Ever since Jojo Kemp ran wild in Kentucky’s upset win over South Carolina in 2014, the wildcat formation has been a staple of the offense. Even with three different offensive coordinators, Mark Stoops has made sure that it be a go-to move whenever the team has to eat clock and grind out first downs in a ballgame.
Under Benny Snell, this offense has reached new heights as Kentucky has become one of the best four minute offenses in football. Snell is able to gobble up yards behind impressive blocking and this has resulted in more red zone success. With Snell, UK has scored touchdowns on 62.8% of their red zone possessions. In the three years prior, UK only scored touchdowns on 53.8% of their red zone possessions.
This formation has become a vital part of the offense and with a dual-threat quarterback and a running back who played quarterback in high school teaming up with Snell in 2018 it could reach new heights.
In the season opening win over Central Michigan, Kentucky flashed the formation in the second half as they collected 22 yards and two touchdowns in just four plays. However, there were some wrinkles compared to the past and could mean a different type of attack this season.
As we go inside the play, we’ll pickup with the first wildcat set of the day as Kentucky entered the red zone following a Terry Wilson draw for the first time of the season.
The Wildcats come out in 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers) with four players split out wide. Eddie Gran decides to make the strong side of the formation to the boundary (shortest side of the field). Since he is not on the line of scrimmage, Terry Wilson is eligible to come in motion. Because of how far back he is lined up, its either an automatic motion or perhaps a quick throw out to him. As expected, he comes across in what is called a jet motion.
As expected, Wilson comes in motion and with his ability to run it the opposing six defenders in the box have to stop for just a second to make sure its not going to him. Due to the entire offensive line blocking down towards the right, it should be the defense’s first inclination that this is where the play is going. What happens next is something we haven’t seen from this formation since Eddie Gran arrived in 2016.
Usually when this motion takes place, UK will go to a power run where the offside guard will pull around and throw a lead block for the ball carrier. Or Kentucky could go inside zone where each of the offensive linemen take a step to the right and follow a track where they’ll block whoever comes along their path.
The way the linemen step on the snap makes this seem like it’s going to be inside zone. This was a go-to play for UK last season. The defense hesitates, giving Snell outside leverage on the pursuit in what actually is a counter run. He beats the the defensive end and two linebackers to the edge in addition to having two blockers for two men on the outside. No matter what happens next, this is a successful play because of the numbers.
Snell beats the the three trailing defenders to the spot while C.J. Conrad takes care of the safety and Lynn Bowden never allows the corner to become a factor. Snell barrels his way forward for six. Kentucky picks up a touchdown on their first red zone possession of the season and the wildcat formation is to think for that. Here’s the full play in its entirety.
The wildcat formation is going to play a big role in UK’s offense this fall. With a brand new quarterback situation, don’t be surprised to see UK go to this much more as the on field competition begins to stiffen in the upcoming weeks. In the past, UK’s wildcat attack had been limited to in between the tackle runs and no threat of the forward pass, that now changes.
A.J. Rose, who scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter on an inside zone play from four yards out of the wildcat, played quarterback in high school. The redshirt sophomore has the speed to get to the edge and could even give UK a jump pass look. With Terry Wilson, Kentucky has a quarterback who has the athleticism of a college wide receiver. The trick play element is always going to be there for him but UK could also use him as a runner on the jet motion or just throw it out to him with Rose.
Expect this package to really develop as the season moves along. It could be a lethal weapon for this offense in the red zone and in short yardage situations.