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Guest post: Football picture not all gloom and doom

Sophomore Denzil Ware (35) is one of the promising players on the UK defense. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

Sophomore Denzil Ware (35) is one of the promising players on the UK defense. (Wade Upchurch Photo)

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.

3 comments

  1. TrueBlueJohn

    Good post, Keith,
    Special teams has certainly improved. Coverage on kicks has been excellent, the punting has been very good, and place-kicking is starting to come around. I have seen some individual standouts so far like Jordan Jones, Denzil Ware, and the two cornerbacks Westry and Baity. The great thing about them is that they are just sophmores. If the effort continues like the last two games, we could reach our goal of a Bowl.

  2. RJ

    Agree with you as I might Keith, there is one big hole in the coaching staff. Eliot… When the head coach has to take over the reigns from the DC to get the kind of defense he wants, someone ain’t gettin’ it done, as my dad would have said. That’s too much money to pay someone for not producing what he is getting paid to produce. Maybe someone forgot to explain to him the responsibilities of the DC position.

    It is difficult to judge if this is the right coaching staff going forward. Yep, recruiting has vastly improved. Yet, this is year four of the Stoops regime. And a whole bunch of freshmen are playing were Juniors and seniors should be playing. And, other teams in the SEC are not sitting on there hands waiting for KY to catch up. That speaks to player development. I’m sure Hinshaw is a smart guy, but in the first two games, you can’t say Barker’s performance was all that outstanding. But, his #1 guy is now hurt and he’s coaching with a JUCO transfer so we might want to cut Hinshaw some slack. Now you may want to say that barker’s trouble were due to little if any Oline protection. If so, that falls into Gran’s area of responsibility.

    What I’m getting at is, it’s a team. If just one area is weak or one group of players are not pulling their weight, the whole team suffers and that falls on the head coach. I think we would be smart not to pass judgment, good or bad, until Stoops’ entire body of work can be viewed at the end of the season. My first inclination is that he is the right guy, but the OJT time it has taken him at HC sticks out like a sore thumb.

    1. Norman Einstein

      You nailed it RJ. I am still hoping for a strong finish that can get us to a bowl.

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