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Kentucky Football: Should Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran get a pass on failed offense?

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UK has been historically bad on the offensive side of the ball this season.

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Alabama The Montgomery Advertiser-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a disastrous season for the Kentucky Wildcats football program. After two seasons with a combined record of 18-8 with two bowl wins, the Wildcats are sitting at 3-5 and licking their wounds after being throttled 63-3 at Alabama. That’s the worst margin of defeat since 1996 when UK lost 65-0 to the Florida Gators.

The Cats rank 121st in passing yards per game (122.6), 118th in points for (20.8), and 116th in total offense (318 yards per game). Their one and only saving grace is the rushing attack is 50th (178 yards per game).

Justin Rowland wrote an article for Cats Illustrated that paints a picture for giving Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran time and patience considering the absolute debacle this season has been.

I like Justin very much, He has been on air with me and he’s joined me on podcasts as well. But in this instance. I couldn’t disagree more with him.

This is year eight with Mark Stoops and year five with Eddie Gran as the offensive coordinator. During the offseason, we were sold that Terry Wilson was going to be better and a difference maker in the passing game.

We were told that the three headed monster at the running back position was going to run amok on SEC defenses.

We were told the wide receivers were a veteran group that would be able to make plays that we didn’t see last season due to the run-heavy Lynn Bowden offense.

We were told that this may be the best offensive line Kentucky has ever had.

Only one of those things ended up being true: this may indeed be the best offensive line Kentucky has ever seen.

Terry Wilson has not improved since his inaugural season at Kentucky. In fact his numbers are virtually the same. The wide receivers can’t get open and, when they do, far too often they drop the ball if it’s thrown to them. The running back situation has been spotty with Kavosiey Smoke missing time, AJ Rose committing turnovers, and Christopher Rodriguez not getting enough touches and then mysteriously missing last week’s loss at Alabama.

Obviously, Smoke and Rodriguez get a pass due to their circumstances, but why did it take Stoops/Gran so long to realize that Rodriguez should be getting the majority of the carries?

I’m frustrated. I think most fans are frustrated. I’m sure the players and coaches are frustrated as well. But the truth is that, as it stands right now, Kentucky cannot take the next step as a program with Stoops and Gran operating the offense the way it is at present.

What’s become a stark reality is that 10-3 may have been a once in a lifetime season. Generational talents at running back (Benny Snell) and linebacker (Josh Allen) covered a lot of warts offensively.

Last season, we saw the offense under Sawyer Smith, and it wasn’t great. That team was looking 3-4 wins right in the face. It took Lynn Bowden coming in as a complete freak of nature to right the ship. Lynn Bowden, Benny Snell, or Josh Allen ain’t walking through that door, folks.

The reality of the situation is that what Mark Stoops fundamentally wants to do on offense isn’t going to work in 21st century football. As one looks across the landscape of college football, one sees how offense has evolved. Gone are the days of ground and pound. As Nick Saban stated after the game last Saturday, and I’m paraphrasing, ball control and winning the time of possession battle doesn’t give your team points.

I’m not advocating for Stoops to lose his job, nor am I advocating for Gran to lose his. But what I am saying is that things need to change ASAP. Mark Stoops has not been able to develop a true SEC caliber quarterback during his time at Kentucky, nor has he had a true go-to wide receiver.

It’s not like Stoops hasn’t had talent at the positions. Go back and look at the ratings of players like Drew Barker, Blake Bone, Dorian Baker, Patrick Towles, Gunnar Hoak, etc. Either this staff can’t coach the skill positions, or they were dead wrong judging talent.

I’m not giving Stoops and Gran a pass. They’re dealing with the same weird circumstances this season as every other team. Stoops has had eight years to build an offense, and Gran has had five. What we are seeing shouldn’t be acceptable to anyone, nor should it be glossed over as “Oh well, it’s 2020.”

To me it seems like Stoops and Gran are grasping at straws. Either their players aren’t good, or they don’t know what to do with them, or it’s a combination of both of those things. Stoops repeatedly uses the line “I’m not sure” in his postgame press conference.

That’s not going to cut it anymore.

It’s plain and simple in big-time college football: Evolve or lose your job. That should be what both coaches have in their mind as the 2021 season approaches. To me, they get one more shot at this thing.

After that, changes will need to be made.

Poll

Are you willing to give Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran a pass on the offensive woes?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    Yes
    (70 votes)
  • 81%
    No
    (315 votes)
385 votes total Vote Now