UK Football

What should you expect from the University of Kentucky’s offense in 2019?

Quarterback Terry Wilson was on target in UK’s first scrimmage

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talks about his unit’s performance, including the play of quarterback Terry Wilson, in the team’s first scrimmage of fall camp. UK opens the season Aug. 31, 2019, against Toledo.
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Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talks about his unit’s performance, including the play of quarterback Terry Wilson, in the team’s first scrimmage of fall camp. UK opens the season Aug. 31, 2019, against Toledo.

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A breakdown of the Kentucky football team’s offense heading into the 2019 season.

Coordinators: Eddie Gran, fourth season at Kentucky, 31st season as a college assistant coach, ninth season as an offensive coordinator; Darrin Hinshaw, fourth season at UK, 19th season as a college assistant coach, eighth as an offensive coordinator.

Position coaches: Eddie Gran, running backs; Darrin Hinshaw, quarterbacks; Vince Marrow, tight ends; John Schlarman, offensive line; Michael Smith, wide receivers; Mark Perry, Josh Estes-Waugh and Walt Wells, quality control assistants; Evan McKissack and Maxwell Smith, graduate assistants.

Scheme: Multiple pro-style.

Last season: Among SEC teams UK ranked 12th, ahead of only Arkansas and Tennessee, and was 102nd nationally (one spot in front of Western Kentucky) in total offense with 363.5 yards per game. Kentucky also was ranked 12th in scoring offense, again in front of Arkansas and Tennessee, at 26.6 points per game.

Returning starters: Lynn Bowden, wide receiver; Drake Jackson, center; Logan Stenberg, left guard; Terry Wilson, quarterback.

What to watch: The offensive line group is by far UK’s most experienced in 2019, boasting eight returnees who’ve played and a few new additions capable of earning time in the rotation as the season moves forward. Kentucky’s receiver room is well-stocked but only juniors Josh Ali and Lynn Bowden have had double-digit receptions in a season; there’s room for a number of young guys to step up and make an impact early as the Cats try to build reliability among their ranks. Terry Wilson was one of the most efficient passers in the SEC last season despite it being his first year in Lexington; his continued growth as a leader will be crucial for the program’s positive momentum to stay on track.

Question marks: Aside from Lynn Bowden, who’s going to step up and catch passes from Terry Wilson? Which, if any, of the freshman receivers who redshirted last season — B.J. Alexander, Akeem Hayes and Bryce Oliver — will make their case to be that guy when the lights come on? Will A.J. Rose flourish as the Wildcats’ lead running back, or will a three-pronged backfield attack comprised of him, Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke prove more effective as the team tries to replenish the rushing yards Benny Snell took with him to the NFL? Can Terry Wilson improve his touchdown-to-interception ratio (11 to 8 in 2018) and put the ball on the ground less (nine fumbles, four lost) as a junior? Justin Rigg is the heir apparent to succeed C.J. Conrad as the starting tight end; will the ball be thrown his direction more frequently than his predecessor?

Outlook: Depth and experience on the offensive line should allow the intensity of any bumps in the road that come with the breaking in of new position players to be lessened. Still, it’s a must for UK to figure out what it has — or doesn’t have — with its receiving unit if it wants to capitalize on a second year of Terry Wilson starts. The run game should continue to pay dividends, even if it comes more by committee than it has recently. An injury to Wilson could prove dire, given his versatility as a runner, but the addition of grad transfer Sawyer Smith at least gives the coaching staff enough insurance to not feel inclined to keep Wilson’s legs in a bottle.

Josh Moore is in his first year covering the University of Kentucky football team and in his fifth year reporting for the Lexington Herald-Leader, where he’s been employed since 2009. Moore, a Martin County native, graduated from UK with a B.A. in Integrated Strategic Communication and English in 2013. He’s a huge fan of the NBA, Power Rangers and country music.