From Bowl to Bowl, The Evolution of Kentucky's Offensive Depth Chart

On3 imageby:Freddie Maggard12/28/17
[caption id="attachment_234226" align="alignnone" width="975"] UK Athletics[/caption]


ËŒekspekˈtāSH(É™)n/ noun-a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Expectation management. As I sit here in the beautiful and delightful city of Nashville (That’s for you Tyler Thompson) I can’t stop thinking about what was going through my mind a year ago. Kentucky had just defeated Lamar Jackson and the Louisville Cardinals. It finished the season with an unexpected 7-5 record and earned a date with Georgia Tech in the Taxslayer Bowl. All was well in the Big Blue Nation. The future was brighter than the old Parkette Drive-In sign on New Circle Road.


əˈtriSH(É™)n/ noun -the action or process of gradually reducing the strength or effectiveness of someone or something through sustained attack or pressure. One overbearing factor for the BBN’s amplified positivity was that Eddie Gran’s record breaking offense was expected to return nine starters. The Cats had finished 2016 by roughing up opposing defenses with a punishing running game and by deploying an explosive play-action passing attack. Running backs Stanley Williams and a freshman sensation by the name of Benny Snell both topped the 1,000-yard mark. John Schlarman’s offensive line was tabbed as the league’s best by talking heads. It was losing just one starter to graduation, All SEC center Jon Toth. Homerun hitting receiver Jeff Badet was poised for a breakout senior season after averaging 21-yards per reception. He was to be joined by fellow senior pass catchers Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker. Tight end CJ Conrad was an acclaimed threat with enormous potential. Gran’s O was to be led by rising senior Stephen Johnson who out-dueled the Heisman winner in the Governor’s Cup.
  • Expected attrition: Graduation, scholarly manner for early NFL entrees.
  • Unexpected attrition: Injury, suspension, transfer, injudicious early NFL entry.
Then, unexpected attrition happened. Boom’s puzzling quest for the NFL did not pan out. Badet was developed in Lexington but departed for Oklahoma for his final season. Veteran and multiple game starting offensive guard Ramsey Meyers chose not to participate in his final year of eligibility after graduation. Starting left tackle Cole Mosier was lost to a season ending injury in fall camp. Mosier’s name was being mentioned in all-conference conversations. WR Dorian Baker fell victim to a leg injury and missed the season. All SEC guard Nick Haynes battled Diabetes and was unable to contribute at the same level due to weight loss. Former Freshman All American CJ Conrad was missed the Governor’s Cup and pending bowl game due to a foot injury. The Wildcats remained balanced despite all the missing parts. 2016 and 2017 marked the first time in school history that the Wildcats rushed for 2000 and passed for 2000-yards in back to back seasons. Gran accomplished this by revamping his offense in both seasons. 2016 was intended for the Drew Barker air-attack that was restructured to a power-run game during the New Mexico State contest. 2017 saw patience while establishing a run-game rhythm and without a receiver that could consistently stretch the field. [caption id="attachment_234225" align="alignnone" width="975"] Cole Mosier via UK Athletics[/caption] Prior to taking on Northwestern, the Music City depth chart indicates that Eddie Gran has lost six of the projected nine starters from last year’s postseason exhibition game. I get it. Attrition is a part of football. But six of nine is an extraordinarily high number. Let’s take a look at the Wildcat offense dated December 27, 2016:

2016 Taxslayer Bowl Depth Chart

Quarterback Stephen Johnson  
Running Back Boom Williams Declared for Draft
Tight End CJ Conrad Season ending injury
Left Tackle Cole Mosier Season ending injury
Left Guard Nick Haynes Illness/no longer with team
Center Jon Toth Graduated
Right Guard Bunchy Stallings  
Right Tackle Kyle Meadows  
Receiver Jeff Badet Transferred
Receiver Ryan Timmons Graduated
Receiver Dorian Baker Season ending injury
*Red=Projected 2017 starter Below is the Kentucky offensive depth chart as of December 27th, 2017:

2017 Music City Bowl Depth Chart

Quarterback Stephen Johnson Started 12 games
Running Back Benny Snell Started 12 games
Tight End Greg Hart 1 start
Left Tackle Landon Young 6 starts
Left Guard Logan Stenberg 12 starts
Center Drake Jackson 6 starts
Right Guard Bunchy Stallings 7 starts-Guard, 4-Center
Right Tackle Kyle Meadows 6 starts-LT, 6-RT
Receiver Kayaune Ross 9 starts
Receiver Charles Walker 3 starts
Receiver Garrett Johnson 12 starts
*Bold=Did not start in Taxslayer Bowl Next man up is an age old adage that is realistic within college football’s upper echelon. However, with a program such as Kentucky with a razor thin personnel margin of error, this maxim can be misleading and wishful thinking. Eddie Gran was considered one of the hottest offensive coordinators in the SEC a year ago. He was rewarded with a much deserved contract extension after posting historic rushing numbers.

2016 Offensive Results

Scoring 30 points per game
Rushing 234.15 yards per game
Yards per carry 5.44
Passing 186.1 ypg
Total 420.2 ypg
3rd Down 39.13%
Red-Zone 36 scores/25 TD’s

2017 Offensive Results

Scoring 25.8 points per game
Rushing 169.75 yards per game
Yards per carry 4.37
Passing 181.1 ypg
Total 350.8 ypg
3rd Down 41.14%
Red-Zone 36 scores/24 TD’s

What does all this mean?

Excuse maker. Wearer of blue-tinted glasses. Homer. There, I got some responses out of the way in order to save time. However, Kentucky’s unexpected offensive attrition must be considered a significant storyline of the 2017 season. Expectations were skewed along the line-of-scrimmage with four of five starters returning from the league’s top unit. The loss of Mosier, Meyers, and Haynes hurt; badly. Benny Snell’s early struggles were based off the sophomore’s impatience and an offensive line that was still finding its identity. Lamar Thomas’ receivers were anticipated to be explosive and continue to take the top of opposing defenses. An unforeseen departure (Badet) and a key injury (Baker) hampered this projection. Losing one of the league’s best TE’s (Conrad) lessens the playbook. Two 1,000-yard rushers were primed to demolish school and threaten SEC records. A risky early exit for the NFL Draft (Williams) cut the dynamic duo in half. Add all these factors up and you get an offense that experienced a foreseeable drop in production. I was wrong. I did not forecast such a drop in yardage and points. Eddie Gran is the same offensive coordinator that was in consideration for head coaching vacancies a year ago. Recruit and Develop is a mantra constantly harped by head coach Mark Stoops. 2017 was a perfect example of why that is such a vital operation within a successful football program. Kentucky is 7-5. [mobile_ad]

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