As the Kentucky Wildcats enter a critical Year 4 under Mark Stoops, the UK coach may have finally landed the perfect offensive coordinator for what he wants to accomplish.
After Neal Brown and Shannon Dawson lasted just three years in Lexington, Eddie Gran is now the offensive mastermind for UK this season. He's someone Stoops has coaching experience with but more importantly, someone he has complete trust in.
That wasn't the case with either Brown or Dawson, and listening to Gran speak, you can see why Stoops has so much faith in him. He sounds like a head coach talking, which makes sense given the fact he was named the head coach of the offense this offseason.
Here is a recap of what Gran said Thursday:
On installing offense
"I think they've done a great job of trying to come in and learn what we're doing. They've bought in. The difference between day one and day two, you add a little bit more and it got a little bit sloppy at times. But we're really trying to teach them what to do right now.
"We really got to get into the specifics and the little things and the details, and we'll do that as we go to the summer. Right now we got to understand what to do and then do it at a great tempo. What I was really happy about was guys finishing, their attitude, their enthusiasm and us not having to coach effort.
"So we've got to put all that together for us to get better.
On rate at which they're installing the offense
"Well, there's two ideas with that, in terms of: you throw it up all on the board and you see what sticks after 15 practices, what we're good at, and then we condense it when we go into the fall. Or you just don't do a lot. I'm more for let's throw it all up there, let's see what they can learn, and then we'll pull back from there. So that's what we'll do.
"We're gonna keep installing. We'll come back and we'll put one and two together when we come back so they can get their mind right after spring break, and then when we go Thursday we'll install three. We'll go Saturday, we'll install four.
"And those will be...we'll see.That's when they really got to lock in and they've got to go, because it's a lot."
On the QB competition
"It's great. I love it. I love that we got Stephen (Johnson) to come in here at the semester. I think they're all swimming a little bit as we go and you put stuff in, and we're asking them to do a lot and we're gonna continue to ask them to do a lot. Hopefully somewhere after we've hit the wall, that we can come back, start over, go back to install one and then you'll see some more progression.
"That's what's gonna happen. That's what usually happens when you install, but I love the way they're competing right now against each other."
On if he has seen any separation
"No, I think in two days it's hard. Haven't watched the film yet from today. Love the way DB (Drew Barker) is going out there, and Drew, he's being a leader. I think he's been in the mix before so that helps him compared to Stephen. Stephen obviously came from a junior college, but it's different. This is a different step up for him.
"But he's trying. He really is. You can see he's being a guy that's trying to learn the offense, so hopefully in six, seven practices, you see him be more efficient."
On how big of an impact C.J. Conrad will have
"He can be really good. Him and our other tight end, Greg (Hart) is doing a really good job. I love the way they can run. They can stretch the field vertically so you don't have to get into 10 personnel and you don't have to get into other personnel.
"You can stay in 11 and you can spread those guys out and still run the offense, have a power run game with them in there. And then you can spread them out and you can pass the ball, too. That's what we're doing these next 15 practices.
"We're gonna see what personnel we have and we'll dabble in a lot, because we want to be a lot of personnel, a lot of different ways that we can attack the defense. So we've got to see personnel as we go through 15 practices. Who's the best?
On Conrad's maturity
"It's excellent at that position. You've got Justin Riggs coming in at that position, too, and you'll have four when Darryl Long gets better. So I think we'll have four that have the size and have the ability to run. Him being mature like he is for a sophomore, you love that. And you love his athleticism."
On how he feels about o-line & Jon Toth as a leader
"I'm really excited about our offensive line. I think they're athletic. They're not on the ground a lot. You got to learn how to practice when you're not in pads. You've got to be able to run your feet and you've got to stay off the ground, and I've thought they've practiced really well. Guys aren't on the ground, so they look athletic.
"Targets are good. Toth does a great job running the show up there, and that's what your center has to do. So I've been really excited about that and what they're doing."
On getting Toth being vocal leader
"Well, he's gonna have to learn that as he goes. He does it by his actions, for sure. In fourth quarter when we were going through winter conditioning, he brought the offense up and whipped their tail one day, and that's being a leader.
"It was good to see. He'll keep growing in that leadership role as we go. He's gonna take that role on, and you can't push that on anybody. He's got to do that himself."
On if Tate Leavitt is playing left tackle, how he is doing
"He's doing OK right now. The bullets are coming pretty fast. I think our guys on defense, the guys that are rushers outside, are really, really fast which is gonna help us, so his technique's gonna have to be perfect for him to block those guys.
"What we're doing on defense is helping us on offense, so Tate's going to have to keep growing there at that position because it's fast."
On versatility in the backfield
"Right now they're doing a pretty good job. You've got Mikel (Horton) right now that's practicing, and Jojo (Kemp) and Sihiem (King). When Boom (Williams) gets out there then you've got four that can play. I don't know if it's going to be a one, two-man show.
"Is it gonna be a three-man show? Who knows? Hopefully we're playing with a lot of reps and if you can get 80 reps a game then you can play two or three guys. We'll just see how it goes, what their physicality is. If a guy's rolling, let him go.
"We'll just kind of see how they go, but right now they're doing a pretty good job."
On what about Sihiem King's skillset makes him a factor at RB
"Well we did one-on-one today against the linebackers and he does have a lot of skill. He's got a lot of burst and he's got a lot of quickness. He's just got to get right everywhere else. I always talk about what you're doing off the field in terms of academics and being accountable and dependable, all the things that Coach Stoops is preaching.
"When he puts all that together I think he can help us because he does have a burst. He's something different than those other guys. But right now I really like where he's at."
On Boom Williams being no contact all spring
"Yeah, there's always that because he's not getting the reps. But he's getting the reps right now in 7-on-7. Every individual drill he's been able to go through. Maybe at the second half of the spring we'll see how it's going and where we're at with it and maybe he can start getting in there.
"But that always is. The reps standing behind, he's doing a great job trying to be a leader. He's back there having fun and you can hear him coaching, and to me, you can get a lot out of that, too."
On how redshirt freshman WRs Tavin Richardson and Jabari Greenwood have looked
"A little bit like they redshirted. We're slipping all over the ground, and that's just technique, dropping pads, doing a great job of staying low, especially when you're on rye grass and it's slippery out there.
"But I like the way they're competing. I like the way they're trying to go out and win a position. You love their size. They're just got to continue to grow and get better."
On right tackle position
"They're doing a good job over there. That first group I think is as solid as you can get. Then you look at the second group - I haven't had a situation like we have. I think our first three groups at offensive line are pretty darn good. I think they're size and their athleticism and what we're asking them to do right now, I'm really excited about that.
"You can move guys around. George (Asafo-Adjei) has moved from tackle into inside, so he's doing something different. He's got to grow into that spot. I really like where they're at."
On if Kyle Meadows is moving well at his size
"Yeah, absolutely. He really is. He looks good out there."
On Garrett Johnson saying players needed more disciplinarian approach
"Well, it goes right up to the head football coach. Attitude, toughness, discipline and pride, those are our cores. To be great on offense you have to be able to execute and you have to be consistent and you do have to have a high standard.
"Everybody has got to do the exact same thing. On defense you might have a couple guys that do something wrong but you got a guy that makes a great play and makes a great tackle. On offense you've got to have 11 doing the exact same thing every single time.
"It will be a high standard. We will grind them. We're going to try to make it hard in practice so that when they get to Saturday that it's easier. So I want to stress them to the fullest during practice."
On wide receivers as a whole
"Inconsistent right now, but they are competing and competing is very important to me. I think our secondary is really good. I think they do a good job and it's going to help us in the long run. So, they've got to keep pushing and each day they've got to be able to come to work and put that hard hat on and try to be tough.
"I don't care what position you are. We've got to be physical. We've got to be physical in the run game as a receiver, got to be physical on a back-side block, give great effort, and you've got to be able to when a guy is pressing get off blocks and you got to get open.
"They're getting better at it, but we've got a long way."
On if Jacob Hyde will still play fullback
"Right now we haven't gotten in a lot of 21 (personnel formations). Right now we've been using our tight ends. When we get into goalline and short yardage that might be something we discuss, when we get into big people and put a fullback back there.
"That's something, again, as we learn our personnel and see how they're doing that's what we'll do."
On if there is a different snap count for tempo:
"If you get it in 18 seconds, you're great. When you get into 11 -- We'll have certain tempos we'll go that we can get in under 12, whether it's numbers, whether it's a word. But if you're getting it under 18 you're going pretty good.
"That's what our base is, so we're trying to make that our base. That's what we go. We'll change that though, change those tempos as we go, hopefully to keep the defense on their toes."