By KEITH PEEL
Now that we have reviewed the bad (offense) and ugly (defense) let’s look at the good for Kentucky football.
Contrary to how I felt by starting the season with a “come from behind” loss to Southern Miss, I do see improvement in some areas. Let’s start with coaching hires. I believe overall this is the best group of coaches Mark Stoops has assembled since he became head coach in 2013.
The addition of Eddie Gran to replace Shannon Dawson as offensive coordinator appears to be a much better fit to run the type offense Mark Stoops prefers. Adding Darin Hinshaw as QB coach was also an upgrade. New wide receiver coach Lamar Thomas has made huge improvements in the wide receiver corp (less dropped passes, more yards per catch) compared to previous years. This group currently averages 17 yards per catch compared to an average of 12 yards per catch the previous three seasons.
And last but not least Matt House as Special Teams coach. He fills a huge void that existed last year with no special teams coach. I think the results speak for themselves. Kentucky is 51st in net punting, 7th in punt returns and 31st in kickoff returns in the FBS in 2016. That compares to previous three year averages of 81st in punting, 82nd in punt returns and 46th in kickoff returns.
UK’s recruiting has also continued to improve over Mark Stoops’ four-year span. The average class ranking was 30th in the FBS. The prior four years UK recruiting ranked an average 48th.
I know the bottom line is winning games and so far that has not happened with enough frequency over the last 3 1/2 years but when looking at the overall picture all is not ” gloom and doom.” If this coaching staff can continue to show improvement over the course of this season in the areas of offensive execution and defensive intensity I believe they will get another year to try to right the ship.
But if we see another game this weekend against Vanderbilt like we saw last year or meltdowns in future games like what we witnessed against Southern Miss and Florida I don’t believe there is a rope long enough to pull this coaching staff out of the hole they will be in.