If one of Kentucky football’s sports science gurus attached monitoring devices to each of the Cats offensive coordinators on game day, the readings would never show that the coaches are even in the same zip code.
Even though Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw are watching the exact same game at the exact same time, it would be impossible to detect via their heart rates or breathing monitors.
They’ve trained themselves to be that way.
On Saturdays on the field, Gran doesn’t scream or yell. The assistant head coach for offense stays soothing and serene.
“I’m never going to get too high; I’m never going to get too low,” he explained after a recent spring practice, running his hand in a straight, horizontal line for effect. “I think that’s important. I think it’s important for our players to know that and see that.”
The main voice in his headset, Hinshaw, is a different story.
“I’m a little crazy on Saturdays,” confessed the co-offensive coordinator, who spends his game days high above the field in the coaches’ box. “It’s like a caged tiger.”
The two coaches perfected their yin and yang act while at Cincinnati. They have a game plan going into each game, but if defenses play them differently than anticipated, Hinshaw is in charge of making those adjustments.
“Kind of the mad scientist up there doing everything,” Hinshaw described. “And Coach Gran is the one going, ‘What are they doing?’ And he’s the calm one really during the game. He’s really good at deciphering what’s the best thing to call.”
Gran developed his quiet game-day mentality through the years by seeing it work for other coaches he’s worked under.
The other days of the week during practice are for putting stress on players, not Saturdays, he said.
“Coach Gran is extremely calm as a play caller,” Hinshaw said. “That’s all he focuses on and then we fix what we have to in between plays. We come up with the next series. We have a great relationship, how we handle those situations.”
And Gran has learned that if he gets too high or too low on game day, he might miss something important.
Say UK completes a 40-yard pass and the team is at the 5-yard line, the entire personality — and personnel — of the offense has to change.
“I’ve got a goal-line package to run; you’ve got new personnel you’ve got to get in there,” he explained. “So I’ve learned. Coach (Tommy) Tuberville did a good job with me, to help me understand that, hey, you can’t watch the game.”
Hinshaw, who later clarified that “caged tiger” is really just his high-intensity level, said he’s seen Gran’s calm sideline demeanor have a positive effect on the offense in general.
“If you’re crazy and you feel like you’re out of control, then your kids are going to be that way,” Hinshaw continued. “He’s calm and he’s — he’s not going to sit there and be nice to them; he’s going to coach them — he’s still going to do the things that he does, but he’s very calm and that helps our kids with confidence.”
There will be times that the game will get the best of him, Gran said. But the cursing and the screaming aren’t part of his game-day gameplan.
If a running back fumbles the ball, Gran tries to remember that there are dozens more plays to play. He can’t let that one mistake create more of them.
“They don’t need a guy who’s calling the plays out of control and if we get down by two touchdowns, panicking,” Gran said. “You don’t want your offense like that. You want your offense to say: ‘OK. Let’s pull our heads out of our rear ends, let’s pull together.’”
Commonwealth Stadium is a much quieter place now than it was at this time last year when every square inch was filled with construction equipment.
In fact, walking through the lower concourse on Tuesday, the loudest noise was high-pitched bird chirping. The stadium also becomes a mostly quiet refuge a couple of days a week for Kentucky’s Mitch Barnhart.
Since so many teams are now located on that side of campus now, the athletic director has set up a satellite office in the stadium where he works two or three days a week.
The small office with the low ceilings isn’t quite as posh as his corner office with the huge picture windows at the Joe Craft Center, but Barnhart wanted to be more accessible to teams like track and field, football, soccer, baseball and softball.
In that office, Barnhart discussed recent issues with women’s basketball, but I got in a few questions about stadium updates and football practice facility progress.
Work to add bleacher backs to the entire lower bowl (except the student section) will begin in the middle of June, he said. There’s also some “fine-tuning” going on within the stadium.
“We’re continuing to look for ways to improve what we’ve got,” Barnhart said. “We’d like to settle into it in year two, sort of see how that plays out. Year one was a rush to get in; and we got in, but probably looking at some of the adjustments in some of the premiums and sidelines and some of those areas over there, the loge area, trying to work our way through some of that. We’ve got a lot of little things like that we’re trying to figure out.”
The new football practice facility is scheduled to open on time in the middle or end of July. The only real setback for that project has been finishing the adjacent practice fields, which haven’t been completed because of weather delays.
The fields — both turf and grass near Alumni Drive — should be ready in time for fall camp in August, but if they’re not, the old practice fields will be used a bit longer, Barnhart said.
‘Can’t take back their words’
Social media issues took center stage during the NFL Draft, including an ill-timed video of Ole Miss offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil using a bong attached to a gas mask that went up on his Twitter account shortly before the event.
A player’s Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram accounts aren’t just under high scrutiny when he heads to the NFL. Coaches said they pay careful attention to a player’s social media presence long before he even gets an offer from Kentucky.
“It’s like a résumé of yourself,” UK recruiting director Dan Berezowitz told the Herald-Leader a few months ago. “You’re putting it out there and people are reading it.”
Staff members, coaches and others are regularly monitoring potential recruits for red flags on social media.
“The scary thing about social media is young kids have no clue how to use it because they see LeBron James and these guys use it as a voice, as a method to put out information and they think, ‘Well, I can just put out information,’” Berezowitz continued. “So they retweet videos, retweet stupid things that happen on Twitter and they don’t realize that’s a reflection of their character.”
So while coaches are gathering data like test scores, grades and times in the 40-yard dash, they’re also regularly assessing information they get from the players’ various accounts.
“We study all that,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we focus on it daily because there’s so much going on. But it’s a piece of what we do.”
And if there are 10 players with similar numbers and similar athleticism, a questionable social media presence could mean the difference between getting offered a scholarship and not.
“More and more high school coaches, more and more schools, more and more parents are starting to understand that (social media) sticks with you,” Berezowitz said. “It doesn’t go away even when you delete it. … Kids have got to kind of think about when they go to voice something on Twitter, they can’t take back their words.”