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Opinion: Shannon Dawson the Latest Blemish for UK

November 07, 2015: Kentucky Wildcats helmet during the game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Georgia Bulldogs. The Georgia Bulldogs (27) defeated the Kentucky Wildcats (3) at Sanford Stadium in Athens, GA. (Photo by Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire)
Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will not return to Kentucky next season according to WKYT in Lexington. Dawson spent one year with the Wildcats, who ranked ninth among SEC teams in total offense.

The former West Virginia assistant replaced Neal Brown last December after he accepted the head coaching position at Troy. He served under of former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme and adopted a similar scheme to his Air Raid offense, but had been known for implementing a strong rushing attack. Dawson led the Mountaineers to a No. 11 national total offense ranking with 502.1 yards per game and a No. 9 overall passing offense ranking with 317 yards per game.

However, with the Wildcats, the run game only improved by nine rushing yards from 2014 while every other statistical category went down. Kentucky saw a decrease in passing yards per game (21.9), total yards per game (12.3) and points per game (4.5) according to the Courier-Journal.

WKYT also noted that Stoops admitted he was “trying to find a balance between how much autonomy his coordinators should have and how much input he should exert as the head coach” after facing questions about play calling throughout the year.

While Dawson was by no means a great hire, it does seem surprising that Kentucky would part ways with him after just one season. However, former starting quarterback Patrick Towles — who announced his plans to transfer in November — gave his opinion on the move via Twitter:

Towles does have a point. Sure, he’ll receive criticism for being “bitter” or “classless” from homer Kentucky fans, but he really has nothing to lose.

As someone who is set to jump off the sinking ship, Towles is allowed to give an unfiltered opinion about the current mess that is Kentucky football.

Last week I wrote a piece about Mark Stoops being on the hot seat and why his second extension will prevent him from losing his job early. According to Mark Story of the Herald-Ledger, Kentucky will owe Stoops $15.5 million if he’s fired without cause before Dec. 1, 2017. If Stoops is fired after 2016, the Wildcats will still owe him $12 million.

So financially, Kentucky can’t afford to fire Stoops even if his team continues to fall short of a bowl appearance. The Wildcats are still a mess, but just a bit less of a mess than Stoops inherited.

Kentucky was winless in SEC games and finished with a 2-10 overall record prior to his hire in November 2012. Stoops matched that record in his debut season and then managed to lead the Wildcats to a 5-2 start in 2014. That’s what led Kentucky to give him a second extension before losing its next five games and falling short of a bowl appearance. The Wildcats finished in similar fashion in 2015, with a 5-7 record after a 4-1 start.

So Stoops has made a slight improvement to a program that — let’s be honest — doesn’t care enough about football during basketball season to be outraged about an SEC coach failing to finish with a .500 or better record in any of his first three seasons.

But for the fans that still care, a move was made to bring some glimmer of hope that, “Hey, we got rid of the offensive coordinator who dragged us down.”

That’s it! All of Kentucky’s problems are solved.

No, Dawson’s firing was yet another blemish on a Wildcats team with far too many flaws to fix in one offseason move. Towles had it right, Dawson was nothing more than a scapegoat.

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