Vaught's Views: Kentucky not the only SEC school tweaking its offense

July 28, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

HOOVER, Ala. - During Kentucky's struggles last season, offensive coordinator Ron Hudson was often criticized for not getting the best out of UK's talent.

Some felt Hudson did a poor job of adapting the offense to best use the talent of quarterback Jared Lorenzen and receiver Derek Abney. Others felt the offense which worked so well at Kansas State was too complicated and far too different from what the Wildcats had been doing.

But apparently Kentucky wasn't the only Southeastern Conference football team undergoing offensive growing pains.

Auburn went into last season ranked No. 1 before stumbling to an 8-5 record. That's one reason the Tigers will go into this season with their fourth offensive coordinator in the last four years, which doesn't make it seem so bad that UK has had only two (Brent Pease and Hudson) in the same period.

However, Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville is not going to let new offensive coordinator Al Barges make drastic changes to an offense that averaged 26 points and 376 yards per game in 2003.


"As long as the offensive coordinator tries to adapt as much to the players as the players do to him, it should be fine," Tuberville said during the Southeastern Conference media days Tuesday. "We are not just going to junk the offense. We want to keep doing things that have been successful."

So no changes? Well, maybe one major philosophy shift.

"This will be more of a tight end-oriented offense," Tuberville said. "We want one tight end to catch 50 balls, the other one 25. If we do that, it will open the running game up more. We are going to utilize the passing game, as well as the running game, with the tight end."

Florida is also going to a new offensive coordinator, partially to help develop the skills of sophomore Chris Leak. Remember Leak? He made his first start at Kentucky last year when the Wildcats let the Gators rally for a 24-21 win and missed a chance to give new UK coach Rich Brooks the signature win he so desperately needed - and still does.

Now Ron Zook has brought in Larry Fedora to resurrect an offense that only threw for 245 yards per game last year, the lowest total at Florida since 1989.

"But we want coaches where we don't have to drastically change the system," Zook said. "When you change the system, you are moving backwards. That doesn't help anyone.

"The days of having one great running back and just running over people are gone. You better have all the great backs you can, but you also better have a complete offensive system that the players understand and can execute."

Kentucky's offense has been simplified

Perhaps that's why Brooks and Hudson have discreetly simplified the Kentucky offense so it won't seem as complicated not only to quarterback Shane Boyd, but also for the offensive linemen.

Brooks made sure he emphasized to the Birmingham UK Alumni Club Tuesday night that Kentucky does not have an option offense, as some have suggested. He didn't deny that Boyd would run far more this year than quarterback Jared Lorenzen did last year because he's more mobile. But he suggested rather than called option plays, Boyd's run more likely would come on misdirection plays or when UK lets him roll out with the option to pass or run.

The Kentucky coach also said Hudson has a "great offensive mind" and that the offense will improve this season.

Count Vanderbilt quarterback Jay Cutler as one who believes that.

"Unless you've been a quarterback, you can't understand how hard it is to learn a new system," Cutler said. "Jared was a great quarterback, but he was thrown into a system that might not have been best for him. Shane not only has had a full year to learn the offense, but it may also suit his talent better.

"I don't know a lot more about UK's personnel, but it wouldn't surprise me if they were a lot better offensively just because they know more about what they are doing this year."

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