The big men lead the way, but quarterback play can change the trajectory of a program. Mark Stoops hired Liam Coen to call plays for Kentucky’s offense and develop the Wildcats’ quarterbacks.
A former quarterback at UMass that led the Minutemen to the FCS National Championship Game, Coen believes a versatile competitor is best built for the position that acts as the point guard of the offense.
“First and foremost, is the kid a competitor? Does he just absolutely cannot stand to lose? Everybody likes to win. Everybody loves winning, but if the kid will just compete his tail off on every snap, don’t lose, don’t concede unless it’s a smart play, let’s throw it away. It’s more about, is this kid a competitor? Can he play hoops? Can he walk on a basketball court, be a distributor and make plays? Does he walk on the field or anything that he does and just not want to lose?”
Coen continued: “Then obviously, be able to throw and catch. He doesn’t have to have a big arm. Accuracy is the most important. We can always fix the feet, so we always work on his footwork. It all starts from the ground up with the quarterback in terms of footwork, how to people able to throw the football, and obviously his capacity. Right? You’d like for your quarterback to be able to handle some things, maybe some audibles, things like that. In terms of — I just feel like to run the football, the more athletic you can be, the better. If the quarterback can run and be able to make plays, we will absolutely incorporate quarterback run game. I believe it’s important in the college level. It causes everybody in the NFL fits, as you you can see on Sundays and with Lamar Jackson last night. It causes people fits, so if that’s what we have and that’s the best guy, we will absolutely do some of those things as long as it’s within alignment of what Coach Stoops wants and foresees out of his offense.
“Ideally, we’d like to find somebody that’s a true passer first but can also extend plays and make some plays out of the pocket.”
Before the quarterback competition begins between Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen this spring, Coen gave fans plenty to pick apart with that statement. Yes, he will happily lean on Gatewood in QB run concepts, if he’s the right guy for the job. Allen’s accuracy may give him an early advantage, although Coen admittedly knows very little about either players strengths and weaknesses right now.
“What pieces do we have here in place? And I believes there’s pieces in place. In terms of the quarterback position, I’m not too positive (what we have),” Coen said. “I have seen a couple of the guys. I know the incumbent quarterback is more of a running quarterback and things like that. You got the Auburn transfer, quarterback Beau Allen, got a couple guys I’ve seen play and I believe that hey, it’s not about them fitting to this system. It’s about me fitting to their skill sets. And I believe that for every position.”
Ultimately, Coen will adapt his offensive style to the tools he has to work with. On his first day on the job, it’s anybody’s position to take.
“It really depends on the talent, what we have and who shows up to be the guy in that room. All avenues are open.”