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December 18, 2012

Former UK player back to fire up offense

There's a sense of familiarity to offensive coordinator Neal Brown about Lexington. He got his start as a player at UK. It's also where the Air Raid offense got its start.

Now they're both back.

"This is an opportunity I wanted to do without question," Brown said on Tuesday. "I always dreamed about coming back in the right situation. I believe 100 percent this is the right situation."

Brown was formally announced as the Wildcats' new offensive coordinator on Dec. 10, after spending the last three years as offensive coordinator at Texas Tech. Things haven't slowed down for him since. He headed out on the road recruiting immediately, and he'll return to Texas on Wednesday to help his family move to Lexington.

Things won't slow down when he begins to install his new offense. His system has its roots in Hal Mumme's Air Raid, but it's evolved in its time away from Lexington. Brown will work to establish a running game and pump up the pace of the offense.

The fundamentals will remain the same, but they'll use motions, shifts, and different formations to disguise looks for the defense.

"The base plays that you're going to see on Saturday afternoons, when Coach Mumme was here, those base plays are the same," Brown said. " Those same base plays really haven't changed since 1997 when Coach Mumme brought those to really big-time college football."

Brown will have UK's quarterbacks learn the system this winter, watching video while the coaches return to the recruiting trail. Sophomores Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles will all compete for the quarterback job in spring practice as the Wildcats get a fresh start.

They'll install the offense in the first three days of spring practice, then hope the Air Raid takes off.

"This system has been successful everywhere we've been," Brown said. "We've been able to turn some teams that weren't very good on offense, turn them around quickly. How quickly it can be done, I don't know. It will be done."

He won't worry about what the quarterbacks have done before. He'll be looking for them to take leadership roles and evaluate their decision-making and accuracy. Texas Tech averaged 361.9 passing yards per game in 2012, second most in the country.

Some things have changed since Brown left Lexington. The Wildcats' facilities have been upgraded significantly, and UK strung together a streak of five consecutive bowl games.

That kind of success has Brown excited for the possibilities at Kentucky.

"Deep down, and I try to tell people when I've been in Texas and Alabama and those type of places, I try to explain to them that high school football is huge in the state of Kentucky," Brown said. "There is a tremendous amount of fans support for our football program, and just football in general in this state. That gives you a chance to build a successful program. Coach Brooks did that. He built on that. That's something Coach Stoops is going to do also."

He's also invested in the program. He was watching those five bowl games as a proud former player.

"This isn't just another job for me," Brown said. "This is personal."



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