LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky has time on its hands as it begins spring practice.
The Wildcats will have five weeks to install a new system implemented by offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Coen has already “implemented some things for them,” but added there’s “a great deal to go through.”
The Kentucky coach said the staff and players will need to “use our time wisely.”
“Everything is going to be new obviously from terminology to formations to the operation,” he said. “From getting under center, different tempos, different cadences, there’s a lot. There’s a lot to go into it, so we really have to use these practices wisely. The nice thing with the way our schedule is, it’s taxing on our players and our coaches, but we go for five weeks, so we have a long time.”
Stoops admitted the scheme is “fancy” but added football is still a “fundamental game and that’s what you can’t get away from.”
“There is so much big-picture things to get in and to get done and to install, but you also fundamentally always got to get better every time you take the field,” he said. “There’s a lot to do but it’s an exciting time.”
Stoops added the change in schemes means the battle for spots, especially on offense are “wide open.”
“You have to go out and prove it every day,” he said. “Obviously, we have some guys that we feel really good about who have proved themselves for a long time. We expect them to be a really good player no matter what system they’re in. But there’s also a bunch of guys that we’re looking at that need to take it to another level.”
The Wildcats also will be looking for a new quarterback, a race that likely will be between Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood, Bau Allen and Nik Scalzo.
“We’re looking forward to those guys getting better just like all of the other guys,” Stoops said. “I’m not going to get into that (snap counts) and tip my hand and do all of those things. You know that. You know what I’m going to say. It’s a competition just like every other position out there. We’ll see how it moves forward.”
In addition to Coen, the Stoops added former Wisconsin running backs coach John Settle, who will coach running backs and serve as co-special teams coordinator along with defensive backs coach Frank Buffano. He has also coached in the NFL, most recently with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns and Carolina Panthers.
“When you look at John’s resume and the places he’s been, coming from a great program and his NFL experience, it was a no-brainer for me,” Stoops said. “John’s personality, background and work ethic made him attractive. He’s done a remarkable job at Wisconsin and everywhere else he’s been. With his experience, he also will help with the big picture and special teams.”
Settle said he’s happy to be joining the Kentucky coach staff.
“Coach Stoops’ track record speaks for itself,” Settle said. “What he’s done the last five years is impressive. He’s trending, he’s heading in the right direction. I like his energy and his approach.
“I also liked the opportunity to work with Liam (Coen) and a pro system, expanding my knowledge also was an attraction. Now was the right time to make a move, and this is a good move to make.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21