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(Opening remarks) “We’ve had a good couple days here.  Players have really done a good job.  I think they are excited to play. You’ll hear from Landon [Young] and Josh [Paschal] here in a minute, so it’s been a great experience. The people here in Jacksonville have been tremendous.  We’ve had a great time and we’re looking forward to getting this game going. It’s been a long season and I think all of us are excited to play this last game and try to end it on a good note.”

(On his impression of the value of the bowl system for these last five years) “It would be a great question if [Jaguars DE] Josh [Allen] were still there [in the room], but I’m sure he darted out. There’s a guy Josh that, number one, I owe a great bit of gratitude because Josh really set the precedent here at Kentucky.  He set the tone.  When he decided to play in Orlando a couple of years ago for his last game and then went out and had like 3.0 sacks, or whatever he did, so he increased his value on the last day and really played exceptionally well, but he also set the tone for the rest of the seniors and juniors that were coming out that year, the year after and this year and these guys feel the same way.  They want to be here for each other, for their teammates, and that says a lot about our team and our program, and it says a lot about Josh.  He and I were visiting last night and we’re so proud of him. He’s just done a remarkable job.  He’s talking stories about the Pro Bowl and all those things, but yet he keeps on coming back to his last game and his bowl experience.  And that kind of says it all right there.  If you have a team, if you have the unity, and I’m not criticizing anybody.  People have their reasons. They have to do what they have to do, but for us, it’s been a great experience.  And when you have a great team bond and you have unity and you feel an obligation to each other, I don’t want to let these young men down.  They don’t want to let me down or their teammates.  I think it’s well worth it.  I would never do away with all these bowls.  It’s a great experience. It’s another chance to compete.  Why not?”

(On seeing a non-SEC team) “It will be refreshing for the first time this year to not see an SEC team, but they are a well-coached team, they’re very good, explosive and they’ve had a really nice year.  I know [NC State Head Coach] Dave [Doeren] well, so it will be a fun opportunity to compete against another head coach that I know well and am friends with. Again, I think the biggest thing is it’s another opportunity for this team to try to end this season the right way.”

(On the team’s availability following that last round of testing before arriving in Jacksonville) “We’re 100 percent.  I was worried. The way 2020 went, you know, and you get popped on the very last test.  I had people all around me all year coming up with it.  I thought that would be just my luck, but fortunately I’m here.”

(On coaching DT Phil Hoskins and if he’ll come back another year) “He thought about it.  We talked about it. Phil is one of those guys that it’s been a lot of fun to see his growth, it really has.  He’s just come such a long way.  He’s one of those guys now who enjoys coming into my office and sitting there.  Now he has a great big smile on his face and he just wants to talk about life lessons and just different things, and I love that.  Sometimes I’m a little pressed for time and I’ve got to move him on his way at some point, but I do love our talks.  Much different than he was before.  Prior to this season, I remember one specific talk. We were in my office sitting there and my challenge to him was ‘How are you going to handle bad times? How are you going to handle the lows?’ Because those seem to always derail him. He could be real high, doing some really good things, and then anything that would get him off the rails would set him back.  If he wants to be a professional, wants to play at a high level, wants to be a consistent player for us, he had to learn to control some of the lows, and he’s been a really steady guy.  I think that’s an area right there that doesn’t get talked about as much.  There’s always going to be highs and lows and tough times and he’s handled it really well.”

(On if Hoskins can play professionally) “I think so, I do.  I definitely think so.  He’s one of those guys, he’s long and he’s loose and he can play fast.”

(On how the offense has looked this week in preparation) “I’m not just saying this.  I thought our last practice before we left, not the day of, but Wednesday practice, was one of the best practices we had all year.  I really do.  I felt like we were moving at a high tempo.  We were throwing and catching the ball more precise than we had been so I hope it carries over.” 


(On the bowl system and what It means to the Kentucky football program) “It’s been incredible for this program. I came into this program even before I enrolled when we were winning two games and we were not doing very well. To be able to see the change that this whole program has made and be able to sort of have that milestone marker of being able to go to the bowl games after not having a bowl game since 2008. 2016, my freshman year, was the first year we’d gone there in that many years. I think it’s something really good not just for the mentality, knowing that you’ve done better, that you’ve improved the program, that you all are having a winning season, but I think it’s good for the extra work for a bunch of these guys, especially the guys that are getting ready to go to the next level. I think it’s good that they just get to hone their skills, enjoy that last bit with those guys. But really, I think it’s just a great experience to build that team unity, get these guys all together, to get us working together, and be able to have fun doing it. You get into a long, long drive of a season and a lot of guys get that sort of monotonous feeling in the season, especially in a 10-game SEC season where were going through everything we are in 2020. This is a chance to sort of be able to relax a little bit and go back to having fun and it’s not just ground and pound all the time. You can have fun in football. It’s the greatest game ever made.”

(On what he will remember about the 2020 season) “The best [part] about the 2020 season I think would just be how unique it is. Being able to finally do what everyone always talks about, having a 10-game SEC season schedule going against the best of the best, I’ll be able to remember that. But not just that, being able to get back up and respond to everything that’s happened. Of course, one of the most dearly beloved men in my life passed away this year. I know that’s a lot of the guys on the team period. But he always said it’s 10 percent of what happens to you and 90 percent of how you react to it. So, being able to see this team go through these struggles with [Kentucky LB] Chris Oats [not being able to play], with Coach Schlarman, with COVID in general and be able to get back up, go out, put our hard hat on, and go win football games, that’s really going to be the number one thing that I remember.”

(On the players that will take over at the tackle position next year) “I feel a lot of depth and a lot of guys that want to come out and play. I don’t think that we’re going to be shy next year with guys that can fill spots and stay at a good level of play. I don’t think there’s going to be a huge drop off. I think that there’s guys that need reps to be able to fine hone their skills. Of course, we have a lot of start reps and a lot of experience on our starting line, but I see these guys that are willing to work and willing to be coached that are excited to have coaches come in and teach them. They want to get out there and play ball. So, not only is it really good guys but I think we definitely have an increasing draft of depth on the offensive line. We’ve sort of made it a thing over the last couple years that it’s fun to be an offensive lineman at the University of Kentucky and we want to continue that. We want to continue these new guys coming in and really good guys coming in and thinking UK makes it fun to be an offensive lineman.”


(On his relationship with former UK DE and current Jaguar DE Josh Allen) “I talked to him a couple of days ago. I FaceTimed him and we were just chopping it up and catching up. We were roommates at every bowl game that I had when he was with UK. But I’ll just say, he’s the loudest snorer I’ve ever seen in my life. Like you would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep because his snoring was so loud.”

(On what he learned from former UK DE and current Jaguar DE Josh Allen) “He played the game with extreme passion. I remember the jump that he made from his junior year to his senior year was tremendous. You could really tell that it was going to happen just because of his work ethic and the way that he would work when we had workouts and not only during the workout, but the work that he’ll put in after as well. It was much more than just a game to Josh [Allen]. You could tell that once he had [his son] Wes, he really turned things up. Everything that he has now is a byproduct of his hard work and him being appreciative of everything around him and what it took to get there.”

(On how the team is feeling physically) “I think everybody’s feeling fresh. This is just a little something small [his wrapped-up hand]. I’m going to be able to play and everything like that. It’s just something small I had to deal with, but everybody’s fresh. [Kentucky Head Coach] Coach Stoops does a great job taking care of us during the bowl games and bowl weeks and bowl practices. Of course, we had 10 SEC games [this season]. That’s not something we normally do so of course a lot of people were banged up. But this time that we had, he really took care of us. Everybody healed up and we’re really ready to get after it Saturday and have some fun in our final game together.”

(On if he’s ever not having fun playing football) “When I’m on that field, I don’t think so. Like [Kentucky OT] Landon [Young] said, I think football is the greatest game ever created. It’s a game that you’ll face adversity during the game, and it matters how you bounce back. Like I said before, I feel like that’s how life is. When you’re in between those lines and when you’re going at war with your brothers and those next to you, it seems like nothing else matters. It’s just being where your feet are at and that’s on that field with your brothers having fun. During that time, I don’t take anything for granted. I just take all that with gratitude. I go out there and use the gifts that God blessed me with and know to achieve a goal with my team which is to win that game. When I’m on that field, nothing else really matters except for where I’m at that moment.”

(On the difference playing in a bowl game this year) “I feel like the feeling is, I would say, the same as far as us wanting to go in and win this game. The bowl experience is different because of course we’re usually here for a week or so and so we get some time to be in Florida and not only enjoy those parts but also have some fun practices in warm weather. Of course, things are different this year, so it’s just some adjusting that we have to do. At the same time, we always have that same common goal which is to come down here and have fun. But also this is a business trip, so we want to take care of business tomorrow as well and really become Gator Bowl champions after tomorrow.”

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