UK Football: Former Kentucky players like the Neal Brown as offensive coordinator hire
New UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown, left, talks with head coach Mark Stoops before Saturday's basketball game at Rupp Arena where they were hosting recruits. Former players think the addition of Brown to Stoops' staff has added to the excitement about UK football. (Victoria Graff / December 17, 2012)
“I can’t think of anything that has gone over bigger,” said former UK¿quarterback Freddie Maggard of Lawrenceburg, who lettered at UK from 1989-91.
Four other former lettermen — Jason Todd (1992) of Stanford, Derek Abney (2000-2003) of Charleston, S.C., Dave Hopewell (1976-78) of Harrodsburg and Andy Murray ((1986-89) of Florence — all agreed on that as well as the overall excitement about Kentucky football since the hiring of Stoops.
Question:¿What is your reaction to UK spending the money to bring a creative, innovative offense mind like Neal Brown to the program?
Murray: “I am thrilled to see us participating in the financial arms race, and really believe we can compete with a creative offense. Hal Mumme could score with anyone and would have taken us to another level if he believed in defense. He also had a few quirky thoughts on his special teams approach and simply believed that he did not have the talent to defend some of the guys that were returning kicks in our conference. When you add his offensive scheme to a program that has a head coach with a defensive pedigree, it will be scary. You can look at what his brother did in OK with the same approach, and OK was at a low point in their program’s history from a talent standpoint. I think most everyone will agree, our team has more young talent on it today than the first two Mumme teams. The other key to this is approach is the fact that Brown’s system has done a better job of running the ball as you can see in their rushing yards per game at Texas Tech.”
Abney: “I have not heard the final numbers but it’s very encouraging. To get Neal, you would need to provide a substantial financial incentive. This is the last justifiable beef the BBN can have with Mitch Barnhart; financial support of the football team. This could be the beginning of a beautiful thing.”
Maggard: “My feeling this evening reflects reserved euphoria. I am dang proud of UK, but understand re-building a roster is both challenging and takes time. Neal Brown, in my opinion, is the best offensive coordinator in college football and now he's home in Lexington. But Neal will be more about business than homecoming pats on the back. I like that. College football is a mere Econ 101 text book case. Re-distributing funds to any entities major money maker is sound business and also is on par with the rest of the SEC. Mr. Barnhart has set the stage.”
Todd: “It is an exciting proposition to think we will have the defensive coordinator of the second ranked 2012 defense and the offensive coordinator of the second ranked 2012 passing offense teaming up at UK. I personally feel that this is the first step that UK has to take to see us get back to a competitive situation with our football program. It is great to think that we are in a situation to attract successful coaches to our program. I feel the next step is for the administration and the fans to do their part. By that I mean, the administration preparing and executing a plan to make the facilities and ‘extras’ for UK football to match the rest of the SEC. For the fans, I think that means they have to be willing to support the program with their attendance and the financial commitment that comes with that. Neal will bring an offensive style that we have seen before. It was exciting and successful and actually led to the last major financial expansion by UK when they expanded Commonwealth Stadium.”
Hopewell: “I'm certainly glad to see it. And again everyone knows how much I like offense. To bring in a coach who is has put together teams that have run offenses in the top 10 in the country at a couple of different schools is a step in the right direction.The added bonus that he is a Kentuckian and a former player, that is pretty sweet too.”
Question: What do you think this could mean to the UK football program?
Todd: “I think the immediate result will be excitement. Excitement for the players and for the fans. The players will all be excited to prove to the new coaching staff that they can play and win in the SEC. The fans will be excited to see the exciting offense and to see what Coach Stoops has in store for the defense. The long term impact will depend on how well our new coaches are able to attract the players they need to be successful in their system. All coaches will tell you that having the players is the key to success. And I feel that it is not just up to the coaches to get players. I think when recruits are in Lexington, they need to feel the excitement of the whole community around the football program. If the fan base is energized, a recruit will feel that excitement and make them more likely to consider us instead of some other school. But when the fan base is down, it can make a recruit think, why would I want to come and play in a place that the fans don’t care.”
Hopewell: “I believe players like to know they have a creative mind leading them. Neal brings that. Just watching some film on what he has done in different places looks like he knows what he wants to do anyway. Next is teaching players his system and developing them as players at this level so they know they'll have a better shot at getting to the next level in the NFL. When you do that it will help the program grow. Being able to sell the dream of getting better and going to up has got to help.”
Murray: “A new attitude with the kids. They will see the pedigree of this staff on day one, and it not be a walk in the park for them and probably won’t be a lot of fun at first. I also think our current kids will start to notice another gear that they did not realize they possessed when it comes to their everyday lives and level of play. These guys on our new staff have all been around success and know what it takes and it will be evident to our current roster immediately.”
Maggard: “Fan excitement and re-connecting the BBN. (My wife) Jen made (hotel) reservations for Nashville (and the season opening game against Western Kentucky) , I'd say 40,000 friends will do the same.”
Abney: “It’s all so early but it’s hard to argue there’s a better fit at offensive coordinator than Neal Brown. The BBN is absolutely intoxicated with the Air Raid offense, and for good reason. Results mean everything but the future looks bright on both sides of the ball. If I only had a couple years left ...”
Question: Does it excite you to also have Chad Scott (running backs) and John Schlarman (offensive line) coming back to UK with Brown?
Maggard: “Absolutely. Understanding past struggles and successes can only strengthen commitment. But to be totally honest, I don't care if they are from Mars as long as they can coach and recruit. I'm ready to win.”
Murray: “I had a chance to meet John a few times during his career and as a young coach and he is first class. As a player he was a worrier and literally went to a lot of practices on crutches and ankle boots. He will do a great job, and help coach Stoops create some that toughness that we have all been talking about.”
Abney: “I vividly remember both of them. John was a quality guy in all facets of the game/life and Chad was a quiet, confident competitor. I’m so excited these two are coming back to Lexington. I’m always cautiously optimistic but I have to say I’m more excited than I anticipated, and the coaching staff is a major reason for that.”