Liam Coen returns to Kentucky as offensive coordinator


Michael Clubb

Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen coaches his team during an open practice in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Clubb)

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Mark Stoops and Kentucky football officially returned Liam Coen as offensive coordinator on a three-year deal with $1.8 million per year on Tuesday, filling the void left behind by Rich Scangarello.

“I’m very excited to welcome Liam and his family back to Kentucky,” Stoops said. “It was evident that he made a dramatic impact in the one season he was with our team. He brings a great deal of knowledge, and he also brings an excitement that players and recruits can relate to.”

NFL insider Chris Mortensen announced in early December that the move was going to be made, but UK Athletics and Coen himself waited to make it official publicly until the end of the Los Angeles Rams’ 2022-2023 season.

Coen was previously Kentucky’s offensive coordinator for the 2021 season, helping coach his offense, led by Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez Jr., to win the Vrbo Citrus Bowl 20-17 over Iowa to finish the season 10-3. 

It was announced in February that Coen had decided to return to his former home in the NFL, accepting the offensive coordinator position with the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Los Angeles Rams.

He had previously served as the Rams’ quarterbacks coach before coming to Kentucky.

His single season at Kentucky was incredibly successful, with several other schools at the collegiate level also having hoped to get their hands on the Rhode Island native before the Rams. He helped diversify the offense, a welcome sight for Wildcat fans who had grown tired of Eddie Gran’s seemingly predictable style.

His schemes and methods were well-executed by Levis in his first season in Lexington after transferring from Penn State, with Kentucky’s offense amassing 5,528 yards of offense, a full 1,597 more than it recorded in Gran’s final season. On top of that, with a true passing quarterback under center, the offense threw for 24 passing touchdowns, 17 more than in the season prior.

With his departure, Stoops hoped to see lightning strike twice, bringing in another NFL quarterbacks coach in the form of Scangarello from the San Francisco 49ers.

Unfortunately for the winningest coach in UK history, the move would not be a good one, with Scangarello being fired after just one season.

Under Scangarello the Wildcats amassed just 4,036 yards of offense, 1,492 yards down from Coen’s year and just more than Gran’s final season, with 21 passing touchdowns, three down from the year prior despite the Cats bolstering their wide receiver room in the offseason with veteran transfer Tayvion Robinson and true freshmen stars Dane Key and Barion Brown.

Following Scangarello’s firing, rumors immediately began circulating surrounding a potential return to Lexington for Coen with the Super Bowl hangover seeming to have hit the Rams hard.

Los Angeles finished the season 5-12, second to last in the NFC West and only above the 4-13 Arizona Cardinals, who fired head coach Kliff Kingsbury for the poor season.

With the combination of head coach Sean McVey still having the right to call plays and overrule Coen’s decisions, along with McVey’s own future with the team in question, and the disappointing season warming up the seat of every coach on the staff, the move back to Lexington made sense.

The Wildcats finished their own 2022 season 7-6 after being blanked 21-0 by Iowa in the Music City Bowl without an offensive coordinator.

UK is set to open the 2023 campaign, with Coen as play caller, on Saturday, Sep. 2, 2023, against the Ball State Cardinals.