Kentucky’s Mark Stoops went for familiarity in his next offensive coordinator hire, this time in Cincinnati’s Eddie Gran.
The UK coach and his new offensive coordinator have a long history together, including coaching side by side at Florida State for three seasons.
Gran, who is expected to be named Shannon Dawson’s replacement as soon as Tuesday, piloted one of the most prolific offenses in the country this season for the Bearcats.
Their regular season 559.2 yards per game was fifth best nationally. Their 36.1 points a game was No. 24 nationally.
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On third downs, Cincinnati was No. 2 in the nation at 51.7 percent. UK completed 37.4 percent of its third-down plays, which was good enough for 81st nationally.
Cincinnati’s high-octane offense had problems in the final game of the season, a 42-7 loss to San Diego State in the Hawaii Bowl last week.
The Bearcats, playing without starting quarterback Gunner Kiel, were held to 279 yards in the loss (including just 77 yards rushing), and their lone score was on a short run late in the fourth quarter.
Even though he’s a running backs coach as well as offensive coordinator, Gran’s Cincinnati offense ran the ball less than half of 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).
For comparison, Kentucky had 32 total touchdowns this season (22 rushing, 10 passing) while Cincinnati managed 53 (29 passing, 24 rushing).
Gran 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.
During his 14 seasons as an assistant to Tommy Tuberville at Ole Miss and Auburn, he 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) in the next season.
Gran, an Escondido, Calif., native, played four seasons as a wide receiver for Cal Lutheran. At 50, he would become the oldest coach on the Kentucky staff by three years.
The hire of a notable running backs coach is an interesting one for Stoops, who went with an Air Raid style in his previous two hires of Neal Brown and Dawson.
Brown left Kentucky after two seasons to become head coach at Troy, and Dawson and the Cats parted ways after one season.
Kentucky, which also let wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord go at the same time as Dawson, has not filled that position. But it will be interesting to see what moves are made next since the Cats have a running backs coach on staff in Chad Scott.
Gran previously coached wide receivers for the Bearcats in 1992 and 1993, then coached that position in 1994 for Idaho State.
At Cincinnati, Gran hired Darin Hinshaw, a former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Tennessee, as his passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
The new coordinator, Kentucky’s third in four seasons, will inherit an offense that returns all running backs, all wide receivers and tight ends, and all but two linemen from a 5-7 team.
The biggest question for the offense will be Drew Barker, who is the only returning quarterback with game experience for the Cats next season.
Both 22-game starter Patrick Towles and third-string QB Reese Phillips announced that they were parting ways with Kentucky in December. Towles is going to Boston College next season as a graduate student; Phillips’ next stop has not been announced.