This offseason every Kentucky football fan is taking about the offense. Who will be the quarterback? Will they finally have a competent passing attack? Is this guy from the Rams the real deal? Mark Stoops did his best to answer some of those questions by explaining how UK’s offense will change in 2021 on Tuesday’s edition of Kentucky Sports Radio.
As for the quarterbacks, obviously Stoops isn’t going to crown a winner of the competition today. Without disparaging previous passers, Stoops said he’s excited to see what the new guys, Beau Allen and Joey Gatewood, will do this fall.
“I don’t like talking anything about the guys we’ve had, because I love em. They’ve laid it on the line for myself and for the team and I love them,” he said. “We want to grow and we want to get better and that’s the bottom line. Our players know that. When they come in they know I’m going to try to recruit somebody better than them. We all want to try and get better and win games every year. I am excited, let’s just leave it at that.”
Stoops wants to take another step, a talking point you’ll hear often until the season is kicked off in September. Kentucky’s head coach believes he has the guys under center that can make that happen. What does that next step look like? It starts in the run game.
“There’s a lot of things that will look different. Number one, when I talk about balance, I mean it. I want to be balanced,” he said.
“What I like about the Rams is I want to be some under center. I want to change tempos and not just go fast — some of these teams that go fast run plays just to run plays. I don’t like that. As a defensive coach, I don’t like that. The shear tempo of plays sometimes does get defenses on their heels some, but that’s just a play or two hear or there. It’s not necessarily a philosophy I believe in to just go as fast as you can because they’re not really studying how to attack defenses. They’re just running plays. Sometimes that does work but not in the long run. It is important to change tempos. You can still huddle and then get to the line quickly so they can’t adjust to your formation. That’s one type of tempo. Then there’s the ‘fast fast’ type of tempo. With the Rams there will be three different types of tempo, which is important, but getting under center is important too. It opens up more run game.”
By getting under center, Kentucky will be able to use different types of schemes that are all a fancy way of saying “outside runs.” After almost exclusively using inside zone to run between the tackles, the outside zone scheme Liam Coen runs, and the pin and pull scheme (easily illustrated here) offensive line coach Eric Wolford used at South Carolina, will keep opposing defenses on their heels and make life easier on the tackles and tight ends.
That was my attempt to explain it in layman’s terms. Here is how Stoops explained it with all of the beautiful football jargon.
“As good as we’ve been in the run game , we need to be better. We were decent on the perimeter with some of that stuff that we can do with Wan’Dale and have done with Lynn, but we really didn’t run outside zone. We didn’t run pin and pull. The offensive line coach I hired (Wolford), he was a master at pin and pull at South Carolina. It’s an off-tackle, outside run game, or outside the tight end. We were really big in split-zone, inside zone, and ran the heck out of it and our guys were good, however, outside zone with the defenders that we have to block sometimes, outside zone gives you more room.
We didn’t run outside zone. We will run outside zone in this. It will open up some different run game that will be more friendly to the tackles and the tight ends with some of the guys they have to block in this league. The same with pin and pull; you’re blocking down and you’re pulling guys and running it off tackle. As good as we run power, counter, split zone, inside zone, now you add outside zone or pin and pull, some outside things, it’s going to open that up. But also from getting under center and running that outside zone, that opens up if you watch the Rams, it’s big-time quarterback friendly on all the boots and play-action.
Wait, did he just uproot the offense to improve the run game?
“The fans are going to think I spent the whole time talking about the run game again, from inside zone to outside zone. Then you cut me off with the commercial,” Stoops laughed.
“Getting the ball down the field off the play actions and off the boots, waggles, I think it’s quarterback friendly and it gives us the opportunity to get the ball down the field. If you watch the NFL, much of their game is pinch sets (formations), condensed sets, bunch sets, and that’s to get guys open when you’re in normal spread. There’s some good cover guys in this league. There’s just some different nuances that will help us get open.”
There also could be some different players ready to get open in this new offense. Obviously, Stoops is one of many who are thrilled to have Wan’Dale Robinson running routes alongside Josh Ali. Kentucky’s head coach also mentioned an explosive player from Louisville who we haven’t heard much from during his first two seasons in Lexington, Butler product Tae Tae Crumes.
“We haven’t heard much bout Tae Tae. I’d like to see him take a step. I’d like to see him take a step because he’s got a little juice to him, a little wiggle.”
Stoops also said that Wan’Dale will not be Kentucky’s last transfer, consistent with what we’ve shared here on KSR. When exactly those additions or subtractions will come to light is not yet certain.
“I’d say we will (add more transfers) between now and next year, whether it’s right now at the break, or after in May. We have to work off 25 initials (scholarships), so if we do sign somebody in May, we can push them forward to next year’s class as well. If we bring them in now it’s gotta count to the 25 from this year. There’s a lot of things we gotta look at and balance.”
Balance. That’s exactly how Mark Stoops likes his rosters and his offense.
Hear everything Kentucky’s head coach said in an hour-long conversation with KSR right here.