Ex Hog coach David Lee got honors for his stellar use of the "Wildcat" formation at Miami.

Former UA assistant draws NFL praise
By Bob Holt (Contact)



FAYETTEVILLE - David Lee, who worked eight seasons as an Arkansas assistant in three stints, had a happy return to the NFL in 2008.

Lee, the Miami Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach, has been honored by The Sporting News as “Innovator of the Year” in the NFL in the magazine’s latest issue. He also was named NFL Assistant Coach of the Year by Fox Sports announcer Terry Bradshaw.

Lee was part of a coaching staff, led by Tony Sparano, that led Miami to an 11-5 record and the AFC East title a year after the Dolphins were 1-15.

“From our head coach on down, we’ve got a great staff,and Tony Sparano did an unbelievable job with these players,” Lee said. “The big jolt for our team was when Chad Pennington became available.”

Pennington, who was cut bythe New York Jets after they traded for Brett Favre, became Miami’s starting quarterback and completed 321 of 476 passes for (67.4 percent) for 3,653 yards and 19 touchdowns with 7 interceptions.

“Chad’s preparation was like nothing I’ve ever been around with any other player,” Lee said. “He put in an incredible amountof hours here.”

While Lee’s work with Pennington drew praise, he also was recognized for introducing the “Wildcat” package to the Dolphins in which running back Ronnie Brown took direct snaps.

It’s the same package Lee used as Arkansas’ offensive coordinator in 2007, a season after Gus Malzahn - the Razorbacks’ offensive coordinator in 2006 who now holds the same position at Auburn - introduced it at the UA to get running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones on the field at the same time.

Lee said he talked to Miami’s coaches in training camp about using the “Wildcat” package and Sparano gave him the goahead to put in some plays after the Dolphins started 0-2 and struggled to run the ball.

“I give Tony credit for having the guts to do something different,” Lee said.

Miami broke out the “Wildcat” the next week at New England and scored four touchdowns on six plays with Brown at quarterback to beat the Patriots 38-21. It remained a part of the offense for the rest of the season.

Using the Wildcat allowed Miami to have Brown and Ricky Williams, who had 1,675 rushing yards combined, on the field at the same time.

“Ronnie and Ricky loved it,” Lee said. “It worked for us here in Miami just like it did with Darren and Felix at Arkansas.”

This article was published Wednesday, January 21, 2009.