BIG BLUE FANS FOR
Kentucky Hires Mark Stoops
Cats Close Out A Disappointing Season With 20 Point Loss At Tennessee
Cats Give Joker Phillips A Win In His Commonwealth Stadium Farewell
Statement from Joker Phillips:
Cats Fall To Vanderbilt 40-0 In A Near Empty Commonwealth Stadium
Cats Travel To Missouri, Return Home Defeated
Cats Return To Commonwealth, Give Georgia A Fight For Victory
Cat's Get Embarrassed In Lightning Shortened Game
Cats Slip To 1-6; 0-4 as Second Win Becomes Less Likely
Cats Drop Fifth Game of Year; Lose Second Quarterback of Year
Cats Use First Half Breaks To Build 10 Point Halftime Lead
Cats Open SEC Season At Florida
Cats Lose To Western Kentucky In Overtime
Cats Show Signs of Life In 33 Point Win Over Kent State
Cats Open Season With 18 Point Loss At Louisville
SCOUTING THE CATS
Coordinator: Randy Sanders, seventh season at Kentucky, fourth as coordinator
Position coaches: Randy Sanders, quarterbacks; Pat Washington, wide receivers; Mike Summers, offensive line; Greg Nord, tight ends; Steve Pardue, running backs; Andre Woodson and Tyler Sargent, graduate assistants; Glenn Holt and Sam Simpson, student assistants
Last season: Kentucky finished last in the Southeastern Conference and 118th (out of 120) in the nation in total offense, managing just 260 yards per game.
Returning starters: La'Rod King, receiver; Larry Warford, guard; Matt Smith, center; Maxwell Smith, quarterback; D.J. Warren, fullback; CoShik Williams, tailback; Craig McIntosh, kicker
What to watch: In nearly every statistical category, UK had its worst offensive output in more than a decade last season, averaging just 260 yards of offense (231 in SEC play) and 15.8 points (11.8 in SEC). With all but one skill player back, the Cats will try to improve those numbers dramatically. Kentucky has a wealth of depth at running back and seems to have improved its collection of receivers.
Question marks: Will the offense look better than it did last season? Will receivers be able to start catching the ball? Will an unproven offensive line be able to hold up and give its quarterback time to work the offense? But the most basic question going into the season is: Will the offense be able to score points?
Outlook: The numbers last season made offensive coordinator Sanders sick through parts of the off-season, but he has said he already has more faith in the offense this season than he did through much of last season. The offense will be relying on young players again to be successful, but they're not fresh-out-of-high school green, which should help. The offense is going to need to find its identity and its playmakers early, or it could end up losing confidence again and sputtering through the season.
Left tackle: Darrian Miller, Jordan Swindle
Coordinator: Rick Minter, second full season at Kentucky
Position coaches: David Turner, defensive line; Chuck Smith, linebackers; Mike Cassity, defensive backs; Kyle Krantz and Steven Montalvo, graduate assistants; Braxton Kelley, student assistant
Last season: Kentucky finished 10th in the Southeastern Conference and 58th in the nation in total defense, allowing 377 yards a game.
Returning starters: Collins Ukwu, end; Mister Cobble, tackle; Donte Rumph, tackle; Mikie Benton, safety; Martavius Neloms, cornerback (from safety)
What to watch: There have been a lot of position switches and reset glitches in the defense, but Minter hopes the end result will be a sound defensive unit. The front line consists of veterans who may have to be a stopgap as the second and third tiers of the defense (linebackers and secondary) learn their way. The secondary especially looks dangerously thin and true freshmen likely will see action at various points this season, which is always a worry. UK did see a dramatic increase in takeaways (24 last season, up from 15 the season before) and will try to keep improving those numbers.
Question marks: Will a completely rebuilt secondary and mostly untested linebacking group be able to hold up against high-caliber talent, especially in the SEC portion of the schedule? Is there enough depth in the secondary to make it through a season? Will Kentucky not only be able to keep increasing its number of takeaways, but turn them into points?
Outlook: Minter likes the team's talent and says talent overrides experience almost every time. He's banking on it with a lot of last season's backups stepping into key roles and positions. The defensive line is stacked with veterans, who have size and athleticism. Minter hopes the big guys up front, especially in the middle with Cobble and Rumph, will make up for any missteps (especially early) as the linebackers and secondary learn their way.
End: Collins Ukwu, Farrington Huguenin
The main man: Maxwell Smith, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound sophomore, added some spark to a lethargic Kentucky offense late last season. Coaches like his leadership and his accuracy among other things. Smith finished the season with 819 yards and four touchdowns, completing 84 of his 153 attempts in eight games.
The supporting cast: Morgan Newton, who struggled at times last season guiding the young, inexperienced UK offense, is always a threat to run the ball. The senior, who has started 17 games for the Cat, rushed for 272 yards and two touchdowns last season and passed for eight touchdowns and 793 yards.
Newcomer(s) to watch: Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow both show promise in different ways, but a year in the system would help them grow into big-time quarterbacks. There has been no decision on who will be the No. 3 guy this year.
Outlook: For whatever reason, the offense looked better under Smith at the end of last season and after a lengthy, quiet battle in the pre-season, Smith still came out the best option over Newton and the two freshmen. Smith should be even more effective this season, with a more complete playbook available to him. He was a strong leader in the spring and summer and coaches (and fans) hope he can turn the struggling offense around.
The main man: Senior La'Rod King's 40 catches and 598 yards exceed the totals for all other returning receivers combined. Of UK's 12 receiving scores last season, seven were to King. The former North Hardin standout struggled at times this spring, but seems to have embraced his role as a leader.
The supporting cast: Part of UK's problem offensively last season was the lack of a supporting cast. Coaches think those younger receivers are starting to show themselves now, led by Demarco Robinson. Others like E.J. Fields and Gene McCaskill have proven they can make plays, just not consistently. Daryl Collins, Bookie Cobbins, Aaron Boyd and Rashad Cunningham are going to have to be effective this season, too.
Newcomers to watch: Two freshman receivers, Demarcus Sweat and A.J. Legree, have impressed in camp and probably will be contributors this year. Sweat is the faster of the two. Legree is more of a possession receiver, with big-play ability after the catch.
Outlook: If Kentucky's offense is going to get out of the basement, it's going to need big plays and consistent catches. New receivers coach Pat Washington seems to have instilled a quiet confidence in the group, and many have said they've developed good chemistry and timing with newly named starting quarterback Maxwell Smith.
The main man: Take your pick. Kentucky has a wealth of players who could be the starter any given game. Look for either junior Raymond Sanders (5-8, 197 pounds) or senior CoShik Williams (5-9, 184 pounds) to get the start versus Louisville. Both of them will see significant action.
The supporting cast: There is serious depth and versatility at this position. Included in that is senior Jonathan George (5-10, 223 pounds), who has run 60 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns. There are still questions about whether or not sophomore Josh Clemons (5-10, 204) will be available as he continues to have issues with his surgically reconstructed knee.
Newcomer to watch: The Cats' running back bench got a big boost with freshmen Dyshawn Mobley and Justin Taylor, who are getting rave reviews by coaches and teammates. Expect to see both big, powerful backs play this season and make an impact.
Outlook: Injuries forced Kentucky to go deep into its running back stockpile late last season, but the Cats found a gem in former walk-on Williams. With all but Clemons healthy and 100 percent, this could be a powerful position for UK this season. Expect to see running backs rotating in and out all game and all season, which could provide the Cats with some serious versatility on the ground.
The main man: Coaches aren't shy about saying senior Larry Warford could be one of the best lineman in school history when he leaves UK. The 6-foot-3, 333-pounder from Richmond was rated among the SEC's top linemen in pre-season polls.
The supporting cast: Matt Smith, a two-year starter at center, coupled with Warford, have been strong leaders for a line that is mostly untested and unproven. Darrian Miller and Kevin Mitchell both showed promise as backups most of last season and should be strong this season. Don't be surprised to see freshmen play an important role as well.
Newcomer to watch: Zach West, a former Lexington Christian standout, used his red-shirt year to get stronger and absorb the playbook. As the penciled-in starter at left guard, he is expected to do big things.
Outlook: Perhaps the biggest concern out of the Blue-White game this spring was the lack of discernible depth on the offensive line. The Cats clearly had some strength and athleticism in their first group, but the second group struggled. But fall camp, including some strong freshmen contenders, has made coaches and linemen more optimistic. If the first group can stay healthy, it could be a surprise team strength by season's end.
The main man: The position has had its share of bumps and bruises in fall camp and it's been tough to figure out who has the upper hand. Ronnie Shields (6-foot-5, 243 pounds) had a big spring and looks to be a front-runner along with Tyler Robinson (6-3, 258 pounds). It's likely they will be used situationally, with Robinson being the more physical of the two and Shields being the finesse player.
The supporting cast: Behind Robinson and Shields are Jordan Aumiller (6-4, 240) and Anthony Kendrick (6-3, 241), who could provide solid depth. With so many injuries in the pre-season, senior Gabe Correll (6-5, 231) has been able to make his move up the depth chart.
Outlook: One of the pluses of this group is that there is no "main man" per se. It's also one of the minuses. There are four players who have seen significant action, but none has put up significant numbers that make him look like a true playmaker. Each of the players does something different that can help the offense, though, so they could become more of a collective weapon for the Cats.
The main man: The Cats' veteran in this group is two-year starting place-kicker Craig McIntosh from Lexington Christian. He joined the team as a sophomore after hearing that UK was looking for a kickoff specialist. Now he's one of the leaders.
The supporting cast: Joe Mansour has handled kickoffs for the past two seasons and is battling for the starting punter job. The Cats are testing a variety of players at the return positions, most notably wide receiver Demarco Robinson on punts and running back Raymond Sanders on kickoffs.
Newcomer to watch: Landon Foster, a 6-foot-1 true freshman, is probably the Cats' starting punter. As a senior in Franklin, Tenn., he averaged 41.3 yards a punt.
Outlook: UK's coaches want to see more productivity and firepower from this group, especially in the return game. With an average of 1.8 yards per return, UK's punt returning was the second-worst in the nation. Ryan Tydlacka was one of the more productive punters in the Southeastern Conference last year and Foster will have big shoes to fill.
The main man: Martavius Neloms, who has gone from cornerback to safety back to cornerback again, has the most experience and knows every position in the secondary. The 6-foot-1 senior was third on the team in tackles last season with 71.
The supporting cast: Safeties Mikie Benton and Ashely Lowery will carry a big load as well as Cartier Rice at the corner opposite Neloms. They also have been called on to teach a lot of young players like Eric Dixon, Eric Simmons, Jonathan Reed, Daron Blaylock and Josh Harris.
Newcomer to watch: Junior Dakotah Tyler stepped away from football for a season, but is battling for a starting spot now that the depth at safety has come into question. He could be a big boost to a position searching for warm bodies.
Outlook: Defensive coordinator Rick Minter refers to there being a "generation gap" in the secondary and he's right. After players like Neloms, Benton, Lowery and Rice, there is tons of unproven talent. Some of them haven't even been in a game. "We'll just do the best we can with what we have," Minter said when asked about the lack of depth, which could be a big problem if there are any more injuries like the one to Glenn Faulkner, who is out at least six weeks after ankle surgery. The returning players seem enthusiastic about the youth around them, though, and think it can contribute.
The main man: Since the spring, coaches have been calling Avery Williamson "the man." The 6-foot-1, 245-pound junior who had 49 tackles last season has become a vocal leader of the defense.
The supporting cast: While Williamson is the leader, sophomore Bud Dupree could be the star from the hybrid position. He had 21 tackles last season and has added nearly 40 pounds of muscle since he arrived on campus. Malcolm McDuffen and Miles Simpson have been solid contributors and will try to elevate their status this season. Demarius Rancifer, Josh Forrest and Kory Brown are players to keep an eye on.
Newcomer to watch : He's not exactly new, but coaches are high on 6-foot-4 sophomore Tyler Brause, who emerged in the spring as a smart, versatile defender. He's seen action at more than one linebacker spot this fall.
Outlook: Kentucky has had a linebacker on the Southeastern Conference superlatives list each of the past six seasons. For that trend to continue, the Cats' young group will have to elevate their play quickly. Almost all of these players were productive backups to longtime starters last season and they seem primed to show what they can do.
The main man: A veteran front line was led in tackles last season by Mister Cobble (33), who is being counted on as a team leader off the field as well. But he has plenty of company in the leadership department.
Patrick Towles Grabs Attention At Media Day
In that there is a quarterback competition, this interested observer puts the opening pecking order as such:
Submitted by Richard Cheeks