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The Xs and Os of offensive football were on Darin Hinshaw’s mind when he showed up at the UAB Football Facility earlier this year to begin his first day as an analyst for the Blazers.

The veteran assistant coach was ready to dive into the UAB playbook with then-offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent.

Vincent had a different plan.

He took Hinshaw to the weight room to watch the players lift weights. Then it was off to watch speed and agility work. Mixed in with the day’s work was plenty of conversation between coaches and players.

The playbook could wait for another time.

“The next thing you know, we’re with them the last 3 or 4 hours,” said the 50-year-old Hinshaw, who is now the newly-minted offensive coordinator for the Blazers.

“It’s then you realize what makes this place different. You’re around the kids a lot. You get to know them. You get to learn who they are, get to learn about their families, get to learn what makes them tick. You learn each kid, what they have gone through, what they have done in the last three years of their life and what they’ve come from. You get to know each kid, and you really, really get that coach-player relationship.”

Hinshaw has seen a wide variety of philosophies and cultures during his journey through college football as a record-setting quarterback at UCF and as a coach.

At 29 years of age, Hinshaw said he was the youngest offensive coordinator in the country while at Middle Tennessee. He learned under head coach Tommy West and offensive coordinator Clay Helton while at Memphis. He coached under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney at Tennessee, where they began with a pro-style offense before transitioning to an up-tempo offense. He was part of Tommy Tuberville’s staff at Cincinnati.

“Going to Cincinnati with Eddie Gran was just awesome,” Hinshaw said. “To be able to go in there and install a new offense with Tommy Tuberville, who said, ‘Man, I want to score a lot of points.’ We had one of the top offenses in the country, we broke 18 school records.”

He was the offensive coordinator at Georgia Southern and co-offensive coordinator at Kentucky.  

“Learning at Kentucky under Mark Stoops and his mentality of it’s not about how many yards you have or anything,” Hinshaw said. “It’s about unity of the team and playing for each other and understanding what the defense is going through, what the offense is going through, understanding time management and all the things around that. We were playing in the SEC and you got game wreckers all over the field.”

He spent last season as an analyst at UCF before coming to UAB.

Family is a word used often by Bill Clark. Getting through a conversation with the former UAB head coach without hearing the word, when the topic was his team, was virtually impossible. Hinshaw learned quickly that wasn’t just talk, even though that didn’t come as a surprise.

“I knew special things were happening here,” said Hinshaw, a longtime friend of both Clark and Vincent. “I’ve known Coach Clark and Coach Vincent for 20 years, and they’ve won everywhere they’ve gone. They’ve been successful in everything they’ve done, and I wanted to be a part of that.

I came up here and talked to these guys and said, ‘You know what, let’s see where this could go.’ It’s been a godsend, it really has. To be around Bill Clark for six months, listening to him and writing down everything that he does and why our culture is good, why he has won. And, to be under Bryant Vincent’s wing for the last six months has been awesome.”

Vincent searched for an offensive coordinator when he took over as the interim head coach following Clark’s retirement. He knew he didn’t have to look far away.

“We’ve been good friends,” said Vincent, who will still call plays during games. “I’ve had a lot of respect for Coach Hinshaw; he’s coached at a high level for a long time. He’s been in the SEC for eight years. He’s been in the American for four. He’s been an offensive coordinator at a lot of spots.

"He’s brilliant but the best thing about Darrin Hinshaw is the human being he is. He’s a man that loves our players, loves our kids, he’s a great mentor. Not only is he unreal at the Xs and Os, he’s even a better human, which is what we want to surround our kids with.”

Hinshaw was able to hit the ground running because he didn’t have to learn the personnel. He knew he was in a good situation with an offense filled with experience.

“The roster has been being built for a long time,” Hinshaw said. “When I came in, Coach Vincent said, ‘Boy, we have a roster.’ Everybody says that, right? The more I got around these players, I was like, ‘Wow.’ And they’re hungry and they’re humble. They have great attitude. Discipline, attitude, toughness and effort is what we talk about all the time. In this situation, that’s what we have. We just got to continue to push that.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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