UK Football: New Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown says current Cats will fit into his system
Kentucky offensive coordinator Neal Brown said there is enough talent at UK now to fit his system. (Victoria Graff / January 20, 2013)
“You have to fit your style around the personnel you have,” said Brown, a former UK receiver. “You can’t be stubborn and say we are going to do exactly what we did at Texas Tech. We have different personnel here. You utilize what you have and use it to the best of your ability and their ability.
“But they (returning UK¿players) will fit in better than you think. They were a spread team in the spring (of 2012) and at the start of last year (before quarterback Maxwell Smith was injured). They did a lot of no-huddle. Some players will transition easier than you might think.”
The new UK¿offensive coordinator has had only one meeting with UK’s returning offensive players, but he anticipates no problems with players buying into his system and/or demands.
“They’ve had limited success the last two years and the kids are hungry to succeed,” Brown said. “They are not bad kids. They have done what they were supposed to do off the field. This is not a situation with a lot of issues off the field or in the classroom. To me, that means these are good kids and that will translate to them be very receptive to what we want to do.
“They want to win. Now they’ve got to pay the price to win. I think they are excited and some older guys are really excited about getting fresh starts. We want to evaluate what we have here and make wise decisions, but you don’t want to have preconceived notions. I want to give all those guys a new beginning. You will always have surprises where a guy that did not perform well or was in the doghouse (with the previous coaching staff) will change for the positive.”
Brown said in any new situation, there are two things that have to be done.
“You have to quickly evaluate what you have (talent-wise) on campus and quickly determine what you need to go get,” Brown said. “We are playing catch up in recruiting. It is an 18-month to two-year process. We are trying to do it in six weeks. With kids, coaches, parents and anybody else that factors in the recruiting decision, that’s not long. It’s hard. Doable, but hard.
“We need more numbers at wide receiver. The kids here have talent and are excited about what we do. They will show improvement. We just do not have many of them. We are a little thin in the O-line. We probably need a running back that is a make-you-miss type of player.”
Brown said familiarity plays a big role in recruiting when a new staff takes over. Coaches rely on relationships they already have after evaluating players that were already verbally committed to UK or were heavily involved with the previous staff.
“Then you go back to what you are familiar with. Either kids or schools or coaches you are familiar with,” Brown said. “With quick evaluations on talent and character, you go with what you are familiar with. You do not want to make rushed decisions on kids or unfamiliar places or coaches you do not know.”
Brown is most familiar with Texas because that’s where he primarily has recruited the last three years. He says Stoops has not yet assigned specific recruiting areas for each coach but he anticipates areas within a three- to five-hour drive of Lexington along with spots like Atlanta and Florida will be the hot spots for the Cats.
“I think we will definitely use our contacts in Texas. Is that a place we will zero in on and spend a ton time in the spring recruiting? Probably not,” Brown said. “We will probably go into major metro areas and spend some time and try to focus on a few kids in Texas that way. There are great coaches and great players in Texas. D.J. and I have contacts there and so do several more coaches. We will go to Texas to recruit, but that won’t be our main area.”
Brown said there is no set number of receivers he’ll play. At Troy, he played more because he had more players with similar skills.
“At Texas Tech, we played a few less,” Brown said. “But over the last five years we have been tops in the country with most guys with receptions. I like to have as many receivers involved as we can.”
Kentucky will go into spring practice with three quarterbacks — Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles — getting an equal opportunity to win the starting job. However, Brown said if a clear No. 1 quarterback does not emerge by the end of spring practice, it is “not that big a deal” to him.
“I think what you want to do in the spring is see if anybody separates himself,” Brown said. “But the summer is a huge deal. Coaches are not allowed to be there with players. That’s where a lot of the quarterback’s leadership is developed. It’s always important to see how the quarterback handles that and manages the summer throwing schedule before they get back for fall practice. We are not able to watch, or even really hear about, what goes on. But you can tell when you get back who has done the work. If the quarterback or quarterbacks have done a good job of leading in the summer, it is real clear when you get back to camp how much they have grown. But it doesn’t hurt you if you don’t have a starter coming out of the spring.”
Brown likes to have versatile running backs in his offense.