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No Special Teams Coordinator, No Worry

(Photo: Mark Zerof, 247Sports)

Trivia question: During his Kentucky tenure, who served as Jerry Claiborne’s offensive and defensive coordinators?


Coach Claiborne did not have coordinators. QB coach Jerry Eisman called the offensive plays (ones that weren’t overridden by JC) and LB coach Terry Strock led the Wide Tackle 6 defense. Neither had the official “coordinator” title. Much is being written and discussed about Mark Stoops’ decision to not name a special teams coordinator. Fact is, I’d never heard of a special teams coach until the Dallas Cowboys hired Joe Avezanno in 1990. He was prominently shown on television during both positive and negative ST plays. I can remember watching Cowboy games in amazement. I wondered why a football team would need a single coach to manage special teams. NFL teams have specific ST coordinators with that role as his sole responsibility. College special team coordinators are position coaches with an additional duty.

Division 1 college football teams are allowed 9 on-the-field coaches. Off the field “coaches” or additional non-coaching staff members are the latest fad. In some instances, such as in Tuscaloosa, the numbers filling these positions seem limitless. There are exactly zero college head coaches that would hire a full-time, on-the-field coach whose only responsibility is to coach the kickers/punters/snappers/returners.

Defensive coordinator DJ Eliot also coaches the inside linebackers. In addition to calling plays, offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson leads the quarterbacks. Did you know that Kentucky also has a running game coordinator? RB Coach Chad Scott is listed at that position. I highly doubt that Chad is charged with managing the entire running game or that Shannon Dawson stops his play calling responsibilities in mid-game to ask Scott which run play to call. Recruiting Coordinator Vince Marrow’s role has been vital in Stoops first three classes. However, I’d argue that it’s more important for Vince to be on the road instead of conducting traditional RC duties such as scheduling visits, mailing letters, and color coordinating coach’s geographical area maps. Truth is, a portion of non-offense/defensive coordinator positions are simply created to build resumes and boost assistant’s salaries. I can’t help but to think a special teams coordinator doesn’t partially fit into this category.

Special teams are normally the head coach’s most beloved and scrutinized group. Some take it as far as delegate the unit’s responsibility to themselves. Ever heard of Beamer Ball made famous by Frank Beamer and Virginia Tech? Urban Meyer’s reputation was built on his revolutionary spread offense. While at Florida, Meyer was the sole coach of the Gator punt team. Reality is, specific special team units have always been led by position coaches. The decision of which players participate in special teams is the head coach’s call.

On a typical coaching staff, a defensive back or receiver coach directs the return teams. At times, the linebacker or defensive line coaches the punt and or kick-off teams. Field goal and PAT units are led by a tight end or offensive line coach. Kickoff and KO return is a collective effort from several coaches. What Stoops is doing is not revolutionary. What Stoops is doing is retro and it makes historical sense. The head coach makes the final decision to punt, go for two, fake punt, or attempt a kick block. The special team coordinator is traditionally the unit’s personnel director and oversees day to day operations. A collective effort can be just as effective. An argument could be made that by not having a ST coordinator eliminates the middle man and streamlines efficiency.

In summary, I’m not the least bit concerned that UK doesn’t have a special team’s coordinator. To be honest, I never quite understood why that position was ever created and often doubted its practicality.

Below is a continuation of our football dictionary and my random Top Power 5 Conference rankings:


Wheel route: Refers to an offensive pass play when an inside receiver initiates horizontal direction toward the sideline, then turns vertical toward the end zone. Normally, the outside receiver runs a route toward the middle of the field to draw the safety away from the sideline. Think of this as a misdirection pass route.

Hard count: This term describes the quarterback’s cadence when he tries to draw the defense offsides by an increase in voice inflection before the football is snapped. A veteran QB also gives an influential head bob to sell the deal.

Off the hash: In a perfect world, the strong safety and free safety line up directly on the hash mark lines on the field. These are the short, horizontal lines painted near the middle of the field. “Off the hash” describes the safeties breaking from their initial position to make a play on a receiver towards the sideline.

Dime Back: Remember from last time, the Nickel is the 5th defensive back. The Dime back is the 6th. This defensive scheme is usually called versus in definite passing situations with significant yards to be gained for a first down.

Edge: The term, “coming off the edge” is commonly used in describing defensive ends or outside linebackers as they are lined up beyond the widest offensive player on the line of scrimmage.


    1. SEC
    2. Pac 12
    3. Big 10
    4. Big 12
    5. ACC

Until next time, BBN. And don’t fret over the special team coordinator stuff. Dynamic returners and better athletes covering kicks will make the team much improved in the third phase.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

21 Comments for No Special Teams Coordinator, No Worry

  1. Joe Don Skaggs
    1:37 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    I would rather be the worst team in the best conference then the best team in the worst conference

    • 4 and 8 program
      1:56 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      That is just something losers say. UK would be the armpit of any power 5 league.

    • Parvenu
      4:03 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      You would know what losers say, 4 and 8 program. You speak the language with ease.

    • Dan
      9:50 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      Eh, I can agree with 4-8 that that line of thinking is rationalization, but I think UK would be middle of the pack to above average in the ACC, Big 12, or Big 10.

  2. Why
    2:00 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    Why do you always reference Jerry Claiborne as if he was some football coaching legend? He had one good year at UK and that’s it… No one cares what Jerry would do, or did…

    • JC
      2:02 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      STFU. I care. It his frame for reference. You’re an idiot.

    • Why
      11:33 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      would you start the keyboard claptrap? Maybe you should take a history lesson and do a little research into the state of affairs at the three programs Claiborne headed up. Seriously, for your own sake. Ask Frank Beamer who made Virginia Tech matter. After that take a look at the four or five seasons at Maryland before Claiborne took over then weigh them next to the three ACC Championships Claiborne managed. Finally ask Fran Curci what Claiborne had to deal with during his Kentucky tenure. Again, this type of post makes you seem clueless, classless and petty.

  3. Freddie
    2:12 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    Jerry Claiborne references, he is a College Football Hall of Fame coach. Thanks for reading.

  4. Jewelielou
    2:23 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    I really enjoy the football dictionary you include in some of your posts. It’s a nice reference for people who enjoy football but don’t know all the terms (like myself). I also like the Claiborne references, he was the coach when I first began watching UK football so he holds a special place in my heart.

  5. Jess
    3:04 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    IMO J. Claiborne got this thing rolling and I expect Stoops to make us relevant again. I too like your dictionary notes..very informative..I’ve been a loyal football fan through thick and thin…ready to let the good times roll again! Go Cats! Go Blue!

    • Leuther
      3:21 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      Agree! Good post!

  6. Edgar Allen Poetry
    3:06 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    ……………………UaVelgina is in the weak ACC…..

  7. SayWha?
    4:06 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    Pac-12 best conference IMO…they were last year…

    • Buckeye
      5:19 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      Sure they were.

  8. ColoradoCat3
    5:29 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    Outside Ohio State and maybe MSU, the Big 10 is trash. I’d pick kentucky to finish 3rd or 4th in the conference.

    • Hilltopper
      6:11 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      Remember how Wisconsin beat Auburn in a bowl game? Remember how Indiana beat Missouri, the SEC East champs, last year? How did UK do against those teams? Face it, UK would be at the bottom of the BigTen, too. Maybe you should try the Sunbelt conference. You’d probably be #3 there.

    • UKDidn'tPlay
      11:41 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

      Auburn or Wisconsin.

  9. Apples to Oranges
    5:41 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    PAC 12 might be the most evenly matched top to bottom, OSU might be the best overall team in a conference that gives them a very reasonable path to a major bowl this year, but the SEC might be the best for overall talent, consistency, and capability to beat the crap out of you year in, and year out. BTW, Coach Claiborne was respected as a coach for doing the right things the right way. What can you say that is positive about the character of the coach at UL other than he is willing to caddy for his kid?

  10. SITO
    6:52 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink


    • Ha!
      2:56 am August 24, 2015 Permalink

      For STD’s or drugs?

  11. Freddie
    7:32 pm August 23, 2015 Permalink

    While I’m convinced a collective effort directed by head coach is sufficient, I would be remised if I didn’t include the great Steve Ortmayer, Assistant HC/ST/TE Coach for Rich Brooks. One of the brightest football minds to ever coach at the University of Kentucky. Much, much respect for Coach O.