It’s fair to say that Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw won Monday’s press conference. While sitting in the third row, I suddenly got the same gut-wrenching feeling I experienced while in elementary school. You all remember, the day the substitute teacher exited and the real teacher returned. Strange illustration I know, but UK offensive players best put down the spit balls and trashed the paper airplanes. Adults are back in charge. Kentucky’s Head Coach of the Offense and Co-Offensive Coordinator collectively communicated a singular voice and vision for the Wildcat offense. In simpler terms, there will be offensive identity.
With that in mind, here are five observations from today’s press conference:
1. Gran and Hinshaw’s history and familiarity were obvious
However, the manner in which the pair delivered their vision, plan, and message to the inquisitive media herd impressed me more than averaging 537 yards per game at their previous school. On day one, Eddie Gran made clear a play calling process with Hinshaw in the booth and Gran on the field. They also explained how their offensive system was conceptualized and evolved. NFL and previous coaching influences combined to create their unnamed system. I’m sick and tired of offensive system catch phrases or cheesy names by the way. Just play football. “Our,” “we,” and “us” were all believable and commonly used words. That struck me as refreshingly odd.
2. Gran labelled his system as a multiple, pro-style offense
What this means is that that play calling is adaptable, not pigeonholed into a vernacular used to appease the masses. Plays start with the quarterback in the pistol, or condensed shotgun formation, with the utilization of an H-back or hybrid TE/FB. Music to BBN’s ears as CJ Conrad’s name was the only current Wildcat frequently mentioned. Gran and Hinshaw both said the offense would go “800 miles per hour” meaning tempo will be considerable faster than in Stoops’ three prior years.
3. The duo stressed offensive adaptability
This applies to inherited personnel as well as taking what the defense gives. Gran mentioned that 90 plays per game is the ultimate goal, but can be slowed down to match each game’s situation. This is accomplished by formation, personnel packages, and scheme. Darin Hinshaw strongly indicated that UK quarterbacks will now be counted on to run the read option play. No, really, the read option when the quarterback actually keeps the football and runs down field. By all accounts, tempo will be forced. Terminology and player buy-in were their two concerns going into spring practice. But when citing the “buy-in” portion, Eddie Gran said “the players really don’t have a choice.” I liked that. Again, UK now has a discernable offensive leader and direction.
4. Resume starts now
Players will be given a clean sheet of paper on which to paint their own destiny. Gran was emphatic that personnel evaluation will be thorough, strategic and viewed with a fresh set of eyes. Let me interpret. There will be no more “favorites,” and the way on to the playing field will be based off results, attitude, and performance. The BBN should release a collective sigh. No job is safe. Every position is up for competition, yes even Jon Toth will have to re-earn his stripes. In situations such as this, players that have previously underperformed will be given two choices: fold and transfer or adapt and excel. A career reserve can transform into a starter. True freshmen will be given ample opportunity to earn clock. Competition is healthy and weeds out those that like all that comes from being a football player from those that love to play the game of football. There is an enormous difference in the two. This much needed kick in the backside could potentially motivate an at times, lackadaisical offense.
5. Derrick Ansley’s promotion to Co-Defensive Coordinator is perhaps Mark Stoops’ most strategic coaching staff decision
As you’ve read on Kentucky Sports Radio, my affinity for Ansley has been frequently discussed. Now with a new title and promotion, Mark Stoops was able to retain one of the fastest rising SEC football coaches. DJ Eliot will still make all defensive calls, but Ansley’s responsibilities will increase. As Stoops’ most effective teacher, Ansley is destined to become a coordinator and head coach. His work to develop four secondary freshmen is proof enough, but his talents go well beyond that accomplishment. Derrick Ansley has the “it” factor. Mark it down, one day he will be leading his own football program.
In my short career, Monday’s press conference was the first time I’d witnessed the media be mostly in agreement. Most I spoke with were highly impressed by Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw. On-field results are yet to be determined. Words don’t score touchdowns. But as I see it, the pair seems as if it will go into each game with a plan, stick to said plan, make half-time adjustments, and play fast. All or some have been said before. Prior to departing for Troy, Neal Brown didn’t have a chance to enact his full offensive plan due to personnel limitations. I feel if Neal had stayed, the conversation and results would have been vastly different. After twelve games, I’m not convinced Shannon Dawson ever had a plan. The Gran/Hinshaw team were convincing, confident, and provided a calming energy.
Another noteworthy reference was that the pair had identified and are actively recruiting a quarterback. All indications point to College of the Desert quarterback Stephen Jackson II being the unidentified target. I tweeted his highlight reel last week and said to keep an eye on the situation. Johnson has a quick and accurate release with the ability to fully execute the run/pass option play. The same play that has been a painful thorn in side of Kentucky defenses for decades. Junior college quarterbacks are recruited to play, not to be on the scout team or provide depth. Leading into National Signing Day, Stephen Johnson II is apparently priority number one for the Lexington newcomers.
Could Kentucky have yet another quarterback competition? I sure as heck hope so. As stated earlier, all offensive positions are up for grabs. A fresh start. New confident and capable offensive leadership. Retaining one of the hottest assistant coaches in the SEC. You could say that Mark Stoops had a pretty good day.