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Off-season Quarantine Mailbag

We’re all starved for sports. So I talked about smoked meats.

NCAA Football: Louisville at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

I planned on writing a lot about spring practice and whatever spring game type of thing that the football program was going to be doing. Instead we got a global pandemic that shut down practice and stopped all sports in their tracks. It’s hard to know when the football season will start but that won’t stop us from talking hypotheticals in April.

This might sound crazy but I really think the defensive line will be much better this season. I’m completely buying into the hype with Jared Goldwire after spring practice and he will be the key. G.G. Robinson had a good season last year but I always felt like he was a defensive end trying to play as a nose. When Goldwire got in there he looked like the disruptive force that this defense needs. Bryan Brown and every player that I’ve seen interviewed has mentioned Goldwire as the star of the defense this spring and I’m buying it.

Adding guys like Yaya Diaby and Ja’Darien Boykin will also be really big for the defense, in my opinion. This defense needs guys that can rush the passer and both have those skills. Depth will still be a big issue but I tend to think that Brown and Mark Ivey will play more guys this year to get the first and second groups more rest.

I’m still amazed by the fact that Dwayne Ledford felt that the offense was “vanilla” last season. It makes it obvious that things will only get more creative next season. Satterfield had a bunch of different ways to use misdirection and tricks to get guys open in the passing game but I think they’ll have some new things in the offense that are more direct.

Micale Cunningham is the key next season. He progressed at an absurd rate as the season and Scott Satterfield has nothing but time to work on an advanced system to work with. The main thing that I think we’ll see more receivers and less reliance on play action. It won’t completely go away from what we know worked last year but I would be surprised if they don’t put more receivers on the field with the depth they have.

One specific thing I think we’ll see is Dez Fitzpatrick moved around to different spots. Tutu Atwell will be the focus again but I can’t stress enough how big it is that Ledford and Satterfield know exactly what they have to work with now. They went into last year blind and had to work on opening things up as the year went on. Now we’ll see a more “risky” offense with more receivers and more straight dropbacks from Cunningham.

I’d say my expectations are about the same. Fans may not be satisfied but there will be improvement. This defense was devoid of any depth when Satterfield took the job. They weren’t able to fix that with the first two recruiting classes but they should have more options in some areas. They should be better on the edge as well as more experienced and consistent at corner. Linebacker should be outstanding.

However, they still have positions that will be huge questions marks. The defensive line lost two starters and some depth guys. While I feel really good about the group as a whole, a lot of that is based on my own expectations for the young guys. Isaiah Hayes will most likely be taking over for Khane Pass which should provide some positives in pass coverage but could cause some issues when it comes to leadership and run support. They also still have depth questions at all three levels. They could be a year or two away from having that under control.

The defense having the same system for consecutive years is the key, in my opinion. Bryan Brown doesn’t run a complicated defense but it is a system that requires guys to be able to think on their own. We saw a lot of plays early in the season where guys struggled to adjust to motion or other changes in the offense. No one had complete understanding on what to do on the fly. I think that changes and guys will be able to play faster and think less with a better understanding of the scheme. I also think that Brown has more versatility with pass rushers which should help the abysmal pass rush.

So I went forever without a smoker last year and finally got a new one right when the season started. I’m also still working during the pandemic, so I’ve been slacking like you wouldn’t believe when it comes to smoked meats. My two goals for the next month or so are to make my own scratch dry rub and barbecue sauce. I’ve always used rubs that I buy from different places.

My favorite is the dry rub from Momma’s Mustard, Pickles & BBQ. It’s good on anything and it’s been my go-to for years. Unfortunately, they’re shut down right now so I’ve been stuck with whatever I can find. My local butcher sells a gunpowder rub that’s great on steaks. Crestwood Meats on LaGrange sells it as well as really good Filet’s for cheap. I moved out here a few years ago and I rarely go anywhere else for anything I need.

If anyone has any good recipes that they want to share, throw them in the comments. It’s probably a good opportunity for folks to try some new things. I’ll update once I make my rub and sauce sometime soon.