UK Football

What game day will look like for UK's new offensive coordinator

UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson chats with Stanley "Boom" Williams on the Tim Couch Practice Fields during UK Football Fan Day in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, August 8, 2015. Photo by Matt Goins
UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson chats with Stanley "Boom" Williams on the Tim Couch Practice Fields during UK Football Fan Day in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, August 8, 2015. Photo by Matt Goins Herald-Leader

Every offensive coordinator has his own way of doing things on game day.

New University of Kentucky offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson talked about what we can expect to see from him when the Wildcats open the 2015 season Saturday night at home against Louisiana-Lafayette.

To script or not to script?

At his various stops through the years, Dawson tried to plan ahead and script his offense's first 10-15 plays of the game to settle down the offense. But he said in the past few years, the script has been less rigid.

"It's funny how the years go, that number gets cut, cut, cut until, recently, it hadn't been any," he said.

Dawson said Thursday that his plan is to let everyone on the offensive staff pick the play that they like best and then he'll order them for the opener. In the previous two years, quarterback Patrick Towles said the UK offense has had an opening series script, but it rarely ever gets through it.

Seeking input

It's not just the coaches and staff in the offensive room who will get to decide which plays the Cats run. Much of that also falls firmly on Towles, who will have the final say on every play.

If the UK quarterback doesn't like a play or doesn't feel comfortable running it, then Dawson cuts it from his plan.

At West Virginia, Dawson said he pulled plays that he considered "the best damn play on the script" because a quarterback didn't feel great about running it.

Towles said there are many plays that UK is running that he's "100 percent, extremely confident with executing, that we've executed every time it's been called and we're going to start with those plays. You want to start with your best, run your best plays and we'll do that on Saturday."


At the end of this week, Dawson will develop a depth chart of every formation that his offense will run.

"And then we'll say, 'OK, when I call for Ace, these are the guys I want. And if this guy goes down or is tired or whatever, then this is the guy I want,'" he explained. "So we'll have basically a two-deep for every formation. And then the process is basically: If we run a play and then we want another formation, I just say in the headset, 'I want 20 personnel next play,' and then I'll probably huddle and then the specific coaches will send the 20 personnel we talked about into the game."

If something changes that plan during a game, then he said coaches will discuss their plan between drives.

Boxing out

Dawson said he puts a "huge emphasis" on having full-time position coaches on the field.

"It's important to have as many full-time coaches on the field as you can because they're the people that the players come off to and look at, and that's who communicates with them every day," he explained. There will be some staff members — though Dawson declined to say whom — in the coaches' box telling him specific things he wants to call the plays and also communicating about defensive fronts to offensive line coach John Schlarman.

Under Neal Brown, wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord was in the box with an offensive support staff member.

Tempo control

Speed up or slow down a game?

There's no real method to the madness for Dawson, who has said that 85 plays per game is ideal to him.

"It's just a guess. I can't be more scientific than that," he explained. "If things aren't going good, typically we're going to change it."

He said there are three or four different tempos that the Cats use. And if things are going well, Dawson tries to stay with that style. When things are going badly, he tries to make an adjustment. The new offensive coordinator said he tries to take into account the other parts of the game when he's deciding whether to step on the gas.

"That's kind of where we've evolved offensively, is to kind of have a pulse on what's going on," he said. "You can't go fast, then go three-and-out three or four times in a row, either."

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