Kentucky’s quarterbacks coach has heard players panic once a game gets going and things start moving so fast that their helmets spin.
“You can tell on the phone when somebody’s like dgdgzdgzdg,” said coach Darin Hinshaw, trying to give uncertainty and worry a sound, “and has marbles in their mouth when they’re asking questions.”
On a day full of confusion for UK’s starting quarterback Terry Wilson — and his backup, Gunnar Hoak — Hinshaw found plenty of reasons for optimism.
When he picked up the phone from the coaches’ box to the field and talked to Hoak and Wilson, he never heard the panic.
“Every time on the phone, Gunnar and Terry were completely calm,” Hinshaw said. “They’re going through a learning curve. I loved their reaction.”
He heard loud and clear through the ear piece: “We’re ready to go win. I don’t want to make mistakes. What do I need to do?”
By the end of Kentucky’s 35-20 victory over Central Michigan in the season opener on Saturday, Hinshaw said it’s not about what the quarterbacks need to do, but what the coaches need to do.
“Coach Stoops brought it up at halftime,” Hinshaw said. “We have to take a little bit off of them, mentally. That will help them clear their mind a little more.”
What does that mean exactly?
Hinshaw elaborated. “We’re going to take some of the decision-making off of them and put less on their plates so that we can play a little bit faster.”
Then the quarterbacks coach rolled off myriad of things that he can do to simplify things for Wilson and Hoak, including making the reads only be half the field instead of the full field.
On run-pass option plays, make it so that the Cats quarterback is reading just one thing and making one decision instead of multiple decisions in split seconds.
Coaches can make it so a play only has a run possibility or a throw possibility instead of one of each.
“Terry just got confused sometimes whether or not he should run it, pass it,” Hinshaw said, noting that plays in the first half that got a yard or two got seven or eight once corrections were made. “Those situations, I have to do a better job coaching.”
The co-offensive coordinator noted that the quarterbacks struggled in the first scrimmage of the preseason, but a lot of film study and discussions fixed much of what ailed them by the second scrimmage.
Hinshaw is hopeful that the Cats will see the same type of growth from game one to game two at Florida next weekend.
“I’m really looking forward to watching the film and being able to detail it with them,” he said of Kentucky’s quarterbacks, who threw for 128 yards combined, connecting on 15 of 27 attempts with a touchdown for Hoak and two picks for Wilson. “We have to have a huge improvement from game one to game two.”
The starting quarterback agreed. “We’ve just got to keep progressing and keep getting better so we can get better for the second game,” Wilson said.
For his part, Wilson didn’t seem worried. The junior college transfer already could feel a difference between the first half and the second half.
“I started getting more relaxed and letting the game come to me,” Wilson said. “I wasn’t forcing it in the second half, so I was just relying on my technique, relying on what my reads are and just playing ball.”
Will Kentucky’s quarterbacks be better by next week in time for a game at Florida?
Stoops seemed to believe that progress will be made.
“I anticipate that both guys will be ready to play,” the head coach said. “We’ll see where we’re at this week and get back to work, but yeah, both guys will be ready to go.”
Kentucky at Florida
7:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network)