Mark Story

Why Eddie Gran staying is good news for Kentucky fans

What halftime adjustments did UK offense make in Citrus Bowl?

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talks about the halftime adjustments made during UK's 27-24 win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019 in Orlando, Fla. The Wildcats scored 17 points in the third quarter.
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Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran talks about the halftime adjustments made during UK's 27-24 win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019 in Orlando, Fla. The Wildcats scored 17 points in the third quarter.

Quick hitters from the January slump:

21. Eddie Gran. Media reports this week linked the Kentucky offensive coordinator and play caller to the vacant OC job at Georgia. Gran appeared to end his candidacy Thursday evening when he posted on Twitter, “I’m all in, #BBN! Let’s do this!

20. Fan lightning rod. Even though UK just enjoyed its most successful football season (10-3) in 41 years, Gran and Kentucky’s ground-hugging offensive approach were the focus of ample fan criticism in 2018.

19. The numbers. In 2018, 536 of Kentucky’s 832 offensive plays were runs. That is 64.4 percent rushing plays.

18. A departure from Gran’s past. In 2015, the final of three seasons in which Gran was running the offense at the University of Cincinnati for Tommy Tuberville, 512 of UC’s 1,058 plays were runs. That was 48.4 percent rushing plays.

17. The logical approach. There’s every reason to think Gran employed a rush-heavy attack at Kentucky in 2018 because it fit the offensive personnel UK had the best — which it did — and was what Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops wanted.

16. Coaching disruption. While some frustration with UK’s middle-of-the-season offensive production is understandable, it never made sense to be rooting for a breakup in the coaching staff that just produced Kentucky’s first double-digit win season since 1977.

15. UK’s 10-win path. The prior Kentucky football team before 2018 to reach 10 wins, Fran Curci’s 1977 Wildcats (10-1), ran the ball 638 times out of 821 offensive plays. That was 77.7 percent rushing plays.

14. Recruiting impact. One of the fears expressed by critics of Kentucky’s 2018 offensive approach was that it would make it hard for UK to recruit high-profile quarterbacks and receivers.

13. Beau Allen. The Lexington Catholic junior is the most-touted pro-style QB in the commonwealth, holding scholarship offers from UK, Michigan, Washington State and West Virginia, among others. I asked Bill Allen, Beau’s dad and a 1980s-era Kentucky quarterback himself, about UK’s offense.

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Lexington Catholic junior quarterback Beau Allen was offered a scholarship by Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops during the QB’s freshman year of high school. Matt Goins

12. What UK is telling Allen. “We have to believe what Coach Stoops and Coach Gran are telling us, that they want to be more balanced,” Bill Allen says. “Coach Stoops tells us as a defensive coach, the hardest (offenses) to stop are those who can both run and throw.”

11. Kentucky bowl championship rings. An e-mailer asks if the 2018 Kentucky Wildcats football team will receive rings for winning the VRBO Citrus Bowl and, if so, who will pay for them.

10. University picks up the tab. According to UK Athletics publicist Guy Ramsey, the 2018 Wildcats football players will receive bowl rings paid for by the University of Kentucky.

9. Can’t break the bank. Ramsey says there is a financial cap imposed by the NCAA that prevents lavish spending on celebratory jewelry. “We can’t totally trick them out with diamonds and all that,” he said.

8. Involving the BBN. At the appropriate time, Ramsey says UK will release the design chosen for the rings on its Internet platforms “so our fans can share in the experience with our players.”

7. Neal Brown. Having been named the coach at West Virginia, the ex-Boyle County and University of Kentucky wide receiver and former UK assistant is now a power-five conference head man at age 38.

6. Chuck Smith. I asked Smith, the former UK assistant who coached Brown at Boyle County, if he had the new WVU head man pegged as a major-college head football coach before the age of 40.

5. ”Coach on the field.” Smith says no. “But I always thought (Brown) would be a coach. When he was playing, he was always curious about why things were done the way they were,” Smith said. “I always said he was like having a coach on the field.”

4. In-state recruiting. Smith expects Brown to make an impact with the commonwealth’s best football prospects. “He’s got the charisma and the kind of personality that appeals to kids, but also appeals to their families,” Smith said.

3. Boyle County pride. With Brown and Jacob Tamme, respectively, players who played for Smith at Boyle have gone on to become a major-college head coach and to play on three Super Bowl teams. “It’s pretty amazing,” Smith said.

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Boyle County head coach Chuck Smith did not have family bragging rights at the end of the 2018 Kentucky high school football season. Michael Reaves

2. Family bragging rights. Chuck Smith’s 2018 Boyle County football team suffered its only loss of the season in the Class 3A playoff semifinals, a 21-0 loss to Corbin. Meanwhile, Brandon Smith, Chuck’s son, coached South Warren to the Class 5A state title by upsetting Covington Catholic 20-16 in the finals.

1. ”Didn’t have to say anything.” I asked Chuck Smith if Brandon gave him a hard time at Christmas over which Smith finished the job in 2018. “He didn’t have to say anything,” Chuck Smith joked. “His smirk said it all.”

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.


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