Vaught's Views: Hudson's offense needs 'the right players' to work

October 27, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

If anyone should know whether Ron Hudson's offense will work at Kentucky, it should be former Kansas State quarterback Michael Bishop.

He started 25 games during the 1997-98 seasons at Kansas State when Hudson was the offensive coordinator, rushed for 1,314 yards and 23 touchdowns, and won 22 of 25 games. He played so well that he was second in the 1998 Heisman Trophy voting to Texas' Ricky Williams.

Bishop now plays for Toronto in the Canadian Football League, his third year in that league after spending two seasons on NFL rosters. While he's not privy to any inside information about Hudson's struggles as Kentucky's offensive coordinator, he does have some interesting long-range observations about the UK offense.

"You have to have the right players and guys with certain abilities," said Bishop. "If you don't have the right guys in the scheme, it won't be successful. It's not a tough offense to learn. It can be successful, but only if you have the right guys to succeed."


Kentucky players might be stunned to know that Bishop thinks "it's not a tough offense to learn" based on the way they have struggled to grasp the offense since Hudson's arrival with coach Rich Brooks almost two years ago.

Hudson's offense ranks 116th out of 117 Division I-A teams in total offense at 260.4 yards per game and if not for the big outburst against Indiana would be last in the nation.

Hudson has blasted critics of his offense and those calling for his dismissal, preferring to cite UK's lack of talent as a cause for the offensive problems the last two years.

"Nobody wants to hear excuses, they want to hear about wins," Hudson said. "That's all they care about. We are trying the best we can. If that means changing me, if that means it's going to make Kentucky better, then do it.

"If my job is on the line, so be it. But I emphasize that it is rumors. The people making up those rumors have no credence."

What type of players does it take?

But Bishop does. He played for Hudson. He ran the system. So what type of players does it take to make Hudson's offense work effectively?

"First, you've got to have a quarterback who can run and throw equally well," Bishop said. "You need a guy with good speed and good awareness of the pocket. The ability to run takes the pressure off the offense.

"Up front (in the line), you've got to have guys who can go to war and keep people off the quarterback. You need at least two playmakers at wide receiver. You can live with an average running back, but you have got to have receivers who are not afraid to go across the middle at crunch time and make big catches."

Kentucky lacks a dominating line and has not had a receiver establish himself as a big-time playmaker. The Wildcats also have not had a quarterback who runs and throws equally well. Last year Jared Lorenzen was a capable passer, but no runner. This year Shane Boyd is a capable runner, but a so-so passer.

"No disrespect to anyone, but if you don't have guys to run this offense, then you have to go to one that might work," Bishop said. "Kentucky maybe should have stuck with what it did well last year and lived with it. Then they could have changed and tried the new offense when they got the right kind of players in. You just don't add a system that is not right for the people running the offense."

Aren't coaches paid to develop talent?

Hudson says he doesn't teach players to fumble or jump offside. He says coaching can't compensate for a lack of physical talent. But don't coaches teach players how to avoid fumbles and penalties? Don't coaches develop talent? Isn't that what coaches are paid to do?

"Perception is what people want perception to be," Brooks said. "Obviously, nobody can be happy with the production of our offense this year. Nobody. I can't. Coach Hudson is not, and our players are not, and obviously the fans are not."

No argument there. But will this offense ever work at Kentucky? The Cats can't restock with junior college players, something Kansas State could do with players like Bishop, who won two junior college national championships.

Bishop gave no ringing endorsement to Hudson's offense. Instead, he questions if it will work in the Southeastern Conference.

"The system can work if you get the right people. But the SEC is more of a passing conference," Bishop said. "The proven winners pass. They also run the ball, but you can't win in the SEC without a good passing attack. Kentucky may have to rethink what they are doing."

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