“The Install”: How Liam Coen will introduce Kentucky’s new offense
Darian Kinnard will be a cornerstone piece of the offense in 2021.
Offensive coordinator Liam Coen opened spring practice with a press conference on Tuesday. Coen used the term “Install” on numerous occasions. For a new offense and coordinator, install is a process, a focus, and the overriding goal of spring practice. Coaches can utilize various methods of installing a new system. One consistent regardless of direction is fundamental instruction.
in·stal·la·tion – The action or process of installing someone or something, or of being installed.
With so many references to the term “Install,” I thought we’d spend a little time discussing the process. Installing a new offense has four characteristics that will be highlighted during coach’s press conferences throughout spring practice. They are: Coordinator’s Intent, Schematic Personality, Technique, and Fundamentals. Let’s dive in shall we?
Liam Coen has a plan for the fifteen practices during spring practice. From all accounts, the new offensive coordinator will be utilizing spring practice for system installation, teaching fundamentals and technique. The quarterback competition that will grab all the headlines but will likely be pushed back till fall camp due to the late arrival of Penn State transfer Will Levis.
Installation – Back to the word of the day. Coen’s offense will be taught on both the individual and big-picture levels. Players will have focused meetings with their positions coaches to discuss a play or a scheme. The plays will be dissected on the chalk board and supported by a teaching tape. The next step is a walk-through prior to practice where players receive detailed instruction. The final segment of the process is running the play or scheme in practice at full speed. After that, practice tape will be scrutinized and corrections will be made. Once all that is completed players are expected to have learned that particular play. Then, it’s on to the next. One simple play can have up to 10 variations based on opposing defensive fronts/coverages and down/distance.
Fundamentals – When I hear Coen mention this term my attention goes directly to the quarterback position. Of all the offensive positions, QB is the one that will require the most fundamental improvements and alterations. Footwork. Footwork. Footwork. A simple handoff is actually a choreographed movement that must be exact in nature.
Example: A handoff to the running back in the outside zone concept may require the QB to take an initial cheat step, then 45-degree angle with a slide step moving toward the point of exchange being the outside hip of the running back. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Something as simplistic as this will be repped hundreds of times on the practice field. Every day.
Playing the quarterback position is 75% from the waist down. Most would think arm strength is the most vital trait of a signal caller. That would be wrong. Proper footwork is the key and a component of the position that separates the good from the great.
My take on football is this: Control the controllables, Manage the manageables. Exact, positional fundamentals do not require talent. They both are controllable and manageable. Just takes a little hard work and attention to detail.
Technique – Offensive line and tight ends will have new techniques based on the big picture of schematic install. UK was an inside, tight zone and power run team under Eddie Gran. Coen’s system will likely focus more towards the edge in the outside zone which will lead to an increase in the bootleg passing game. Reaching and blocking an area will be a focal point for the Big Blue Wall. Tight ends will be in motion more so than in the past. Vince Marrow is an effective teacher at that position. But, there will be new techniques that he must instruct over the course of fifteen practices. Expect the UK TEs to be a team strength.
Those Kentucky receivers. Bless their hearts. They’ve been bad-mouthed enough. Give these athletes a chance under a new offensive regime. The re-evaluation of the position at the end of spring practice will be critically important in the big-picture. Much like QBs, footwork is vital for the pass catchers. Also, the catch procedure of using hands instead of the body to receive the football is a simple yet important technique that will be instructed during spring practice. The telling evaluation will be based on the YAC or Yards After the Catch. Playmakers are going to make plays. Those that can’t, won’t. YAC and blocking will dictate the 2021 depth chart.
While most fans want to see the football thrown all over the yard, UK’s bread and butter could remain to be the run game. Hey, the overall intent is to win the football game. The proper use of Chris Rodriguez Jr. maximizes the Cats’ chances to win by an extraordinarily high percentage.
Every coordinator has a personality. Liam Coen’s personality will be on full display when Louisiana Monroe rolls into town. And then, I’d guess that the Wildcats will be ordinary in order to take on Mizzou in the season’s second game.
A coordinator’s personality can be defined by his preferred go-to play or series of plays when the game is on the line. For Kentucky, the Wildcat package was at one time the offense’s personality. Benny Snell’s record book smashing career gave rise to the Big Blue Wall and its punishing rushing attack. It changed when Lynn Bowden took over at quarterback which resulted in leading the SEC in total rushing. Hal Mumme’s favorite play was the wide receiver screen. Jerry Claiborne’s offense favored the power play. You see where I’m going here? Stay tuned.
Fundamentals and Technique
Much like the word “Install,” fundamentals will be often repeated during spring practice. Football is a game of repetitive motion and basic fundamentals. Spring practice is the appropriate time to stress individual, fundamental growth. Each player has specific assignments during every play that will be called on Saturdays. All eleven must be sound in the basics prior to expanding the offense. Fundamentals are the backbone that contribute to the overall failure or success of a football play.
What may seem simple to most, the most basic fundamentals will be stressed during spring practice. Catching the football with hands instead of body is one of a million examples that can be used here. The biggest difference from high school to college football is the exactness of footwork. There is no room or time for wasted motion due to the game’s increased speed and rhythm.
What Does All This Mean?
Spring practice is about teaching. Liam Coen is not only installing a new offense, his staff is instilling a new attitude and personality. Coen’s big-picture intent will vary from Eddie Grans.
I realize that the Wildcats have completed just one practice, but players appear to be having fun. WR Josh Ali indicated that he wished the team could practice again on Wednesday instead of having a day off from on-field training. That’s a Kentucky receiver saying that. Let that sink in. I like it. Of all the position groups, I’m most excited to watch the receivers have some fun and catch the football. There needs to be more smiles than dread from that group. Wildcat pass catchers have been scrutinized enough. Let’s give it some time and see how the position develops. Liam Coen reaps of enthusiasm. Players will enjoy working for him and in this system.
There is a difference in writing about “Install” and talking about it from a personal experience. I’m not a good enough writer to properly discuss its importance and difficulties. Tune in to this week’s Depth Chart Podcast. I’ll break down the challenges that I experienced during a coordinator/system change.