VRBO Citrus Bowl Press Conference Transcript
VRBO Citrus Bowl
December 29, 201 Player/Coordinator press conference
Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and running back Benny Snell, Jr.
THE MODERATOR: We’re going to start with running back Benny Snell Jr., and Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. Coach, we’ll get started with an opening statement from you and we’ll open it up for questions.
EDDIE GRAN: First of all, we’re really excited to be here at this great bowl site. I was here a couple times when it was Capital One, a long time ago. And my kids were here and they’ve said, ‘This hotel has changed but Disney hasn’t.’ And they have been — everybody’s having a great time and we’re so excited to be here. The hospitality has been incredible and what a great venue for college football and to be able to play an opponent like Penn State has been a great week of preparation and we’re really excited about it.
Q. This question is for both of you. Could you talk about your relationship over the years because, Eddie, it seems like you’ve coached Benny hard, but you’ve also allowed him to be himself and his personality? And, Benny, your thoughts on your offensive coordinator and position coach?
BENNY SNELL: Man, I consider me and Coach Gran — we’ve come a real long way from when I first stepped on this Kentucky’s campus. I can just tell, generally, as a coach, he cared who I was on and off the field and he made me better every single day. It’s like, you’re not around your dad a lot, you know, so he’s kind of like a second father — me learning little things, little tips, as well as him disciplining me on the field to make me the player I am today. So I mean, it’s funny to talk about him because he’s right here, but I love Coach Gran. I love everything he does for me. There’s been times that he — we go over for dinner, to the times that he yells at me on the field. I enjoy every moment because he’s had greats in the past and I want to be a great player, so everything he says, even if it comes off the wrong way, you know, I’ve got to take it as a sponge and I learn from him.
EDDIE GRAN: It’s been an awesome experience. We’ve come a long way. I’m a little bit old school in the way I coach. And, you know, you have to coach everybody a little bit different. And I’ve had to learn that with Benny, in certain ways, it’s really, really helped our relationship and (taught me) how to motivate him and how to get him ready.
I always tell our players, ‘Make me play you.’ They come in, these freshman and these young kids, and they want to play, and they complain about not getting playing time. And I always talk about, ‘Make me play you. Let’s turn on this film.’
And that’s what Benny did. When Benny stepped onto the team, he made us play him, from day one practice until he — he’s finished now. He practices that way. And it was a no brainer to get him in there and get him started as a true freshman because of his passion for this game, and it’s just been awesome to coach him and he’s going to have a great career because how he loves the game. He respects the game and that’s a good thing.
Q. Eddie, when you say you’ve had — you’re an old school coach but you had to coach him a little differently, can you elaborate on that a little bit?
EDDIE GRAN: Yeah. I think there’s some young men that you can hoot and holler at all the time and get after him. You know, I’m not a big guy on swearing or anything like that, so I’m not going to cuss my kids and that’s not who I am, but I think there’s some times where I’ve learned that it’s just better to pull Benny aside and he and I — one-on-ones (are) really, really good scenarios there and guys respond that way.
And there’s probably eight to 10 guys that I coach that way, that, you know, they just respond in different ways. Some guys, I can get on and get on their tail for an hour and a half and they love it, you know, but some guys don’t respond that way. And as a football coach, I think you have to figure out each person, how they’ll respond. And as he’s matured, as I figured out and tried not to get so, you know — that’s one thing that I’ve done. I think I’ve grown a little bit that way. Coach Stoops really helps me with that. Sometimes I get locked in now and he’s just kind of helped me open up a little bit and make sure I’m listening.
And, you know, he’ll come into my office now. The one thing about our relationship is when something was bothering him, he’d walk in and a lot of times I’d know when something was bothering him. He’d walk into my office and it was pretty clear cut when that door got shut, which was a good thing. He might not have wanted to hear what I had to say but it was truth and he knew when we walked out, it was right.
Q. There are oftentimes when Benny goes third person. When Eddie Gran comes up with a scheme, does Eddie Gran think of Benny Snell first?
EDDIE GRAN: Everything we do we think of Benny Snell when we’re getting ready for a game plan.
Q. Good morning, guys. I’m just curious when you look at Penn State on tape what jumps out at you both as obviously a coordinator and then when you look at their run defense?
EDDIE GRAN: Well, first of all, their front is how they operate. They’re the real deal. You know, they’re No. 2 in the country in sacks. They’re No. 4 in the country in tackles for loss. And their front makes them go. Those front forward guys are really good and they’ve got some backups that come in and are really productive.
You know, I think Amani, No.21 — I’m not even going to try to pronounce the last name and butcher it. But Amani, I think, is a heck of a player, does a great job. They’ve got a couple linebackers, one that doesn’t even start, you know, Micah Parsons — he’s productive as heck and he plays a lot but, you know, and he’s a guy that just shows up. And Coach Pry does a great job. I think their whole staff does. They’re fundamentally sound but we’re going to have to deal with the front. They’re real.
BENNY SNELL: Coach G pretty much covered it. I know that early in the downs, they like to blitz. They’re good at controlling the run, stopping the run, as well as their front, No. 99, No. 48, those guys go. Just got to make sure (in) protection I get a chip on those guys. I know the whole defense swarms so they’re going to come after it.
Q. For coach, your quarterback — what does he do well? How do you feel he manages your offense?
EDDIE GRAN: Well, I think, you know, as you look at this season, it’s been a little bit up and down and you look at Terry for a first year guy and we’re sitting here at 9 3 in one of the greatest bowls in the country, so it speaks a lot for him and obviously the people that surrounded him. But I think Terry, if you look at his last two games, you can start seeing that he started feeling more comfortable.
That’s kind of the same thing that happened with Steven Johnson in this offense too. He’s a first-year guy. So he has progressed and I think, as we keep moving forward — you know, he’s got two years left in this offense. We haven’t had a quarterback in this offense for more than two years and so it’s really exciting.
And, you know, I think as he manages the game, he understands that we can’t turn it over. We can’t take the tackle for losses, the sacks in a game like this. (If) you do this against Penn State and you get behind the chains, you’re in bad shape. That’s exactly where they want you to be. I think Terry knows that and he understands and has watched a lot of film on these guys and I think that’s where he’s gotten better, though, especially in these last couple weeks, is just managing the game and making better throws. His on target throws these last couple games has been up close to 70 percent.
Q. Benny, obviously, you’re preparing for a game, but, obviously, this is also your last game in a Kentucky uniform. Have you found yourself, this week, even while preparing, just kind of trying to soak everything in just because this is the last time?
BENNY SNELL: Yeah. Yes, sir. I really kind of don’t like thinking about it, you know. I am living for the moment, you know what I’m saying? But, yeah, I’ve been enjoying every moment I can with my teammates, with my coaches. I’m excited for the game as well. And we’re in Orlando. I’m having fun. I love the weather, but, you know, my time’s come. I’ve enjoyed every moment I have. Like I always say, I’m living my dream still. I’m still living it, you know, so I’m enjoying it.
Q. Benny, quick question about football and your family. I know that’s been a big part of your life, your family, playing football as well. How has that impacted your love for the game and could you expand on that a little pit more?
BENNY SNELL: Yes, sir. Man, ever since I was young, you know, it’s just — you come downstairs and the family’s just watching football, and it was either on Sundays or we’re watching Ohio State. We were watching Ohio State when I was little. Going on from that, you know, my dad played — had a few years with the Ravens. He played in the European league, so, you know, I used to have a little football. I used to run around, throw, catch with him. As I started to get a little bit older, you know, that’s when I started to catch onto my great uncle, Matt Snell, I got to see a little bit of film on him. Never got to talk to him, you know, because he’s older, but, it’s just crazy to see, when I watch my dad’s college highlights, you cut that on, and then you cut on to Matt Snell, and you see the comparison on how they run. My dad was No. 33 and Matt was No. 41, so he was just running through people. So it’s like power runners. And then when I watch myself, because I like to evaluate myself, it’s just crazy, like, the running style, you know how we hit the outside, if we’ve got to break a tackle, how we look, it’s just wild.
But, you know, my love for football is out of this world. Like, you can never — you can never not get better at football, I feel like, you know. Whenever I’m, like, eating breakfast, eating dinner, you know, you could always turn on some Ezekiel Elliot highlights, Adrian Peterson highlights. You can always get better and just watch what those guys do because, you know, they’re greats and I want to be like them one day. I want to be my own man. Yeah.
Q. Good morning. I just wanted to ask about Lynn Bowden, what he’s been able to accomplish in his second college year and leading your team in receptions by quite a large margin. Is your offense at its best when he’s heavily involved and how have you been able to incorporate him at such a higher volume than his freshman year?
EDDIE GRAN: Number 1, his IQ level is off the charts. I mean, it could be on a Wednesday and I can change something, whether it be formationally or different personnel and get him somewhere. And, you know, what people have seen this year is that he’s playing the single receiver now. He’s in the slot — we’ve got him all over the place. So that’s been the biggest thing for us, his football IQ is really good.
When this guy goes right here — if you look at our history over the last three years since I’ve been here, I would say the statistically, when he touches the ball a certain amount of times and we rush the ball a certain amount of times, I think we’re pretty good. And, you know, that’s where it all starts.
But to just finish the question for you, is that, yes, when you know, Lynn and those guys, when we’re in rhythm and he’s getting the ball, that’s when we’re at our best.
VRBO Citrus Bowl
Player/Coordinator press conference
Kentucky defensive coordinator Matt House and linebacker Josh Allen
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by defensive coordinator Matt House and Josh Allen. We’ll start with an opening statement from coach and then open it back up for questions.
MATT HOUSE: We’re just really, really excited to play in this venue, to play in this Citrus Bowl, with a great tradition and history that this game has presented. We’re really excited about playing in Orlando against a quality opponent and excited for the opportunity to finish with our tenth win.
THE MODERATOR: All right. Questions.
Q. Yesterday Kash said that McSorley remind him of Johnny Manziel and there’s been a Nick Fitzgerald comparison because of Joe Moorhead’s influence up there. What do you see when you see McSorley, Coach?
EDDIE GRAN: A winner, a guy that just consistently finds a way to win. He prolongs downs. He can throw the ball vertically down the field. He can hurt you with his feet, but more than anything, I think he’s just a winner.
Q. For Josh, in your film study of Trace McSorley, what impresses you the most about him?
JOSH ALLEN: When he starts to scramble, he can throw the ball effectively down the field. I feel like he’s a great mobile quarterback. He knows how to get out the pocket when he feels pressure.
Q. Josh, when you have a mobile quarterback like McSorley, does that change the way that you go about rushing the passer in trying to put pressure on him?
JOSH ALLEN: Yeah, because now we’ve got to rush as a group. Can’t just rush by myself. We all have to do our job to contain rush. He’ll find the littlest crack and take it home if he can. I just do my job and then everybody else has to do theirs and hopefully we’ll get home.
Q. Josh, growing up in New Jersey, how much was Penn State involved (in recruiting you), either on their end or on your end, way back when you were in high school?
JOSH ALLEN: In high school, I wasn’t a heavily recruited kid. I had two offers, three offers, you know, from little schools. Kentucky gave me a chance. Kentucky gave me a chance and I went with it. I haven’t — I never heard anything about Penn State hitting me up on recruiting.
Q. This is for both of you, but first Matt. How much does Penn State’s offense — how many similarities are there between Penn State’s offense and Mississippi State’s offense, and if you can both address that?
MATT HOUSE: You know, I think there’s a similarity in the system. But I think there’s a difference in the personnel. I think the quarterbacks are different. Sanders, the running back, presents different issues. He’s really effective. I think Hamler, the slot, Johnson, the receiver — that’s where the biggest differences are. And I think they do a great job of using their personnel, creating formations and matchups where they can isolate and create one on ones. So is there similarity in the system? Absolutely. But when you look at the personnel, there’s quite a bit of difference.
JOSH ALLEN: You know, it’s not a lot to say, you know. I’m really — I’ll just say what he just said.
Q. Do their similar systems to help you?
JOSH ALLEN: Yeah, you know, we can go back and look at the film from last year, when he was there, just to see what they did and see how they went and then go there. We feel like we did a pretty good job last couple years against them. I’m just looking forward to playing against them.
Q. Gentlemen, can I ask you both what your favorite part of the Orlando trip has been so far?
MATT HOUSE: Practicing in the sun. I mean, there’s been great hospitality here. You know, the guys have had — there’s plenty to do for both our team and I know, selfishly, as a coach, for our families. The bowl has done a great job with that. And all joking aside, it’s been fun to get outside and fly around and practice, you know, in a little bit of nice weather.
JOSH ALLEN: Yeah. Practice has been cool, but it’s been a little hot. It’s been a little hot out there. But, you know, I just like all the activities the bowl sets up for us. The Best Buy trip was a pretty good experience. Got to get whatever we want. So that was affordable.
But everything — everything every day, you know, we’re having fun. We’re enjoying ourselves and, you know, it’s going to set us up for a great game this week.
Q. Much has been made about getting the tenth win, the elusive tenth win. Is that something that you all play up, that you want to strive for or do you kind of downplay it, want to treat this as a normal game, in spite of the things surrounding the big game?
MATT HOUSE: I’ll be honest with you, that’s what I love about this group. It’s a competitive group. Is the tenth win big? Absolutely. But every time you put the ball down, this group wants to win. So I think whether it’s been game four, game seven, you put the ball down, this group wants to win and wants to play.
Q. Coach, you said a few minutes ago that Miles Sanders presents — I don’t want to misquote you — but different issues. What do you see on tape from him and what kind of things does he do that maybe reminds you of another guy you’ve seen this year or in past years?
MATT HOUSE: I mean, he catches the ball out of the backfield really well. He can make shallow cuts and accelerate, really an elusive guy and he’s got good speed. So I don’t normally like making comparisons player to player. I think he’s an exceptional player.
Q. Coach, what has been the key to Josh’s development and improvement the last couple years?
MATT HOUSE: I mean, I’ve said this a lot but it’s the truth: He’s exactly why you should come back for your senior year. From the minute he made that decision, he’s been all in. I don’t care if it’s been academically, in the weight room, in the film room. You know, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to coach him his senior year and I know I’m speaking for our whole building. He’s what it’s all about coming back for your senior year.
Q. Josh, I read somewhere that your sister plays basketball at Louisville. Is this correct?
JOSH ALLEN: She graduated last year. She’s in the WNBA now.
Q. How much trash talk goes on between you and your sister in terms of these two schools?
JOSH ALLEN: You know, it was never any trash talk. She played one sport. I played another sport, and we play different seasons. So when we’re in football season, she supports me. When it’s basketball season, I support her. There’s no trash talk. We love each other. We’re competitive but we just want the best for each other and we just go from there.
Q. Matt, you’re going to have two freshmen kind of fill in the role of Jordan in this game. How does that change things for you guys at all because obviously those guys not as experienced and may not be as talented yet?
MATT HOUSE: You know, they’re not as experienced but I don’t look at them as freshman right now either. I mean, each one of them have played in all 12 ball games. They’ve grown. They’ve learned from their mistakes. Have they been around as (long) as Jordan? No. But at the same time, I’ve got great belief and trust in those two kids and I’m excited to watch them play.
THE MODERATOR: We’d like to thank Josh and Coach House for their time. Have a good week.