Ever since former offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson uttered those words "well, if it would've worked you'd be calling me a genius", the Big Blue Nation's view of Dawson's ability to run an SEC offense soured.
It only got worse with head scratching decisions and more offensive ineptness as the disappointing season wound down. The majority of BBN wanted Dawson out, and apparently Coach Mark Stoops agreed.
So now that Dawson is out of Lexington, the question becomes, ‘who's next?' The ‘Cats hopes and dreams are sitting squarely on Redshirt Sophomore Drew Barker's shoulders and he is now going to be working with his third coordinator in as many years.
This means the hire has to be almost perfect, for a multitude of reasons. Also factor in that Stoops is heading into a make or break season and the pressure is on for this hire to not be just the right hire, but a homerun hire.
While it is clear that Stoops is in virtually no danger to lose his job after this coming season, he is due a $12 MILLION buyout if he is fired after the 2016 season; he still has to get it right because after 2016 his buyout drops tremendously.
As fans of this program there is a virtual certainty we are going to see Mark Stoops in Kentucky Blue for the next two seasons, let us all hope he nails this hire and can flip the script from 5-7 disappointments to 7-5 bowl game seasons.
So knowing we are going to have a new guy calling plays next year, what better opportunity to learn about the candidates, frontrunners, and maybe even some out of left field guys.
According to three sources, Cincinnati's current offensive coordinator Eddie Gran is a top candidate for the job. The sources are Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio, the website www.gridironnow.com, and now Bruce Feldman
#Cincy OC Eddie Gran is the leading candidate to be the new OC at #Kentucky, a source tells @FoxSports.— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) December 18, 2015
The Case for Gran:
- He knows the SEC; He has significant SEC ties with 15 years of being a Running Backs coach at Ole Miss, Auburn, and Tennessee during that time he also spent 3 years at Florida State while Coach Stoops was there.
- Game Management; during his time at Florida State, he was the Associate Head Coach to Jimbo Fisher. This is something that could help Stoops with his in-game management as a head coach.
- He was a finalist for this job last year; many know that it was either going to be Lincoln Riley or Shannon Dawson last season, but Gran was the next in line after those two.
- He gets it done, and gets it done in a balanced way; Cincinnati is averaging at least 460 yards per game in each of Gran's three seasons. The Bearcats averaged 559 yards per game this season, good for 5th nationally
- He is balanced; while the Bearcats are pass heavy from a yardage standpoint, he calls 46% of his plays as running plays. This means he does a great job of setting up the pass with the run. He also uses the tight end, and one of our biggest weapons will be C.J. Conrad. NFL tight end Travis Kelce caught 45 balls for 8 TDs under Gran before going pro.
THE LIKELY OUTSIDE CANDIDATES
Mangino was one of the first names to come up as a possible suitor for the position. There is some good that could come from hiring Mangino if he were to be the choice
The Case for Mangino:
- He is a winner; Mangino took Kansas... Kansas to an Orange Bowl victory in 2008 and a 12-1 record. He had a top 15 defense and the #2 offense that season. He also has a 50-48 record as a head coach, again, AT KANSAS and was 3-1 in bowl games there.
- Mangino was also the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops in 2000 when they beat Florida State in the National Championship game.
- Head Coaching Experience; as previously state, Stoops is in dire need of someone with game management/head coaching experience on his staff. Hard to find a more tenured possibility as an offensive coordinator available.
Bell is the current assistant head coach and offensive coordinator at Arkansas State, he is rumored to be on Stoops list of candidates. However, he would need to be the world's greatest OC for it to make sense to me. Bell is in his 2nd year in the role and is a young coach with very little experience. That is the last thing this team needs in my opinion.
The Case for Bell:
- He can recruit; he spent two seasons at North Carolina as the recruiting coordinator where he helped construct ACC top 5 classes in each year.
- He can develop; Bell gets a lot of credit for North Carolina's tight end Eric Ebron's emergence. Under Bell's tutelage Ebron was a two time All-ACC pick and First Team All-American in 2013. Bell also turned Arkansas State QB Fredi Knighten into one of the nation's most prolific. Knighten was 9th in America in points responsible for, 25th in passing yards, and 36th in passing efficiency.
- He is used to winning; he has been a part of 9 bowl games in his short career as either a player or coach.
Coley is currently the offensive coordinator the Miami Hurricanes. With new head coach Mark Richt coming in; there is no guarantee that Coley will be retained.
The Case for Coley:
- Coley coached with Stoops at FSU and there was a lot of discussion around Coley following Stoops to UK to be the offensive coordinator when Stoops left FSU.
- He is a helluva recruiter; Coley is widely considered a fantastic recruiter, especially in the South Florida area. ESPN also tabbed Coley as the top recruiter in the ACC
- National title and NFL Experience; Coley was on the LSU staff as a graduate assistant his first season and LSU won the national title. He also followed Nick Saban to the Dolphins as an offensive assistant, but left when Saban did.
- Coley's Offense; Coley runs a pro-style offense which might cater more to what Coach Stoops wants. It could also be a better fit for UK's personnel than the mythical Air Raid offense.