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Success in Kentucky’s Run-Pass Option Relies on Correctly Reading the Defense

When Terry Wilson was named starting quarterback, fans prepared for an offensive attack filled with run-pass option.  The latest game-changing development in college football offenses favors dynamic quarterbacks, but it’s always been a part of Eddie Gran’s offense at Kentucky.

“The good part about our offense I think where you put a little pressure on the defense is that every single one of our runs is a read,” said Gran.  “It was like that with Drew Barker. It was like that with Stephen, all of them.  We’ve got to be able to read.”

As you see in the picture above, Gunnar Hoak’s eyes are downfield during the mesh handoff with A.J. Rose.  Hoak is reading the defensive end to see if he should hand it off, keep it for a QB run or throw the ball downfield.

The RPO is filled with complex nuances, but at its core, all of the pressure is on the quarterback to take whatever the defense gives Kentucky’s offense.  Even though Wilson has incredible speed, the coaches aren’t telling him to run the ball.  They are telling him to make the defense pay every play.

“Our quarterbacks are going to run the ball,” said quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw.  “Everybody that watches our offense knows.  Now we don’t run our quarterbacks, we read our quarterbacks, which means that if the defense allows us to be able to pull the ball and we can take advantage of the defense, we’re going to do that.”

When the play is called, the coaches probably anticipate that Benny Snell or Wilson will run the ball, but if the pass is open, Wilson has the option to let it fly.

“We’re going to pull the ball and we’re going to throw the ball downfield, if the defense allows us to do that.  That keeps the perimeter on check the whole game, even though we’re running the ball.  Again, 95 percent our runs, we can throw the ball. That keeps the defense on check,” Hinshaw said.

Ultimately, the offense’s success will fall on the shoulders of Wilson to make the correct read.

“If you’re not making good decisions, that’s the bad part of it,” said Hinshaw.  “The good things is we’ve gotten better and better at it.  We’ve got to continue to do that.”


Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

7 Comments for Success in Kentucky’s Run-Pass Option Relies on Correctly Reading the Defense

  1. EastKYCAT
    6:27 pm August 29, 2018 Permalink

    I hope the QB play is better. I am thinking it is with the morale and confidence I am hearing from the coaches. If the offense can be unpredictable like the RPO is setup to be, look out its going to be a fun Kentucky team to watch.

  2. You Can Call Me Cal
    6:53 pm August 29, 2018 Permalink

    I thought with RPO they are reading the linebackers and secondary to see if the pass is open, if those players cheat towards the run, rather than reading the defensive ends in the classic run option which doesn’t include the possibility for a pass. Also, can someone enlighten me on how run blocking is successful and doesn’t get flagged for ineligible receiver downfield on a play like this if the QB does end up passing? I’ve always wondered this.

    • bailey000
      8:00 pm August 29, 2018 Permalink

      That is where blocking is much harder with today’s rpo. U aren’t moving up field you are zone blocking

    • bailey000
      8:02 pm August 29, 2018 Permalink

      There isn’t a need to get to the next level because if the QB hands the ball off it’s because the read defender has taken himself out of the play

    • TWhite
      1:10 pm August 30, 2018 Permalink

      Also because you get three yards before you are “down field”. The passes are coming out so quick by the time the OL takes a zone step and combo, the ball is out. Ole Miss would have linemen 4-5 yards down field on their RPO’s when Freeze was there.

  3. Angelo
    7:21 pm August 29, 2018 Permalink

    This worked great for Russell Wilson and the Seahawks for 2-3 years, then everyone figured it out. College speed and quickness will be fun to watch.

  4. bailey000
    8:04 pm August 29, 2018 Permalink

    You really try to get the ball in space