Execution More Important Than Wrinkles in Wildcat Formation

Looking to draw a coy smile? The best bet is to ask Eddie Gran and Benny Snell, Jr. whether Kentucky has plans in store to expand its Wildcat package to include new tricks.

“I think as you keep going you have to keep changing,” UK’s head coach of the offense said. “I think you’ve gotta add some wrinkles to it.”

“We have a lot up our sleeve, but that’s just for the field to show,” UK’s star freshman running back said.

The Wildcats have used their namesake formation to great effect in their surge this season, with all three of their backs taking turns receiving snaps from Jon Toth. The WildSnell version, however, has been the most common and most effective, not to mention the one most likely to produce one of those aforementioned tricks.

Just last game, Snell was credited with his first career completion when he flipped a short pass to Stephen Johnson II, who lateraled to Jeff Badet for a 19-yard gain.

“The different things you can do out of the Wildcat has really opened my eyes a little bit,” Johnson said. “We’ve got some things stored away for a rainy day, I guess, that we can do in the Wildcat. We’ll just see if we run it or not.”

No one is more interested in that prospect than Johnson, the quarterback who often finds himself in the middle of things when Gran gets creative. Knowing that, Johnson has one thing on his mind above all else when it comes to the Wildcat.

“Oh, that’s my ultimate goal, to go up and catch a touchdown,” Johnson said. “I think about it all the time. We’ll see if that ever happens.”

All that trickery, though, is a mere distraction from the true purpose of the formation, which is to put the ball directly into the hands of UK’s dynamic running backs so they can run behind a physical offensive line. At no time was that clearer than on Kentucky’s final drive against Georgia, when Snell ran nine straight times out of the Wildcat.

The drive, of course, would stall when the Bulldogs called timeout before a first-and-goal play and stuffed the formation for a gain of just two yards on two plays, eventually forcing UK to settle for a game-tying field goal before Georgia answered with the game winner. Gran attributed that to good defensive calls by Georgia and the fact that the Cats hadn’t dominated time of possession as they had in previous weeks.

“I think we didn’t have them on the field enough where our recipe has been, they’ve been tired then and I don’t think they were,” Gran said. “They were still going with some energy and, you know, we just didn’t get it done where we’ve been doing that. We’ve gotten into the fourth quarter and been able to take balls at that particular point and we’ve been able to punch them in.”

For that reason, don’t expect the Wildcat to go anywhere with a trip to Tennessee upcoming on Saturday. Defenses might know it’s coming, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be effective nonetheless.

“They’re putting a lot in the box,” Snell said. “They’re trying have the d-linemen do criss-crosses and try to the block the holes so they’re not there, but I fully trust in my o-line. And like I said before, we got a lot of things that haven’t been shown yet.”

The Cats and Volunteers are spending plenty of time scheming how to run and stop the Wildcat, respectively, but what happens Saturday is most important.

“At the end of the day, they can only do so much to it and we can only do so much to it,” Gran said. “So, it goes both ways. It goes down to executing too and making sure you’re on the right guys.”