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It’s that time of the year again… Is it time to extend Eddie Gran?

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

UK Athletics

For the past several years, Kentucky has been under fire for extending/giving raises to assistants based on hope for the future and recruiting success, rather than actual product on the field. Vince Marrow was a guy that most fans agreed with keeping on board at all costs, but other staff raises have left a bad taste in the mouth of the fan base, including early on this season with head coach Mark Stoops’ massive buyout.

But this one might be necessary.

Eddie Gran has absolutely dominated in his first year as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator, with his unit putting up record-setting numbers and developing an identity that wasn’t forcing groans and confusion throughout the fanbase. The Shannon Dawson experiment last year was an epic failure by all aspects of the game, and everyone knew the next hire at offensive coordinator for Mark Stoops was absolutely crucial for long term success. Not only has the Cincinnati product been successful, he has exceeded every expectation for this offense imaginable.

Calling Gran a home-run hire would be an understatement.

To open the year, we saw the high-powered offense Gran is capable of calling, with a first half for the ages against Southern Miss. Fans lit up social media with praise for Kentucky’s new offensive coordinator, calling it the most entertaining half of Kentucky football in recent memory, and it was well deserved. We saw shots taken down the field, a well-balanced attack of the team’s most valuable weapons on offense, an absolute scorching of the defense. Obviously the second half was a disaster on both sides of the ball, but we saw just a hint of what Eddie Gran’s offense was capable of.

When the season seemed in doubt following Barker’s back injury against New Mexico State, Gran completely changed the offense’s approach to fit around the skill-set of his new starter, Stephen Johnson. When most teams would be lost without their “guy,” Gran just went back to work and did his part to keep the offense firing on all cylinders.

In the first few games with Johnson under center, Kentucky’s offense consisted of mostly short passes and a heavy dose of running. When Johnson struggled to complete passes, Gran opened up the run game to Boom Williams, Benny Snell, and Jojo Kemp while the JUCO transfer got into his groove. After Johnson’s passing developed, as did the offense, and trick plays and long balls were worked into the system.

As each game passed, the offense just continued to develop  and national praise for the veteran OC began to spike. His unit was being discussed as one of the best in the SEC by big-name media members, which was placed even higher on the pedestal considering how awful Cincinnati’s offense has been since Gran moved on. For those wondering, the Bearcats went from nearly 540 total yards per game last year to just 360 per outing, good for 107th in the nation. The impact he makes on the game is apparent.

There have been times Gran has been criticized for being too “predictable” and “conservative,” and some of it has been deserved. Should he have looked to pass in the red zone against Georgia on that final drive to potentially win the game? Absolutely. Have there been times that running the Wildcat on consecutive plays seemed like the “lazy” approach, where defenses finally stacked the box and slowed it down? Sure.

But he’s proven his weekly gameplan is a step ahead of the competition, as one of the smartest offensive minds in all of college football. If you disagree, ask Bobby Petrino what he thinks about the guy. He did outgain the supposed “greatest offensive playcaller in America” 581 total yards to 561 on Saturday.

Gran has managed to maximize his offense’s strengths and minimize their weaknesses with his playcalling alone, allowing the greatest possible product on the field at all times. When a particular unit has flourished, he kept the offense flowing in that direction. When a unit struggled, he went elsewhere. He’s been outsmarting opposing defenses left and right, and last Saturday was no exception. In fact, it may have been Gran’s best performance of the season.

Against Louisville, Gran absolutely outcoached UofL defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, and it really wasn’t even close. When the entire nation expected Kentucky to come out and attack with the run game, what does Gran do? He lets it fly on the first play from scrimmage, a call he claims to have known was coming three days prior. Again, just a step ahead of the competition.

When you look at it from a statistical standpoint, the offensive development from just last year to this year has been phenomenal. Kentucky went from averaging roughly 387 yards and 26 points per game last season under Shannon Dawson to 430 yards and 32 points per game this year. When you factor in the offensive explosion where Kentucky had over 500 yards of offense in four of their last six regular season games, Gran just looks that much more impressive.

The playcalling has been nothing short of brilliant this year, but that may eventually come at a price.

He’s already been rumored for the Florida Atlantic head-coaching position, and when firings start piling up in the next few weeks, you can guarantee Gran’s name will be thrown in there, as well. He’s a proven commodity, has 15-plus years of experience in the SEC, and has shown he can get the job done just about anywhere he goes.

Mitch Barnhart has got to open up the pocketbook and sign this guy up for the long haul. Give him whatever it takes to stay. Eddie Gran has been an absolute game-changer for Kentucky’s offense.


Article written by Jack Pilgrim

Follow me on Twitter: @JackPilgrimKSR

12 Comments for It’s that time of the year again… Is it time to extend Eddie Gran?

  1. 8andcounting
    8:46 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

    Totally agree with extending Gran. He’s been even better than Neal Brown was, and Brown’s already a D1 head coach.

    On a related note, I’d be curious to see what Stoops & Co. will do about DJ Eliot. To have the defense make SUCH noticeable improvement when Stoops took over, I don’t think Eliot is qualified to continue. Rumor is that he and Stoops are great friends, so that will create an obvious conflict, but he’s done nothing but underperform since he’s been here. Would Eliot accept a demotion back to defensive ends coach like he was at FSU, or would he have to be fired?

    Alternatively, if this truly was an example of mid-season player development (and FINALLY the benching of Fat Elam), and Stoops’ takeover of the defense was only symbolic, maybe he stays on, but how long of a leash does he get? I would love to see a statistical breakdown of Eliot’s defense vs. Stoops’ defense.


    • foamfinger
      9:45 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

      There’s probably a lot of factors to why the defense got better. Throughout the year, the players admitted that they were trying to do too much and not trusting their other teammates, especially in the first few games. Eliot is doing all the game planning and coordinating with the positional coaches. Maybe he’s just not a play caller. He did go from being a positional coach to DC and probably needs to see how Stoop’s mind works in game to try to get a better feel for it.

      Plus, the defense is still extremely young and having the preseason injuries and depth chart issues did not help at all. Think about how many JC players we have on defense and that they are here only two years max, with the first year usually being the year they suck and don’t see the field. Stoops had to recruit them in order to fill gaps, but it makes seasons like this happen where we have more holes than we should.

      Another thing to consider is that after Barker went down, it took a few games to get the offensive identity to where the defense wasn’t on the field 60-70% of the game. That obviously plays dividends with the talent we have not being tired out like it was final years of Joker and the first three years of Stoops.

  2. KYcats11
    9:13 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

    Yeh Eliot definitely does not deserve the money he’s gettin.

  3. KYcats11
    9:16 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

    But, a guy at work tells me that towles left because of stoops. Apparently, stoops was too invloved with the offense and towles hated it. I’ll take stephen over towles any day.

  4. Kizzy
    9:47 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

    No, he only did as he was supposed to.

  5. bosshogg24
    9:48 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

    Gran still makes bad play calls, when it’s 3rd and 2 he will throw a 40 yard pass that has a 5% chance of being completed instead of getting the first down. He gets more and more conservative when the game gets into the 3rd and 4th quarter!

  6. fairweather
    10:27 pm December 2, 2016 Permalink

    I doubt he’ll go anywhere with nearly the entire offense coming back next year.

  7. Kizzy
    7:44 am December 3, 2016 Permalink

    UK big board stalks the shit out of everyone who posts. He also makes numerous accounts stealing people’s identity and then writing stupid shit. He should be permabanned.

  8. UKfanforlife
    9:05 am December 3, 2016 Permalink

    Gran better than Neal Brown? I don’t think so. Brown came at the start of the rebuilding, don’t forget that.

    As for a contract extension for Gran, nothing wrong with paying the man, but they need to add a penalty for leaving, to make it harder for him to leave. I don’t know him, but from what I read, I don’t think he would leave for another OC position. The right HC job may pull him away, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

    UK has had 3 OCs in 4 years. They need to lock Gran down for the Stoops era, so they have stability.

    No, I don’t always agree with his play calling. Early on, I was not happy with him. Let’s remind ourselves again that Gran is the 3rd OC in 4 years. The game plan against UL was pretty awesome. I am hoping that they keep improving and put a lot of points on the board, next season.

    They get most of their players back on both sides of the ball. I am hoping they can take a giant step forward, next season, and win 9 games. It took a lot longer than I wanted. But, I hope it happens and that Stoops and staff can make UK a winning program, long term.