Even though he says his family still considers Boyle County “home” and has “fond memories” of their time here, Kentucky assistant coach Chuck Smith says he’s excited about starting his eighth year on the UK¿staff.
“I¿am very excited to be part of coach (Joker) Phillips’ staff and think we have made a lot of progress with the program,” Smith said Thursday during a talk to the Danville Kiwanis Club.
Even though UK¿has had consecutive losing seasons, Smith noted that the team went to five straight bowls from 2006-10, had an 18-game non-conference winning streak and that attendance had ranked in the top 25 nationally.
“The attendance is really a compliment to our fan base. The Kentucky fan base is special,” Smith said. “Kentucky fans love Kentucky football and they love Kentucky basketball. They come to support both teams. That makes a big difference to the players and is what makes Kentucky special. That’s one thing I¿use when I am recruiting.
“We don’t share our fans with anybody. It is Kentucky football, ¿Kentucky basketball throughout the state. The only little bit we give up is maybe half of Louisville that supports the University of Louisville, but the rest support Kentucky. The Kentucky fan base is so special and that makes us unique, and we use that in recruiting. That can certainly be a plus, and has been.”
Smith says having almost every game on TV thanks to the Southeastern Conference TV contract has helped the program along with facility upgrades and putting players into the NFL.
“We really believe we can get this thing going in the right direction. Our football players believe that and ones associated with the football program believe that,” Smith said.
This will be UK’s second season with Rick Minter as defensive coordinator and Smith says that should make players more comfortable with the system and able to make more plays.
“Players are starting to understand the terminology, language and calls better. Every day they are getting a little better feel and are more comfortable. Once they get everything down to where it is second nature to them, then they play faster and more confident,” Smith said. “I am expecting our players to be playing a lot faster, a lot quicker. They should understand the packages and schemes better and that should make our defense better.”
Kentucky’s offense struggled most of last season, but Smith even had an optimistic perspective on this season for that unit.
“I think the offense will be better than last year. They have made a lot of changes in the offense. Throwing the ball more, more hurry-up. That type of stuff,” Smith said. “Our offense was much improved during the spring. All I see is from the defensive side. I am not in their meetings, but I saw those guys really work hard and really improve.”
He said tight end Jordan Aumiller of Boyle County had a “really good spring” after going from a starter in last year’s season-opening game to a seldom-used reserve by season’s end.
“Jordan is in the 245 (pound) range now. He is representing Boyle County really well. I¿am looking for him to do some things this year,” Smith said. “He has had his moments. He’s been a starter, then fallen off. He’s had his ups and downs.
“The tight end position is probably our strongest position because we have so many of them, but I am looking for Jordan to have a good year.”