First Down Kentucky: Bush Hamdan Wins the Press Conference

Nick Roushby:Nick Roush02/15/24

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The Big Blue Nation knew very little about Bush Hamdan before Mark Stoops hired him as his sixth offensive coordinator over the last 12 years. We knew he was previously a candidate for the position, but Hamdan isn’t exactly a household name. The first step to gaining goodwill from the fanbase is winning the press conference. He did just that Thursday afternoon.

One quote in particular perked up every fan’s ears. “This offense, we’re going to be on the attack. That’s all we’ve ever known.” That’s just what folks want to hear.

“Winning the press conference” is a silly trope when you really think about it. Unless you’re just a jerk, it’s kind of hard to lose a press conference. Nevertheless, Kentucky fans probably feel more confident about the hire after listening to Hamdan convey confidence and intelligence while describing what’s next for the offense. Let me provide some examples.

No More Huddling for Kentucky

Whoever replaced Liam Coen had one big box that needed to be checked. The Cats gotta play faster. Kentucky finished second-to-last in players per game last fall. Hamdan immediately checked that box by stating the Kentucky base offense will be a no-huddle offense. That does not mean they will always play fast, rather using variations of tempo when necessary.

Rich Scangarello played slow in 2022 and pushed back on running the quarterback. Hamdan isn’t going to make his QB carry the load like Cam Newton, but he believes the quarterback must run for at least two first downs per game.

A “College Friendly” Offense

Mark Stoops has a type. Eddie Gran proved that Kentucky does not need to be a pass-heavy offense to win games in the SEC. The pro-style Liam Coen brought to Lexington incorporated those running elements and helped attract top-flight quarterbacks to take the passing game to the next level.

Bush Hamdan shares a similar philosophy to his predecessors. He’s proud of his previous unit’s accomplishments in the run game, using a pro-style scheme to get a 1,000-yard rusher each year. Hamdan even used the phrase Coen hammered home during his 2021 intro presser, “marrying the run with the pass.”

The difference is Hamdan only spent one year in the NFL. Rather than molding an NFL offense into one that fits college players, he’s sprinkling NFL concepts into his college offense.

“I would like to think of this as, ‘been to the NFL, done the NFL thing.’ And I’ve really felt I’ve made it as college-friendly as we can and that’s the overall goal. That’s where the pro-style foundation comes from. The schemes, making the run look like the pass, everything looking the same, but how can we make it simple enough for these players, some of which are going to be operating this offense in two, three weeks and we got to get them to be able to play fast and play together.”

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A Statistical Approach to Offense

For Hamdan, the key to operating a successful offense is ensuring the scheme matches the players’ strengths. He’ll learn what his players do best this spring, see which concepts worked best, and try to perfect them before the 2024 season kicks off.

“The biggest challenge is, less is more at times, and really trying to identify what are those schemes that are really going to carry over the season? At the end of the year, did you run those schemes 20 times or more and what was the efficiency percentage and what was the explosive percentage? If you can identify those, that’s the story that for me,” said Hamdan.

“Then from a verbiage standpoint, it’s how can we cut words? How can guys just know when we call this concept, this is the alignment. The play calls are easier. I think it’s easier on the players and you can go play fast.”

Hamdan Reunites with Ja’Mori Maclin

One of the biggest additions from the transfer portal was Ja’Mori Maclin. A 1,000-yard receiver at North Texas, Maclin had the most 50+ yard catches in the FBS last fall. Before his breakout year for the Mean Green, Maclin began his college career in Hamdan’s wide receiver room at Missouri.

“He was awesome. I mean, the guy is a worker. I think that’s the first thing I’d say about J-Mo,” said the new Kentucky offensive coordinator.

“Certainly, I just go back to that trust and developing that trust in them. We thought we did the right thing, we did. We had good conversations at Missouri and even when he left me. It’s funny. I think we were talking probably about two, three weeks ago. He was calling and asking me his opinion on some different places. It’s one of those full-circle moments. Maybe in the craziness of college football, that’s one story. At least for me and my family, to be able to come back and work with him, it’s one of those things that’s that’s super special to me.”

No Complaints about Roster Management

Liam Coen was a quarterback magnet. Will Hamdan be able to attract top-flight talent to Lexington? He was a solid recruiter at Missouri and convinced the No. 1 player in the 2023 recruiting class to play quarterback for him at Boise State this offseason. Successfully navigating the transfer portal will be a priority for Hamdan.

“It’s critical. I think it’s another awesome challenge. Again, I don’t look at this new age of college ball is something I’m going to complain about. You better be out in front of it,” said the Kentucky offensive coordinator.

“You better understand that if if a guy’s playing extremely well, and maybe you’re at a certain school, there’s a chance that somebody could come get him. But I think the challenge is there, more than anything these situations where you’ve got a new player, you’ve got three weeks or a month, you’ve got two to three months before he maybe makes his first start. And I think it just forces all of us coaches to be on it in our teaching and our communication and our ability to develop trust.”

Is there a Commitment to Kentucky?

This will be the fifth straight year Kentucky is rolling out a new offensive coordinator. Bush Hamdan did not make any promises of planting roots in Lexington, but he’s excited to have such a great opportunity in Lexington.

I think there certainly had to be that commitment, I felt like for him and I. It’s there. As you know, in this day and age in college football more than ever, you got to take one day at a time. That’s the biggest thing. Today’s a big day. Tomorrow’s a big day. I also think I understand this is this is the SEC. These jobs don’t come open very often and I’m well aware of that. I have a lot of gratitude and having the opportunity to have this position, know the task at hand and I’m excited to be here.”

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