Former Coordinator Returns Home
Two years ago the sometimes offensively challenged Kentucky football team hit a high water mark. Unfortunately, this past season saw a return to more “normal” results as the Wildcats’ offense struggled. As a result, Mark Stoops looked to the past to improve the future. Let’s break it all down and show why the Big Blue Nation should be excited as Liam Coen returns to Kentucky.
Very Disappointing Campaign
Back on December 9th, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported Coen was heading back to Lexington following the end of the L.A. Rams season.
Rams OC Liam Coen assisted in Baker Mayfield’s rushed prep for TNF dramatics but he is headed back to @UKFootball as OC, he job he had in 2021, according to sources. UK fans can relax.
— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) December 9, 2022
The defending Super Bowl champs struggled with injuries all season including quarterback Matthew Stafford. As a result they limped home with a 5-12 record. That’s the most losses ever by a defending Super Bowl champion. Head coach Sean McVay is reportedly on his way out of the organization. Coen had several NFL offers after 2021 but it was the chance to go back to the Rams that finally won him over. With McVay likely gone that made this decision much easier.
Proof Is In The Numbers
Coen first came to Lexington after three years with the Rams. Originally hired as the assistant wide receivers coach in 2018, he became the assistant quarterbacks coach in 2020. Following that season Stoops tabbed him as his new offensive coordinator replacing Eddie Gran. In his one year at Kentucky, the Cats averaged 32.3 points a game. Not only was that far and away the best in Stoops’ 1o years with the Wildcats but put them 36th in the country.
He used the portal to bring in Will Levis from Penn State, a quarterback he had known from his time at Massachusetts. In addition, Wan’Dale Robinson came back to Kentucky from Nebraska. Running his pro-style system turned Levis into a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. Robinson had the best season ever by a Kentucky wide receiver.
A Necessary Change
His replacement Rich Scangarello, who also came from the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, was fired on November 29th after one season. During his time UK averaged 22.1 points a game which put them 106th out of 131 teams. Many critics cited a way too complicated playbook as part of the issue.
Of course, it didn’t help that quarterback Levis was injured for part of the year and Chris Rodriguez missed the first four games due to suspension. Throw in the fact the “Big Blue Wall” struggled mightily with Levis running for his life in most games. At the end of the day, UK had a first-round quarterback, an All-SEC running back, and arguably the best set of wide receivers in school history but couldn’t score. Ultimately it was a change that needed to be made. With the announcement, Liam Coen returns to Kentucky the question is what kind of offense is he inheriting? The answer is potentially really good.
Stars All Over The Field
The first item of business is finding a replacement for Levis. Kentucky did that by landing Devin Leary, the top ranked quarterback in the transfer portal. Two years ago the former North Carolina State quarterback threw for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns with only five interceptions. He only played in six games last year due to a torn right pectoral muscle. However, all reports say he’ll be ready for spring football.
With Rodriguez gone UK picked up one of the best running backs in the portal in Vanderbilt’s Ray Davis. The “Super Senior” to be ran for 1,042 yards and five touchdowns last season. That included 129 against the Cats as the Commodores won their first SEC game since 2019.
As we mentioned earlier the Cats have some of the best receivers in school history. Barion Brown was a freshman All-American with 50 catches for 628 yards and four touchdowns. His running mate Dane Key hauled in 37 passes for 519 yards and six scores. In fact UK is returning their top six pass catchers from last year. Throw in a healthy Leary and the Big Blue Nation has to be excited for 2023.
Again Liam Coen returns to Kentucky as offensive coordinator. Thanks for checking this and all the great work out here at Last Word On College Football. Up next we’ll hand out some hardware with our 2022 Kentucky Football Awards.