Two Cincinnati coaches with Southeastern Conference ties officially were hired Tuesday to fill the openings on Kentucky’s staff.
Eddie Gran, who coached at Florida State for three seasons with UK’s Mark Stoops, and Darin Hinshaw helped guide a Bearcats offense that was among the most prolific in the nation the past couple seasons.
The titles are being shuffled slightly from their duties at Cincinnati, with Gran serving as Kentucky’s assistant head coach of the offense and co-offensive coordinator. Hinshaw will be the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Gran will call the plays.
“He is an outstanding coach with great experience, including a lot of years in the SEC,” Stoops said of Gran in a news release sent by the school. “He is a great leader with tremendous passion for the game.”
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Stoops will introduce the coaches at a news conference Monday.
The terms of their agreements have not been made public. Gran and Hinshaw probably will see significant raises from their time at Cincinnati, where Gran’s base salary was $370,000, 173rd in the nation. Hinshaw made $270,000 last season.
A running backs coach by trade, Gran also will oversee Kentucky’s running backs. Chad Scott, the Cats’ running backs coach since 2013, will move to the vacant wide receivers position next season. According to his bio, Scott has never coached wideouts at the collegiate level. UK returns every player who caught a pass last season with the exception of quarterback Patrick Towles, who statistically caught his own pass when it was batted back to him.
Hinshaw, a record-setting quarterback at Central Florida, has served as the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Cincinnati since 2013. Stoops called him “a great offensive mind” and liked that Hinshaw had experience in the SEC as well.
The Punta Gorda, Fla., native previously coached quarterbacks at Tennessee as well as wide receivers. He also was a recruiting coordinator for the Vols in 2012. Rivals named him one of the 10 best recruiters nationally in 2011.
A chance to return to the league was key for Hinshaw.
“This is a great opportunity to be back in the SEC, and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve always looked at Kentucky as a program that has the potential to be very, very good, and we can put up the points and yards that will equal wins and help get us to bowl games.”
Hinshaw, 43, served as an offensive coordinator or co-offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State and then Georgia Southern before becoming wide receivers coach at Memphis in 2007.
Under Gran and Hinshaw, Cincinnati had the seventh most prolific offense in the nation, averaging 537.8 yards of total offense. The Bearcats were sixth best in passing offense, averaging 359.9 yards a game.
Cincinnati had 181 passing plays of 10 yards or more (third highest in the nation) last season. By comparison, UK had 99 passing plays of 10 yards or more.
With 249 plays of 10 yards or more and 89 plays of 20 yards or more, Cincinnati was fourth nationally in both of those statistical categories.
“I’ve been impressed with how well they’ve produced at Cincinnati and how prolific they have been in throwing the football,” Stoops said of Cincinnati under Gran and Hinshaw.
The high octane offense had its issues in the final game of the season, a 42-7 loss to San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl.
The Bearcats, playing without starting quarterback Gunner Kiel, were held to 279 yards (including just 77 yards rushing), and their lone score was on a short run late in the fourth quarter.
Even though Gran is a running backs coach, his Cincinnati offense ran the ball less than half the time in the regular season (48 percent). The Bearcats passed for more yards this season (4,477 yards) than UK’s entire offense amassed (4,464).
Kentucky had 32 touchdowns this season (22 rushing, 10 passing) while Cincinnati managed 53 (29 passing, 24 rushing).
Gran, 50, is a 28-year coaching veteran who spent 15 seasons as a running backs coach and special teams coordinator in the Southeastern Conference, including 10 years at Auburn. A chance to return to the league was exciting for Gran.
“It’s the best conference in America, and if you’re a college football coach this is the level you want to be coaching,” he said in the UK release. “I spent 15 years in the SEC, and being in those stadiums and the defenses you will be facing, it’s what you want if you’re a competitor and if you want to play against the best.”
During his 14 seasons as an assistant to Tommy Tuberville at Mississippi and Auburn, Gran sent eight running backs to the NFL: former Tigers Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Rudi Johnson, Brandon Jacobs, Heath Evans and Kenny Irons, and former Rebels Deuce McCallister and John Avery.
Gran’s time at Auburn was followed by stops at Tennessee and Florida State before joining Tuberville’s staff again, this time at Cincinnati in 2012.
While at Florida State with Stoops, Gran served as associate head coach, running backs coach and special teams coordinator. In 2011, the Seminoles rushed for 1,458 yards, which he nearly doubled (2,882 yards) the next season.
In the UK release, Gran said he spent time getting to know Stoops and his wife, Chantel, while at Florida State, and those relationships helped him make the decision to come to Lexington.
“I had the opportunity at Florida State to work three years with Coach Stoops, and No. 1, it’s his passion for football and what he stands for — family,” Gran said. “I really got to know Chantel and the kids as my kids were able to be with them for three years. All of that matters in this profession, and being around great people is important.”