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No Dummin’ Down

New Kentucky offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello has taken football smarts to a new level (Dr. Michael Huang photo).

“Liam Who?”

That’s what Kentucky Football fans may be thinking if Rich Scangarello is as good as advertised. The Cats’ current offensive coordinator replaced Liam Coen—Kentucky’s previous offensive coordinator—after Coen helped lead the team last year to a satisfying ten-win season.

“I’ve texted with Liam,” Scangarello said about his wunderkind predecessor, who bolted back to the Los Angeles Rams after a one-and-done season in the college ranks. “I’m grateful for what he did. He did a great job getting these guys ready last year and has left a great foundation.”

But the show must go on. And who better to run the show nowadays than Scangarello? Word has it that the former quarterback coach of the San Francisco 49ers is a football savant, quarterback whisperer, and a salient gridiron mastermind. His work at multiple NFL levels speaks for itself. But to really appreciate his cerebral genius, you’ve got to look into his eyes and hear the magic flowing directly from his mouth.

The media got a chance to experience just that this morning as the offense took center stage for the scheduled Tuesday morning presser. If you remember, the defense got the best of the offense at the most recent open practice. Is that something fans need to be worried about?

As if on cue, Scangarello spoke about the complexity of the NFL offense and how his team was meeting the challenge.

“There’s no dummin’ here,” Scangarello said, when asked if perhaps he needed to slow his teaching down a bit for the players to fully comprehend. “Honestly, I’ll tell you, to the credit of this staff, they recruited some really intelligent football players. Guys that are football smart. Guys that can learn, that you can get ready to do their job. I would say that combining that with a smart center [Eli Cox], a smart quarterback [Will Levis], and then having these guys who can learn packages is how we’ll do it.”

It doesn’t hurt either to have guys who know what it takes to have success at the highest level. Guys like Josh Kattus, Dane Key, and Rahsaan Lewis, whose fathers all had fruitful football careers. Scangarello said it’s no coincidence that those three just happen to be three of the smarter players on the team.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that when you grow up around [football], it accelerates the process to learn the game, the understanding, the love of the game, [and] what it takes,” Scangarello explained. “When you’re around pros, you just know how to be a pro.”

Speaking of which, Kentucky fans are counting on Scangarello to transform Will Levis into the consummate pro quarterback. We’ve all heard stories about how teacher and pupil connected right out the gate. But Scangarello appears to connect with everyone he coaches, not just his star pupils.

And therein lies his secret.

“He is one of the best teachers,” said reserve quarterback Deuce Hogan. “Any concept—if it was football or chemistry—I would take Coach Scang[arello] against any coach in the country. His ability to relate to any individual and speak your language. It’s unreal.”

And remember, he’s not dummin’ down either. That’s a good thing in Hogan’s mind.

“On Saturdays, with eighty thousand people screaming at you, it’s not ‘dumb down,’” said the sophomore transfer from Iowa. “It’s coming. That’s what we’re being prepared for. I love it.”

As Hogan alluded to, having a great football mind is only half the battle. The ability to convey the concepts to your troops is even more important. Not only that, but a good leader knows when to pour it on and when to hold back.

“We have to be great teachers,” Scangarello acknowledged. “We got to be on point. I’ve done this a few times now, so I know how to mainstream who can do what and what’s too much. We’ll push the volume as much as we can. But when we get to the point where we feel it’s a little much, we gotta be sensitive to that and make sure they can play fast and that we don’t take that away.”

It’s highly evident that the magic is working behind closed doors. But in front of fans and media, Scangarello remains purposefully coy about this team. Unless asked directly, he rarely singles individual players out—whether for good plays or bad. Like a great field general, it’s as if he’s intentionally keeping reporters guessing by keeping his battle plans under wraps.

“One of our greatest advantages here is that no one knows what we’re really going to look like in the first two games,” Scangarello said. “Are we the 49ers? Are we my offense? What are we? What do we have here?…After we put a few games on tape and you guys see who the suspects are, I’m sure we’ll have a different conversation. But until then, let’s let it be an adventure for everyone.”

Just talking to Rich Scangarello, I feel smarter already.

Dr. John Huang is a UK columnist for Nolan Group Media and editor-in-chief of JustTheCats.com. He also covers the NFL and MLB for Sports View America. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs. If you enjoy his writing, be sure to check out his new book, KENTUCKY PASSION. https://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Passion-Wildcat-Wisdom-Inspiration/dp/1684351669

Dr. John Huang
Dr. John Huang is a retired orthodontist and military veteran. As a lifelong Wildcat fan, a fledgling author, and an occasional guest host of Just the Cats Radio, he's now living out his dream as a UK Sports columnist. Dr. Huang also covers professional sports on a regional level. You can follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs or contact him @KYHuangs@gmail.com. If you enjoy his writing, you can also read more at www.huangswhinings.com.
http://www.huangswhinings.com

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