Players and coaches alike have praised Liam Coen’s innovative offense throughout Kentucky football spring practice. What they have failed to mention is exactly how difficult it is to implement the new scheme. Today that changed as Kentucky’s offensive coordinator lamented the lack of playbook comprehension.
“We definitely need to get into our books and learn this install better than we did today,” said Coen. “It’s huge. At the next level if you don’t have your iPad on you, you’re probably going to get fined. That’s the reality.
“We have guys that need to get in their book. You don’t have enough time for an hour meeting and then go out on the field and expect to do it. They gotta get in their books, study it and get in extra work. At the end of the day that’s something that needs to get done when you’re behind like we are getting an offense in. The defense has been running the same system for five years, so the expectations are high.”
The bar has been raised for everyone, yet all of the players, regardless of experience, are on the same playing field. The playbook is new to the entire offense. Some of the experienced players haven’t done enough to operate at full speed, while freshmen that arrived this spring have made a smooth transition into college football.
“(Running back) La’Vell Wright is a kid, midyear enrollee freshman who’s supposed to be taking geometry class right now and that kid has done an unbelievable job learning the offense, knowing what he’s supposed to do, alignment, assignment just as well as some of those older kids. Reps and game reps are things he’s missing without a doubt, but in terms of understanding what we’re trying to get accomplished, some of those younger guys have definitely stepped up and done a nice job,” Coen said.
“(Wide receiver) Chauncey (Magwood) is another kid similar to La’Vell that just eats it up. He’s doing a real nice job of learning the book and getting in it. He’s just a great kid. You can see some of the former quarterback traits come out in his game in terms of understanding some zones and voids. A little bit out of control at times just because he’s not used to running a ton of routes, but he’s got big, strong hands and he’s a natural leader. He’s a kid that just wants to do things the right way all the time. You can’t get sick of that as a coach.”
What Coen is sick of is seeing players come to practice unprepared. They work hard on the field, but that’s not enough time to understand the offense well enough to make impactful plays.
“The level of understanding, we’re getting there. Now it’s just the execution,” said UK’s offensive coordinator.
“Somebody’s gotta stop the bleeding, step up and make a play. It’s not going to be all ra-ra-shish-come-ba, all happy-go-lucky. It’s supposed to be hard. In practice adversity is supposed to come up so Saturdays are easy. Today we didn’t have somebody step up and make a play. Overall I’d say we’re around a 3.5 (out of 5). I’m happy with — the guys are working. That’s one thing about the culture of this program, these kids work. When they go out on the field they put their head down and go to work and they practice hard. Now it’s about getting a couple wrinkles in over the next few weeks of spring practice and go from there.”
Other Notes from Spring Practice
— Coen is unsure if he will call plays from the booth or the sideline. He’ll try out each in the Wildcats two scrimmages that will wrap up spring practice. Most importantly, where he calls plays from is ultimately up to whoever is the quarterback. He likened his job to a caddy. It’s his job to put the QB in a position to succeed.
— Darian Kinnard is comfortable at left tackle. Originally recruited to play the position, he got some reps early in his career on that side of the line before switching to right. Now he just has to rethink some things.
“Sometimes when I hear a play I’m thinking of certain steps as a right (tackle) because I’ve been doing it for two years. Then I’m like oh yeah, I’m on the other side. I gotta do it differently. I gotta take a better angle… It’s a little bit of an adjustment but I’m getting more comfortable with it.”
Kinnard is going things differently, but as you’ll see, he’s still a scary, imposing figure on the Big Blue Wall.