Brooks had high expectations for front line

Senior offensive guard Christian Johnson and his teammates have been perhaps the most improved unit on the Kentucky team this year. Coach Rich Brooks had high expectations for the line last year that it didn't meet.

Senior offensive guard Christian Johnson and his teammates have been perhaps the most improved unit on the Kentucky team this year. Coach Rich Brooks had high expectations for the line last year that it didn't meet, but this season the team has opened holes for the running game and also protected the passer well in most games.

Johnson shares his insights on UK's line play this year.

Question: Has this been a season of redemption for the offensive line?

Johnson: "I definitely think it has been a season of redemption for us. I think our offensive line was good last year and was fourth in the nation in fewest sacks allowed, which is real good. Now we are doing better and running the ball well. That has been an area Kentucky has lacked since I have been here. We might have been running the ball well, but maybe our pass protection was off. Now we are balanced in both areas and that feels good."

Question: Could the one big difference this year be that because of injury and academics you didn't play last year and now you are playing and playing well?

Johnson: "I can't say I deserve any credit to be honest. I feel like I help, but then again there is somebody who could play my position and do just as good or better than me. I feel like the difference is that the whole offensive line has come together a lot better and we are a lot closer. We worked hard over the summer. Before every game, I can look in my offensive linemen's eyes and know we are going to get the job done and that's all we want to do."

Question: Is the line meaner and nastier this year?

Johnson: "We are. We are a lot more physical, a lot more mean and nasty. That's one of the things we said we had to do this year. It is kind of funny seeing that. It gets pretty ugly watching films. You can see some things where we are doing this and will go after somebody or we may get mad and give somebody a shot to the helmet or something just to show we are here to fight and it will be a long game when you have to go against our offensive line."

Question: So it is okay to call you guys The Big Nasties?

Johnson: "Yes it is. That's what we want to be known as. If you have a good offensive line, defenses know when they come into the game it is going to be a long game and we are going to be in there face and try to knock them down and try to show them who is boss. That is what offensive lines have to do. Who is going to win this battle on every play will usually win the game.

Question: Did the offensive line feel extra pressure to perform even better after quarterback Mike Hartline was injured?

Johnson: "We had to play better seeing we had young quarterbacks who had not really played. Defenses were keying on that and we knew they would try to stop our run game so we would have to pass and then they would blitz the house to shake them up. It didn't put more pressure on us, but it just increased our sense of awareness and we really had to play well and help our quarterback out."

Question: Who is the nastiest guy in the offensive line?

Johnson: "I don't know. This past game I would say Zipp Duncan was the nastiest. There is one play a guy had thrown Zipp down and Zipp got mad. If you watch the film, you see the next play that Zipp just drives the guy off the camera and then goes after him some more that you can see. Those are the things we like. We get a laugh out of it, but those are things that people look at. Defensive lines and linebackers really look at those things, so we have to keep that type of motivation and that type of passion up to make sure people know what we can do to them."


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