Jen Smith on UK Football

Q&A with Kentucky’s new offensive coordinators

On why Eddie Gran accepted the job this year as opposed to other years:

EDDIE GRAN: The big part is timing. I’d been with coach (Tommy) Tuberville for a lot of years and the loyalty to him and Cincinnati. I was in my second year— first year and second year of coordinating and there’s a lot to that. It just became a timing issue for me.

On why they decided to leave Cincinnati for Kentucky:

EDDIE GRAN: It’s the SEC. If you’re a football coach you want to be in the best conference in the country. I’ve been fortunate, coach Hinshaw has been fortunate enough to be in the SEC, I’ve been in it for 15 years. It’s a dream to be in this league and be able to compete. Cincinnati is a great program and it’s going up and it was fantastic, but to have this opportunity to get back with coach Stoops–our three years at Florida State, knowing him now the last six or seven years, it was the right move.

DARIN HINSHAW: When we were looking at this, Eddie had called me and said ‘let’s look at Kentucky,’ I knew his relationship with Mark Stoops was awesome. We also looked at where are they facility wise, player wise, coaches, all the different situations that we looked at and we see Kentucky on the rise. I know the record hasn’t shown it but bowl games and all that kind of stuff, we feel like we’re coming at the right time. At Cincinnati, coach Tuberville has been unbelievable to work for. It was a really hard decision to leave because of our relationship. He treated us unbelievable and let us be able to go in there and run our system and let us be able to the things we did offensively was exciting. Again, looking forward to doing that here at Kentucky.

On why they think they can score points with their offensive system:

EDDIE GRAN: That remains to be seen. That’s the great part about this and coaching. A lot of people can tell you, a lot of people called and I had some other opportunities. People asked me before, ‘why were you waiting so long on this Kentucky thing?’ well, because it’s all got to be right for all the same things Darin just said. We followed (Kentucky’s) recruiting. They’ve done an unbelievable job recruiting. We felt them in Cincinnati. We couldn’t get a sniff of a guy if he was visiting Kentucky at Cincinnati. It is about timing and it’s who you have here. We have a system. We have what we feel like is a great system. We’re going to put in in place, we’re going to go 800 miles an hour. They’ve gotta buy in. Everyone’s got a brand new resume at the beginning. We’re not going to make judgement on anybody. To me, that’s the best way you do this. We’re going to come in here and go 800 miles an hour and do what we do. Try to make it simple for them so they understand what we’re doing. We’re going to make it fun. But it being disciplined, because offense is about execution. They’ve gotta be disciplined in what they’re doing. We feel like we can get that done. You’ve gotta have the right pieces. You have to have people healthy, but what we see so far—we’re doing that this week in terms of personnel and getting a chance to see who we really have—but I know who they’ve recruited and I’m really excited about that.

On their working relationship:

EDDIE GRAN: It’s been awesome. Darin played quarterback. To me, to be a quarterback coach when you’ve played the position, it’s different. I stand back and I watch and try to figure out some of that stuff. Those bullets are flying. It’s tough. He’s been there so that relationship with the quarterbacks has been really good for us. Me with the running backs and the run game and the protections, we’ve got a good system. Gameday is unbelievable with him in the box and me on the field. The way we communicate, it’s just been a really good relationship. It was important that he come here and be apart of this.

DARIN HINSHAW: When I was at Tennessee with Derek Dooley, we had Jim Chaney as the offensive coordinator at the time and we done really, really well offensively that last year. Then coach Gran had come to me and said ‘hey, come to Cincinnati,’ and I had other opportunities to go to. But being able to put together a system that we feel is going to have a lot of success. Being able to be in charge of that was huge. Like Eddie said, we work unbelievable together. He’s on the field, I’m in the box. We’ve got our roles. Eddie calls it, I give him all the information. We work it together. We gameplan together, we’ve done it and we won at Cincinnati at a place that statistically was not very good on offense either. They hadn’t scored a tremendous amount of points. Their passing yardage I believe was 90th in the country. We immediately changed that and slowly made it go up and up and up in the passing and in the running, then turned around total offense. I’m sure coach Stoops talked about the numbers that we put up this year, which we’re really proud of. The goal is to do the same thing here. It’s to do the exact same thing here. We feel the personnel is here to do that with. Like coach Gran just said, we have to get the players to buy in and understand what their roles are, make sure there’s no egos in the room. This is all about Kentucky football.

On if there are any players in particular that they’re excited to work with:

EDDIE GRAN: We’ve seen some of C.J. (Conrad) at the tight end position. Everybody talks about how special he is. Our quarterback that’s coming back and I know some of the running backs because I recruited them, I just don’t want to comment too much about them because that wouldn’t be fair. Again, their resume starts now. We’ll get to that. That’s what we’re doing this week and all the way up through spring ball. We’ll be able to answer more questions about that at a later time.

On Stoops’ passion on the sidelines and his and Gran’s relationship:

EDDIE GRAN: I’ve been fortunate being with Tommy Tuberville because I was his graduate assistant back a long time ago. Once a GA, always a GA. I don’t have any rear end left because it didn’t matter if things were good on offense, defense or special teams, I’m the one who got chewed. I’m OK with it. I have thick skin, I get it. I love (Stoops’) passion. That’s why I’m here. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here and to be able to say ‘Go Big Blue.’ It’s a dream come true. To be able to work with Mark and that excitement, I know how he brings it and that’s how we’re going to be also.

On how they would describe their offensive system:

EDDIE GRAN: It’s a multiple pro-style offense. We’re going to have different personnel settings. 10 personnel, 11 personnel, 12 personnel. When we came to Cincinnati, we tried a little 11 and 12 personnel but they didn't’ have that so we had to adapt to their personnel. We’ll have to do the same thing here. What they have here is what we’re going to be able to do in the system. That’s what’s great about this system, you’re able to do so many things exceptionally well in the pass game and in the run game. As we gather that information we’ll be able to find out exactly what we’re able to do. In terms of the run game you want to be 50-50. That would be the perfect answer. Some years you’re 60-40. If you’re running the ball well you run the ball. It’s not rocket science. If you’re passing the ball well, pass. Don’t turn the darn thing over and freakin’ score points. It’s that simple. We want to be balanced. We want to be physical. We want to run the darn ball. We really do. We want to get after people and that’ll be something from the first day. We’re going to be talking about physical and toughness and effort, disciple, pride, all those things that you have up on the board. They sound cliche but that’s what we’re going to be. We have to be in this league.

On where their system developed and how much of a concern depth at QB is:

EDDIE GRAN: I’ll let Darin answer the root of the offense because we both had a piece of it through Tennessee and that’s how it evolved. It evolved through an NFL style type system. They brought it down and dumbed it down for guys like me.

DARIN HINSHAW: Jim Chaney again at Tennessee, I was there three seasons, and we took an NFL style offense and basically got it in a position where we can go multiple and still be able to play extremely fast. We can do all the pro-style passing game and run game and still be able to do it in a fast paced environment. That’s the thing you’ll see about Kentucky, we’re going to go fast. I ran no huddle my entire career as offensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee, everywhere I’ve been, at Memphis with Clay Helton. We took that and then coach Gran brought in some of the Florida State stuff and some of the stuff they did at Auburn as far as run game goes. We pieced it all together to come out with what we have now. Being able to keep defenses off-balance, being able to go fast and slow it down, use personnel. We’re excited about the personnel we have here. We think there’s going to be some tight ends that we’re going to be able to use. We feel like the receivers have lots of depth. As far as quarterbacks go, that’s what I take a passion in. Being able to develop quarterbacks, get them in position to play—I’ve played true freshmen before like Tyler Bray at Tennessee. Again, I’m getting guys ready to play. Another thing we’re going to do offensively is take what the defense gives us. There’s going to be some times—we played Houston this year and you saw what they did to Florida State—we threw for over 500 yards against them because they were constantly taking away the run. Their safeties were within six or seven yards of the ball the entire game. We had to throw the football. So it depends on what the defense gives us and then what our personnel is. We’re going to learn what our personnel is. What’s the exciting things that we have to work with? We call them new toys, so to speak. Coach Stoops has done an unbelievable job with the recruiting class that’s coming in. We got to see all those kids and we’re looking forward to continuing to recruit those guys as we get them in here. We’ll be able to put the offense together from that standpoint.

On if Gran recruited Drew Barker and his impressions of him as a prospect:

EDDIE GRAN: We did. And they got on him so quickly and he committed. Darin went and he evaluated him and came back and said, 'Oh, God. This kid's really phenomenal,' and everything that we were looking for. We just didn't get that relationship part with him because they had him sewed up and he was a Wildcat.

DARIN HINSHAW: Yeah, he loves Kentucky, which is a good thing. He’s from Kentucky and – (Stoops from side of the room: Nobody out of state’s getting in here.) And it made a lot of sense, but working him out and seeing him, I was really excited about this kid. I know he had all the accolades and all that kind of stuff and the rankings and all that, but he deserved it. He was a kid I was really impressed with and impressed with his motion. Again, looking forward to working with him.

On bowl games being dictated by QB run and how much that will be part of their system:

EDDIE GRAN: In the bowl games? The bowl games have been crazy. Our game was crazy. I would have never have thought it would have ended up the way it ended up. I was glad that Mark still wanted to hire us after that. I was really appreciative of that. But, you know, in these bowl games it has everything to do with personnel. It has everything to do with how you get yourself ready for a bowl game and you just don't know. I've been through a lot of them and there's games where I've went in there and go, 'God, we're not gonna have a chance,' and we've won and games that I've thought there's no way we're gonna lose and you lose. Those bowl games can be tricky sometimes.

On what sort of quarterback run game they will use in their system:

DARIN HINSHAW: Yeah. Every week we're going to have a plan to run the quarterback. It just depends on what the defense is giving us and where. We call it plus one. You always gain a blocker or an advantage running the quarterback. So we run our quarterbacks. We zone read, all those kind of things where the quarterbacks are involved in running the football.

On the most difficult adjustment the players face in changing schemes:

GRAN: Probably just terminology, but we'll do our best along with the rest of the coaches that are here to – we're both not opposed to whatever the offensive line coach has for his terminology when you have a double team. Everybody's phrased it different ways, or how they're going to treat a backside stack. Whatever that is, we'll learn it if it makes it easier for our guys. It's gonna be how the kids take to it. I know they're really excited. I had a chance to talk to every single one of them. They're jacked up. They'll feel our enthusiasm when we get there. And it's brand new, so I think the most difficult thing will be terminology and then just buying in. And they're not going to have a choice. This is who they got. This is who they have. So we're going to make it fun for them, but it's also going to be demanding. I think they'll be cranked up when they get going. Coach talked about us playing fast and all that. The one thing that I've learned, too, about playing fast, you'd love to have 90 plays a game if you can. That would be a great goal, but there's also a time, knowing in this league, that you've got to just slow it down, you've got to run it, you've got to understand the defense. I've learned that a lot from Tommy Tuberville, being a defensive guy and know Mark being a defensive guy – you've got to have an idea of what's going on out there. You want to keep them off balance, you want to go fast and you want to do all that, but I think it's important to understand what's going on, too, out there, and who you're playing.

On what he means by 10, 11, 12 personnel:

GRAN: Four wide outs; three wide outs, a tight end; two tight ends, two wide outs. So it’s just bringing in the bigger guys, and 21 personnel if you had a fullback type guy, two receivers and a tailback. That’s the personnel. And like Coach Hinshaw said, being able to mix those up and keeping defenses off balance. When you have a guy like C.J. – and I throw that out there just because I know a little bit about him – you can really have some mismatches by personnel-ing people and doing different formations.

On if they came in with a quarterback in mind to add to UK’s roster:

HINSHAW: Yes. The minute Coach Stoops hired us we started working on that, and we're in the process of working on that right now.

On being back in the SEC:

GRAN: It's the best in the United States of America. It's the NFL of college football. There's not a place you can go that you can't get excited about the stadiums, the traditions. It's been great for us. It's just an hour and 15 minutes down the road for us to make this transition. If you've got anything in you as a football coach to come back and coach in the SEC, this is your dream. Just couldn't be more excited about it.

HINSHAW: Ditto, everything he just said. It's as close to the NFL as you can get without being there. We understand t0o that the defenses we're going to be playing, they're going to have some beasts and some cheetah cats running around and all that good stuff. We've seen it and done that, and that's going to be part of all our schemes and all that kind of stuff.

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