The Kentucky football program is working through some changes ahead of the Florida game, and players seem to be eager and ready to execute those adjustments.
The most obvious change being quarterback Sawyer Smith seeing his first Kentucky start this weekend. After UK’s QB1 Terry Wilson went down with a knee injury Saturday against Eastern Michigan, Smith stepped in and will now be filling the role for the remainder of the season. Given that he’s a transfer from Troy who was put in the same position of filling in for the starting quarterback last year, Smith has experience on his side heading into week three. Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is confident in Smith’s ability to lead the offense against the Gators and says a key for the Cats on Saturday is to be efficient on first downs.
“If you’re not good on first down and second down, you’re not going to be on third down,” Gran said after practice Tuesday. “And that’s what they (Florida) feed on, so we’ve got to be great on first down.”
The guys protecting Smith also have full trust in him—offensive tackle Landon Young broke down why it’s important, especially having a different quarterback now, that the offensive line remains solid against the Florida pass rush.
“No matter what team we play, we take pride up front,” Young said. “We know that it starts up front. And if we don’t go out there and we don’t set the tone, we don’t make holes, we don’t protect, then that’s going to be our whole team feeding off of that.”
Redshirt-freshman running back Kavosiey Smoke mentioned that Saturday is “just another game,” but he knows what kind of spotlight the Cats will be under.
“You just have to bring it every play this game,” Smoke said. “And prepare well all through practice to try to be the best we can be.”
Smoke says the team was a little down following Wilson’s injury, but they’re trying to remain positive and move on to get prepared for Florida. He says there’s really no difference between Smith and Wilson in the huddles because there’s still the same amount of respect among the offense, even with a new leader now.
Another adjustment for the Cats is the addition of linebacker Xavier Peters. It was announced Tuesday evening that the freshman, who transferred over the summer from Florida State, has been granted immediate eligibility for the 2019 season.
“I can’t wait to get out there with my team on Saturdays," Peters said in a UK press release. "I want to thank the NCAA and everyone at Kentucky who helped make this happen.”