From substitutions to rumored opt-outs, it was a bizarre day at the Joe Craft Football Training Facility.
Every Tuesday during the Kentucky football season, excluding the bye week, Kentucky’s offensive coordinator meets with the media after practice, followed by interviews with various players and other offensive coaches. The annual routine was altered by the coronavirus, yet offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was still always present to discuss the offense’s successes and flaws over Zoom… until Tuesday.
Kentucky quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw was sitting in Gran’s place this evening. Also a co-offensive coordinator, Hinshaw was prepared to answer questions about Kentucky’s offense, just not why he was filling in for Gran.
“That’s a Coach Stoops question,” Hinshaw said. “I’m here to answer any football questions.”
Mark Stoops revealed Monday that his offense was down three staff-members as the Wildcats deal with coronavirus issues. “We have issues with COVID. It’s not out of control. Let’s hope it stays that way.”
When pressed about how the offense is preparing for Vanderbilt short-handed, Hinshaw said all is well.
“With those kind of questions, those are Coach Stoops questions. I’m not going to answer,” he told me. “We’re game planning just fine. We’ll be ready for Vanderbilt.”
He was ready to answer questions about the quarterbacks without saying which one will be starting against Vanderbilt (again, that’s a Coach Stoops question). Hinshaw discussed the improvements made throughout the bye week, while sharing where Joey Gatewood went right and wrong against Georgia.
“Late in the game we put Joey in a bad position, as far as dropping back over and over and over against a really good Georgia (defensive) front. That was the part that was disappointing and then he didn’t feel as comfortable. That’s something we’ve been working with Joey on and all the quarterbacks — we can’t hold the ball back there. We have to trust it and throw it. That’s a thing we’ve been working with everybody on. Again, I’m so pleased with how hard we’ve worked in this bye week with what we’ve put in and just the practice we just had. You can see the improvements have been made,” Hinshaw said before providing even more specifics into what he saw from Gatewood on the Georgia film.
“I saw a kid that competed. He came out of that game, he was bloodied up. He went and competed, which is what we wanted to see from him. I wanted to see him running with the football, being more vertical than horizontal. He ran not timid, it wasn’t timid, but it was in a situation where you’ve got to go vertical in this league because in this league you can’t run sideways. But he did a lot of good things there. In the passing game I wanted to see him get the ball out and not hold it, make a decision, don’t sit there and pat the ball. That’s not good in this league and that’s something he needs to improve on and we’ve addressed it and he’s gotten better already in the bye week and where we’re at right now.”
Hinshaw’s public evaluation of Gatewood’s play against is consistent with what we previously heard from Stoops. Even though Gatewood struggled against Georgia’s talented defense, they have not exactly given him the benefit of the doubt when describing his shortcomings, mistakes that don’t look too different than the ones we’ve seen Wilson make.
Meanwhile, Terry Wilson has received glowing reviews from practice since he returned from a wrist injury. Speculation surrounding that mysterious injury he suffered against Missouri sparked rumors that the quarterback was actually considering opting out of the final half of the 2020 season. Today Hinshaw was asked if there was any truth to those rumors.
“This is really tough times. It’s a situation where you get emotional and sometimes emotions get ahold of you, but I’ll tell you, the conversations I’ve had with Terry Wilson have been nothing but great. He loves Kentucky. He wants to — I just got off the field and just hugged him. I got off the field and said, ‘Man, what a great day.’ He’s working hard for Kentucky football, I promise you that.”
And I promise you that today’s post-practice conversation with the Kentucky football team is unlike any other of the Mark Stoops era.