Before Eddie Gran fielded a question, he strolled up to the podium and told the media, “I haven’t made a decision.” Like UK’s offensive coordinator, I will not waste your time by getting into the minutiae of UK’s quarterback battle. Instead, I’ll tell you how the Kentucky coaches are preparing the inexperienced quarterbacks for SEC competition.
Gunnar Hoak, Terry Wilson and Danny Clark have never played in a SEC football game. Some people thrive under the bright lights, while others fold. Stephen Johnson was the former, but the UK coaches didn’t know that until an injury forced Johnson into action. Quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw is doing everything he possibly can to see how each player handles adversity before September 1.
“We are constantly putting pressure on them. I call it cooking in their kitchen. I try to get in their kitchen, especially when they’re tired and they make a mistake,” Hinshaw said. “I try to create pressure while we’re out there on each one of them to play their very, very best.”
During the season, coaches might pump in crowd noise. In the preseason, they just get physical.
“In all our drills, we’re knocking the crap out of them. We’re throwing them on the ground. Josh (Estes-Waugh) does a great job of punching them in the ribs when they throw. They kind of get simulated some stuff as far as being hit without them being able to get hurt. We’re trying to do everything we can to create pressure.”
Once the coaches create pressure packed situations, mistakes happen. Hinshaw said the room is currently making the correct decision about 80 percent of the time, ten percent below their goal. Mistakes happen in the early stages of camp (although zero interceptions were thrown today). He wants to see how the QBs respond.
“I want to see them when they do something wrong, come out of it. I tell them to wipe the board clean. Clean the board. Let’s go with a white piece of paper. Forget what just happened. I know I’m going to be in your ear about it, but let’s go ahead and get ready for the next play and execute that one the very best you can.”
Today, the fifth and final day of playbook installation, the offense did not execute well. The quarterbacks were “swimming,” at times through the thick playbook, but Hinshaw still likes their progression through five practices.
“They’re really doing everything I’m asking them to do. Right now, I kind of like where they are. We hit a mental wall. We had our last day of install….But the bottom line is they’re both competing and they want to do so well. I love that about them. Now it’s going to be my job to fine-tune them as we get ready for that first scrimmage.”