Last week, Kentucky co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw made some news when he said he expects Terry Wilson to throw the ball 35 to 40 times per game this season, a major increase from last season’s average of 20.6 passing attempts. With Benny Snell gone to the NFL, it’s clear that Kentucky’s offense is going to be very different this year, but are the Cats really going to rely on the passing game that much? Not so fast, says Mark Stoops.
“[The running game] is important. You’ve heard me tell you the statistics. We do all the data and that’s not going to change. When you’re outrushing your opponent by one yard it gives you a big advantage, so playing good run defense and being able to run the ball is critically important; that’s a proven fact, certainly in our league.
“But every year – and you’ve heard me talk about that this year, that every team is different. You have to find the best way you can to help them win. If that is throwing the ball however many times that is, if we have to do that to give us the best opportunity to win, we’ll do that. We’ll see how it plays out and I think that was the point [Hinshaw] was trying to make, and he’s piggybacking my comments. That’s what I’ve said. Whatever we need to do. Every team is different.”
Eddie Gran addressed Hinshaw’s comments head on to start his press conference, echoing Stoops when he said that to win in the SEC, you have to have a strong running game, but he’s hoping for more balance this season.
“Everybody says that we’re going to throw the ball a lot more this year so I’ll get this out of the way right now, okay? Everything starts up front in this league. It’s about the physicality and big men lead the way. And if you can’t run the ball, you’re going to have a hard time winning in this league. We want to be a little more balanced this year so if you had 80 plays, if you had 40 throws and 40 runs, that would be perfect. That’s the perfect scenario.”
That being said, Gran hopes Kentucky’s offense can be a little more dynamic with the help of playmakers like AJ Rose.
“What we’ve got to do is be more efficient in the passing game and more explosive. As you talked about AJ and some of these backs, we can maybe have some more explosive runs as well. One out of every eight, we want to have a 12-yard run or a 16-yard pass play. I think we’ve got some guys outside now that can help Terry and our quarterbacks make some plays. Not just Lynn because people will start doubling him and making it difficult. We’ll find ways to get Lynn the ball, but I think we’ve got some guys outside now that have matured enough to really help us be more explosive.”
Helping matters will be the strides Terry Wilson has made with his accuracy.
“He has worked awfully hard,” Gran said of Wilson. “I think you saw the improvement in the spring with throwing the deep ball. We’ve got to be great at the little things. Last year, we missed throwing the ball, we missed a bubble throw 30 times. You’re talking about your slot receivers — Lynn being that most of the time — where he could have thrown that out there, say we just get half of them right this year. That’s 15 more touches for your best player. And he’s going to improve on those things and our RPO game. But I think what he’s done with his technique and our fundamentals over the offseason, I don’t think there’s any question he’s going to be a better football player.”