If the 2016 Kentucky Wildcats make a bowl game, Darin Hinshaw will be a huge reason why. I know he is going to have some play calling input during games, but that is not why he is so important to UK’s success. Hinshaw’s primary duty, and the one that will pay the most dividends for the Blue and White, is as a quarterbacks coach. My reasoning for this belief is simple: coaches make players better. A player with a coach whose primary duty is to develop them will have a better opportunity to develop. Somebody has to coach ‘em up if they are to reach their full potential. Our new quarterbacks coach’s main contribution must be on the practice field and in the meeting rooms with Drew Barker if the Cats are to improve significantly this year.
The last consistently decent quarterback that UK fielded was Mike Hartline, which coincidentally (or not so coincidentally in my opinion) was in 2009 – the last season that UK had a dedicated quarterbacks coach. Since then UK quarterback play has varied from terribly inconsistent to downright terrible, all under the leadership of an Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks Coach. For whatever reason, this dual responsibility role has produced nothing for the Cats’ signal callers. The guess here is it’s hard to be great at one thing when you are trying to do everything. Too many other “big picture” things command the attention of the offensive boss, while the devil is in the details when it comes to developing a quarterback. Maybe an OC simply doesn’t have the time necessary to truly develop a QB. Sure there are other factors in the success or failure of every UK quarterback the past decade, but let’s not overthink this: we have had good QB play when we had a dedicated QB coach, and bad QB play when we didn’t.
The best example of the worth of a quarterbacks only coach is a tale of two Cats: Andre Woodson and Patrick Towles. Woodson and Towles had a lot of similarities early in their UK career: both were high profile in-state recruits, both were blessed with NFL size and arm strength, and both were given the opportunity to command the offense early in their time in Lexington. Their careers started the same, but ended very differently. Woodson finished up as a UK legend, Towles transferred out having never lived up to his potential. So what made the difference for Andre Woodson? The most glaring difference between the two was the presence/absence of a dedicated mentor. When Woodson went from awful to awesome between his sophomore and junior seasons, his position coach Randy Sanders was given most of the credit for the transformation. Sanders made Andre Woodson into one of the great quarterbacks in SEC history. Towles on the other hand never had someone whose focus was developing his game, and he never reached expectations in Lexington. It may seem an oversimplification to some, but I believe that Patrick Towles was inconsistent because his development was given inconsistent attention. The lack of a true quarterbacks coach may have held him back from becoming the Patty Ice we only saw glimpses of.
I know that all football coaches have multiple responsibilities, and Hinshaw will be no exception working under Eddie Gran. But if UK wants to be successful this year, he must emphasize his primary responsibility — turning Barker into a legitimate SEC player. No matter how improved the line play is, how much more consistent the receivers become, or how great Coach Gran is with running backs, this team will only go where Barker takes them. Our bowl hopes ride on Hinshaw being a true quarterbacks coach. Mark Stoops’ future may ride on Hinshaw being a true quarterbacks coach. Barker will either become the next Andre Woodson or the next Patrick Towles. 38 days until Kickoff…show us what you got, Coach Hinshaw.
*This is my first post here with KSR, so thanks for having me! I am a lifelong member of BBN (football slightly more than basketball oddly enough), and have been a big fan of all things KSR for years. I am really excited, and thankful, to have the opportunity to contribute here. My take on sports is an Every Man approach – I see the games through the same lens as most of you probably do. I am knowledgeable enough to have an opinion, but do not in any way consider myself an expert. Finally a bit about me personally…by day I am a human resources professional, and by night I am a devoted husband (hi babe!) and loving father of two (four year old son and a daughter due in November). Thanks for reading, and Go Cats!