UK coaches know the ‘Big Blue Wall’ has to play better

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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First-year offensive line coach Zach Yenser understands his unit has not performed up to past Big Blue Wall standards or the expectations UK fans had even though the Cats lost three NFL-caliber offensive linemen off last year’s 10-3 team.

However, Yenser is a John Schlarman disciple and is not about to panic. Yenser is a Kentucky native and played under Schlarman at Troy University.

“John was the first guy I really saw show me how this could be done. Awesome father, great husband and great football coach,” Yenser said. “He could do all three and manage his time.

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“The whole time he was at Troy and then when he came to Kentucky, I always kept up with him and knew what he was going through grinding those early years before finally hitting his stride. Then I knew what he did even though he had cancer before he passed.”

Yenser felt a responsibility to continue what Schlarman had done by putting together one of the best offensive lines in the country.

“I stand in front of our (meeting) room and (a picture of) Schlarman is on the back wall,” Yenser said. “You are reminded of him on a constant basis and that makes you want to do a good job. That whole room is filled with guys John Schlarman has brought here and they all understand how important it is to his legacy for us to play well.”

Kentucky has seven straight SEC games starting with Saturday afternoon’s game at Ole Miss and offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello won’t deny the line has had its issues. He thought coming off a good performance in the win at Florida, the line “did not meet the standard of play we expect” against Youngstown State.

“They have to own it, we have to own it,” Scangarello said.

Kentucky gave up five sacks against Northern Illinois last week but Stoops said he saw improvement

“It is not always on them (offensive line). I am not saying none of it is. There are a lot of people involved,” Stoops said after the 31-23 win. “We know we need to improve. But look at the good they did tonight as well as protecting against a bunch of stuff.I know we had five sacks but not all of them are on the linemen. A couple of them (quarterback) Will (Levis) has got to throw. I know we gave up one (on the offensive line). But we created explosive plays with (pass) protection.”