UK Football: Wildcats' no-huddle tough on offensive linemen
Kentucky¿s Miles Simpson (32) goes to pick up a fumble caused by Martavious Neloms (1) during last week¿s win over Kent State. The Wildcats host in-state rival Western Kentucky on Saturday night before opening SEC play against Florida. (September 14, 2012)
“It is still something you have to think about. Just because it is hurry-up doesn’t mean that the plays are simple,” said redshirt freshman guard Zach West. “They are complicated and you have to know what is going on.
“It’s not like high school. You can’t just block the man in front of you. You have to know the play. It helps us. I am not the strongest, biggest guy out there but I know what to do. But it’s still not easy.”
West admits it is a “great feeling” when he can sense a defensive lineman is tiring because of UK’s pace.
“When you look in front of you and those D-linemen are tired, it’s a great feeling. We know how well conditioned we are. We can keep pushing.¿Last game all five of us (offensive line starters) stayed in almost the whole game,” he said. “That first game (at Louisville) I slipped up a little bit and that was my fault. It was no one else’s fault but mine. This game (against Kent State) I felt like I¿didn’t make as many mistakes as I thought I¿would. I hope to even make fewer mistakes against Western Kentucky Saturday.”
West says the offensive line chemistry has gone smoothly.
“We feel like a lot of people say we are young, but that’s an advantage. We stay together as much as possible and push through everything together,” he said. “Just because we are young, that’s no excuse not to play well. We try to play like seniors out there.”
He enjoys having sophomore tackle Darrian Miller, another Lexington product, beside him in the starting lineup.
“It is really special for us. We have been good friends since the (Kentucky National Guard Border Bowl) all-star game. We bonded and get along,” he said. “I think we have made big improvements. We try to focus on our opponent and try to harness our attention on what we have to do.”
Kentucky coach Joker Phillips joked this week that he thought Miller and West “would try to text each other during the game” because they are not big talkers normally and communication is a key ingredient to a successful offensive line.
“When we put (Jordan) Swindle in the game, (line) coach (Mike) Summers says, ‘Let's leave Zach West in so he can help Swindle.’ I said, ‘Zach's going to talk?’ Apparently, he and Miller — you don't see one without the other,” Phillips said.
“Again, they must have their ways of communicating, but they don't talk to each other. But that's what I'm surprised about is how those two guys are communicating and haven't missed a twist or missed a blitz coming from the outside. They've done a really good job of communicating, especially to the left side.”
West credits senior center Matt Smith for helping them both.
“I think he makes us look good. Matt knows everything about the offense, everything that you would ever want anybody to know. Every check down. If you want to know something or mess up, he can correct you and that’s the great part about having him next to you,” West said.
The quick, accurate decisions by quarterback Maxwell Smith have helped, too.
“Max is throwing the ball great. Protection plays a part in it, but you have to get the ball out. Max is doing a great job right now. He is reading the protections and the defense really well and that is helping us,” West said. “When he can change the protection for us, that helps him and us too.”
Kentucky has not run the ball often, but has been successful as tailbacks Raymond Sanders (9.6), Coshik Williams (6.2) and Jonathan George (8.7) are all averaging more than six yards per carry in limited attempts.
“When you can establish a run game it is going to help you a long way. Raymond and those guys have done a good job running the ball and when they go down they make sure the guy in front of them will be punished and that motivates you,” West said.
A little more motivation comes from the quote Western linebacker Andrew Jackson made last year during UK’s narrow 14-3 win in Nashville when he said, “They supposed to be SEC?” on national TV. He did back up his play with 12 tackles and also has played well against LSU last year and Alabama last week.
“I do remember what he said. We all do. They can talk all they want. But words don’t mean anything. He’s a starter but that is something we just have to look past,” West said. “It is motivating and tells us all we still have something to prove. We feel like we always have something to prove and we are trying to do that.”
West said he won’t look to hit Jackson, but won’t shy away from a chance to do that either because of the remarks made last year.
“We are just going to look past it. If the assignment comes around, we will try to take advantage of it. We will just block who is there and if he happens to be there, fine. We’ll block him, and probably try to block him as hard as we possibly can to earn his respect a little bit more,” the freshman lineman said.