With the third day of Kentucky Football training camp in the books in Lexington, the Wildcats’ offensive unit is already receiving high praise.
Having a season to learn the offense has been a big help to Kentucky, which means the first three days of camp have been less about installing offense and more about expanding it, Gran said on offense day with the media. On its first day in pads, UK was a bit sloppy on Tuesday morning, but it has absorbed useful information that might not have been possible a year ago.
“For day three install for where we’re at, we could use these three installs right here and play a game,” Gran said. “And that’s something we wouldn’t do and couldn’t do last year.”
Kentucky Sports Radio’s Nick Roush brought up the fact that the Cats are returning an offensive coordinator for the first time since 2017, a point on which senior receiver Garrett “Juice” Johnson elaborated:
Returning an offensive coordinator for the first time since 2014, the Cats have continuity in the offensive playbook. It’s empowered the offense to play fast, without having to think.
“We’re just rolling right in it,” Garrett ‘Juice’ Johnson said after practice. “I can be more of myself. Now I feel like we’ve been doing this offense for so long, even though it’s just the second year. We’ve never had the same offense coordinator for two years.”
It’s crazy to think about committing to an SEC program with a promising new coaching staff, only to find yourself learning a new offense and a new system from a new coordinator in each of your first three years.
But it wasn’t just the experienced Wildcats that were getting noticed in practice. Roush also reported that several newcomers to the offense were getting shout-outs from their coaches and fellow teammates.
“The two big standouts really are Isaiah Epps and Josh Ali,” said quarterback Stephen Johnson. “Those guys are doing an incredible job out there with just their route-running and catching the ball. They’re really out there making plays. Those two stand out.”
The offensive coordinator echoed his quarterback’s statement.
“(I’m) Really excited. The athleticism, the way they come out with some passion. They’re competing, I really like that. You saw some flashes,” Gran said.
A pair of lengthy, fast receivers on the outside, their success starts at their feet.
“Josh and Isaiah, they really have good footwork to be freshmen,” said receivers coach Lamar Thomas. “Good hands, they can move, they can run. They’ve really been a good addition so far. Today was kind of the first day in pads and they did well. I’m anxious to see how they continue to progress. In the offseason, being able to come in here and work with those guys I think really helped them.”
Pretty encouraging stuff, not just because the returning players for once know their coaches and the playbook at the start of the season, but because that coach, Coach Gran, has demonstrated that he can implement a plan that produces winning results.
When you have talented, experienced players returning that know the playbook and “trust the process,” it makes it that much easier to set examples for the younger guys and help them learn and buy into what Coach Gran is doing.
Talent + experience + trust in each other = a winning combination.