Ed­die Gran stay­ing as of­fen­sive play-caller is good news for Cats fans

Lexington Herald-Leader - - Sports - BY MARK STORY [email protected]­ald-leader.com

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. Some frus­tra­tion with UK’s mid­dle-of-the-sea­son of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion is un­der­stand­able,

but 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 pre­vi­ous 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.

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 emailer 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 age 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.

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.”

KEN WEAVER

Ken­tucky OC Ed­die Gran was linked to the same role at Ge­or­gia, but ap­peared to end his can­di­dacy Thurs­day.

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