the ineptness of Kentucky offense was very difficult to watch. Even though it was a loss, the style of play and the play calling, and the response by the players to the play calling, I thought was very teethy in the Tennessee game [at the end of last season], and you can grow off that. I mean, you either get better or you get worse. So I think that our hopes rest with Joker's offense in trying to be a more offensive football team. Obviously Woodson, a younger offensive line, and a running game which hasn't really gotten off the ground, those are the things that have to come around in the fall."

Van Note was most frustrated with a certain aspect of the Wildcat team. "For some reason, I have been very disappointed with their line play for the past two years. I know [former UK offensive line coach] Paul Dunn, and I have understood Paul to be a cracker jack line coach, but the whole thing is getting production out of people, and I don't think they got it out of their line for whatever reasons. I think that will be the key [this season] offensively more than anything." Van Note believes you have to play the guys who will produce for you, no matter what class or age they are. "I hope they don't redshirt. I think identifying your players is so important and I find coaches who don't do a very good job of that. If you have freshmen and sophomores and you think they are going to be players but they are going to make mistakes, hey, play them. Don't deprive the entire team of an opportunity to win just because you are building for a future, which may not be there for anybody."

A lot has been made about the Louisville series and whether or not Kentucky should keep it. Van Note feels strongly about that game being on the schedule. "They have to," said Van Note. "It's a must. If Kentucky dumps it, then some people ought to get fired." What about moving the game later in the season? Van Note likes it as the opener for both teams. "I do like it, it is even keel for the most part. I think U of L has had a tune up in the past, but yes, I do like it on opening day. I think the interest in Kentucky football has risen tremendously because of Louisville's success. Because of this game and Louisville's success in it, I think it's good for high school football."

Improvement is what the fans and administration are looking for this season from Wildcat football. Van Note was a broadcaster of Kentucky football during the Curry regime, and knows that the evaluation of improvement is in the eye of the beholder and can be a slippery slope. "It can be subtle at times and it kept Bill Curry around a lot longer than he should have been. I want to see them competitive, but I want to see them not be a bottom third division one type football team, and frankly, that's all we have been seeing of late. That's what is so disappointing." After eighteen years in the NFL, Jeff Van Note is again a Kentucky fan, just like you are. For better or for worse…


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