Now that Jim Chaney’s move to Tennessee has joined Mel Tucker’s move to Colorado in the “official” stack, it’s time to play an offseason game UGA fans haven’t enjoyed in a while: getting to know potential coordinator candidates.
Today we kick things off with a name some are circulating for the vacant offensive coordinator position, Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran.
Ain’t Life Gran
Gran came to Kentucky in 2016 after a stint as offensive coordinator at Cincinnati under Tommy Tuberville. He previously coached running backs for Tubs at Ole Miss (1995-98) and Auburn (1999-2008), and also did a short stint at Tennessee (2009, under head coach Lane Kiffin and OC....Jim Chaney). During his time as a running backs coach he worked with such SEC standouts as Deuce McAllister, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Kenny Irons.
A Loving Tradition of a Gran Design
Gran’s background as a tailback whisperer of sorts dovetails nicely with what he’s done at Kentucky, which is run the ball with Stanley “Boom” Williams and Benny Snell until the doors fall off. The ‘Cats ran the ball on 64.4% of offensive snaps in 2018 and averaged a respectable 4.84 yards per attempt (7th in the SEC).
That approach has brought him a fair amount of criticism from Wildcat fans, but it also (along with a stout defense) helped deliver a 10 win season in 2018.
It’s worth noting that Gran’s Cincinnati offenses from 2013 to 2015 were a good bit more up tempo and wide open than what he’s done across the line in the Bluegrass State. In his final season running the Bearcat attack the offense ran a total of 1059 plays (almost 23% more snaps than his 2018 Kentucky offense) and passed the ball almost exactly 50% of the time. That offense transitioned from freshman QB Hayden Moore to junior Gunner Kiel and back again, never really finding the sweet spot. But between them Moore and Kiel threw for 4662 yards on the season. That’s . . . .a lot.
Nobody Puts Kirby In A Corner
It’s also probably a good bit more passing than Kirby Smart would be comfortable with. If Kirby were to hire Gran (we’ll talk whys and why nots momentarily) don’t expect him to bring a wide-open passing attack to the Classic City. But he’s shown he’s comfortable calling the kind of game the boss man wants called. That may be equal parts reassuring and depressing to Bulldog fans depending on whether you think Georgia runs too much or not enough.
The Gran Reveal?
One “pro” in Gran’s column for the job is that he’s known as a solid recruiter, although he’s probably a little further down the rankings on that score than he was at one time. There are now other, younger assistants with a little more cache in that department, but he would not be a downgrade from Chaney in my estimation.
One of those rising recruiting masters is current UGA running backs coach Dell McGee, renowned as one of the best in America at getting young tailbacks to sign on the line which is dotted. Every indication is that Smart is happy with the job McGee has done, both on the field and in recruiting. Hiring Gran would mean either one of the two coaching a position other than running backs, which isn’t ideal, or Gran not coaching a position group at all, which would mean sacrificing another position coach or special teams coordinator Scott Fountain (unlikely and again, not ideal).
In short I’m not sure how the pieces would come together for a Gran hire. He currently makes $850,000 a season in Lexington and while he’d probably want more to leave, he wouldn’t command the $1.6 million Jim Chaney just got to make him the highest paid offensive coordinator in the nation. That would leave money to better remunerate Sam Pittman, James Coley, and Dell McGee.
Speaking of Coley, an ongoing theme in these discussions will be where he fits in given that he turned down the Texas A&M offensive coordinator job last winter to stay in Athens. If he’s passed over for the job this time I cannot imagine for the life of me why he’d stay. Last Resort is great, but it ain’t that great. Being essentially “recruited over” by Kirby likely means Georgia losing our ace south Florida recruiter/quarterbacks coach.
I’m not saying Gran won’t be the pick. My suspicion is that what he did on offense this past year looks a good bit like what Kirby Smart wants his offense to be, albeit not quite as effective. And in 2019 Georgia will have the huge, veteran offensive line to make a 30+ rush per game attack effective.
But the staff gyrations necessary to make the move work seem awfully tricky to pull off, especially when there are other candidates with similar credentials, both inside and outside the UGA football offices. Until later...