Kentucky Football: So just what is the method behind the new offense

Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Earlier this offseason, Kentucky Football elected to disassociate themselves with, at the time, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. For years, Gran captained Kentucky’s offense through thick and thin.

He navigated injuries to the quarterback and provided an offense that meshed with the personality of the defense.

The combo allowed for Kentucky to embark on a stretch of remarkable success that was their best in decades. Justin Rowland of Cats Illustrated recapped it best:

Yet, the offense never progressed, which led to his undoing.

Head coach Mark Stoops hired Liam Coen as offensive coordinator to fill in Gran’s shoes on December 15th, 2020.

Coen has spent the last three years under Sean McVay, the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. In 2018 and 2019, Coen was the assistant wide receivers coach, but in 2020 he was promoted to the quarterback’s coach.

Praise Abounds Lexington

Since the hire, Coen has received heaps of praise from all corners.

On Kentucky Sports Radio, Matt Jones revealed that former Rams QB Jared Goff praised Coen and his intelligence to Dan Orlovsky of ESPN.

During SEC Media Days a few weeks back, ESPN’s Joe Tessitore had this to say:

The potential new-look offense and hype surrounding Coen have everyone at Kentucky excited and us, the fans.

Still, there are many unanswered questions around what exactly we can expect to see from Coen’s new offense.

Improvements Are Needed

The biggest question about this hire is whether Coen can improve the passing game or not.

In the last few years, Kentucky Football has been outstanding at running the ball. They’ve averaged at least 195 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry the past three seasons.

Their passing game has been a different story altogether, as they’ve failed to reach 200 passing yards per game since 2015.

Over the summer the leaders on the team made sure their teammates would be prepared to instill the new offense, and Coen took notice.

"“Our leadership this summer did such a nice job of getting the guys together and running plays on air. hose guys took it upon themselves, they put the work in and it’s starting to show up….. When you get around Chris, (Kavosiey) Smoke, JuTahn (McClain), LaVell (Wright), (Travis) Tisdale, Torrence Davis is coming along. How do you get all of those guy’s touches? It’s really hard to get all of those guys carries but we can get them touches in different ways and that’s something we evolved to.”"

So how does the new offense work?

Deciphering The Lineage

As previously mentioned, Coen is a disciple of McVay and has been on the Rams staff for three years.

In his three seasons on staff, the Rams finished top ten in carries per game twice. Passing the ball, they did it just once.

Although, there’s a reason for that difference. McVay’s offense is based on one thing and one thing only: running the ball.

I know Gran’s offense was also based on the running game, but the styles are different.

Gran ran the ball as a first option and would pass to pass. The innovation in the running game was genius, but the passing game was bland.

In McVay’s and Coen’s system, the idea is to use the run to set up the pass.

You will see them run from a formation that requires the quarterback to be under center and sometimes in the shotgun formation that we’re all so used to.

However, it also heavily utilizes play-action, which is what has me so excited.

This past Sunday, Stoop, and Coen made it official that they had named Penn State transfer Will Levis to guide the new offense.


As you know, Kentucky Football is so adept at running the ball right down defenses throats. However, outside of that, we couldn’t do anything else.

In Coen’s system, the one that he’s learned from McVay, that will no longer be the case.

Coen will utilize our success in running the ball to benefit the passing game. Running a play-action confuses and tricks the defense into thinking you’re running the ball.

It utilizes the same techniques and formations of a run play from the offensive line and running back.

However, wide receivers fake a block and run a route while the quarterback tricks the defense into thinking he handed the ball off.

When this is done and done successfully, linebackers will bite and step up to fill gaps so the running back has no space, which will leave wide receivers open in the middle of the field for easy throws.

Play-action can also get the secondary to bite and bring safety, allowing for one-on-one coverage down the field with a receiver. That sparks big plays.

Fan Perspective

As a fan, I’m excited about what this means for the Kentucky Football Program. Games will be exhilarating to watch instead of the slogs they’ve been in recent years.

This offense, if run successfully, will have recruits flocking to come to Kentucky as it’s a pro-style scheme that will let them show off their ability and prepare for the NFL.

Gran was perfect for Kentucky at the time of his hire and until recently.

However, to take the next step as a program, he needed to go, and we had to bring in someone of Coen’s stature.

Get ready because Kentucky Football is about to take another step forward that you would’ve never thought possible as the excitement builds.