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2013

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Kentucky Gives Fans a Glimpse of Commonwealth Stadium Renovations
Scheduled For Opening Sept 5 2015

Return To Schedule and Gateway To Season

Follow the Season at the Lexington Herald-Leader's Kentucky.com

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Then Read from Bottom For Chronilogical Sequence of Posts

 

How Has The 2013 1-3 Start Compared To The 2012 1-3 Start?
Many Cats Fans Say This Team Is Playing Better
But The Numbers Paint A Different Picture
CLICK HERE

 

Cats Open SEC Play With Lose To Florida
Gator Dominate On Both Sides of Ball
UK 7 Floirda 24
1-3; 0-1

 

Cats Lose To Louisville, Teddy Bridgewater, 3rd Straight Time
UK 13 UL 27
1-2; 0-0

 

Cats Have Their Own Way Against A Weak Miami of Ohio 41-7
1-1; 0-0

 

Stoops' Debut Game Demonstrates
How Far the UK Program Must Go To Become Competitive
Cats Fall 35-26 To Western Kentucky
0-1; 0-0

 

Check Out the STOOPS' TROOPS WEBSITE
A Terrific Addition
To The Big Blue Cyberspace Information Base
CLICK THIS LINK

 

CLICK HERE To Begin The Season With The Hiring Of Mark Stoops and
His First Game as UK Coach Against Western Kentucky

 

CLICK HERE To Begin With The Scouting Report
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Then Read from Bottom For Position By Position Pre-Season Scouting Reports

 

 

 

Stoops says,
hard work will rebuild UK program 'brick by brick'

Kentucky Hires Mark Stoops
To Take Over the Football Cats


Can UK Football Be Fixed
By Just Replacing Its Coach?

Read One View That Sadly Concludes
It Is Not Likely

 

 

 

SCOUTING THE CATS
A Position by Position Examination of the
2013 Kentucky Football Team
Thank You Jennifer Smith and the Herald Leader
For This Annual Series

Special Teams:
Scouting the UK special teams:
Mansour gets long-awaited leg up in kicking game

The main man: It took awhile for it to reveal itself in fall camp, but junior Demarco Robinson has been named the probable punt returner for the Cats, and he's one of four players who could handle kick return duties as well. Undersized, but speedy, coaches think he could be dangerous at that spot. His senior year of high school, the 5-foot-10, 158-pounder returned a punt and a kickoff for scores. In his 18 punt returns last season, he averaged just 6.5 yards. He took his one kickoff return 20 yards. "He's got the quicks and if we can get him to the next level, he's got a chance to go," special teams coach Bradley Dale Peveto said of Robinson.

The supporting cast: The coaches have a lot of faith in senior kicker Joe Mansour, who mostly has handled kickoff duties previously, and punter Landon Foster was the most productive freshman punter in school history last season (42.9 yards per punt) and has continued to improve. Kelly Mason will handle long-snapping duties and Jared Leet will remain holder. Kickoff return duties have been narrowed to four players: Robinson as well as junior-college transfer Javess Blue and true freshmen Ryan Timmons and Jeff Badet.

Outlook : This group returns starters at every position except placekicker, and it sounds like Mansour has done more than enough to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. Coaches are looking to get true production from returners for the first time since Randall Cobb was wearing Kentucky across his chest. It was then (in 2010) that UK last scored a touchdown off a punt return. Not since 2009 when Derrick Locke returned a kickoff for a touchdown have the Cats scored in that way.

 

Quarterbacks:
Scouting the UK QBs:
Start or not, Jalen Whitlow figures to be part of the plan

The main man: Coaches have been mum about who their "main man" is (if they know yet), and they might decide to stay that way so Western Kentucky has to spend more time preparing for three distinctly different quarterback options in Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow.

The supporting cast: Take your pick: Jalen Whitlow (6-2, 220 pounds) dual threat quarterback who started UK's final seven games last season and ran the offense most productively in the spring game; or Maxwell Smith (6-4, 218), who also has started more than a handful of games before being plagued by injuries, is likely the most accurate passer of the group and has been a key offensive leader in the locker room; or Patrick Towles (6-5, 225) a highly touted, strong arm who has slimmed down and by all accounts developed a sound understanding of the offense. Also, don't forget true freshman Reese Phillips (6-2, 219) who turned some heads in the spring with his solid arm and good decision making.

Outlook: It seems nearly impossible for this position group to not see a significant upgrade this season in a pass-centric offense that moves at a rapid pace. Brown's upgraded Air Raid also has built in checks (center and running back both handle significant portions of the blocking calls) that take some of the pressure off the quarterback so he can focus exclusively on delivering the ball where it needs to be. This position, regardless of who plays it, likely will see an upgrade because all of the sophomore players have game experience and have seen the speed of play.


Wide Receivers:
Scouting the UK receivers:
Alex Montgomery has a flair for the dramatic

The main man: Kentucky is still searching for one. It returns four players from last season, but Demarco Robinson, A.J. Legree, Rashad Cunningham and Daryl Collins combined for 57 catches, 581 yards with zero touchdowns. There has been chatter during camp that Legree and Robinson are emerging as potential playmakers, but a few of the highly touted incoming wideouts could fill that role, too.

The supporting cast: When Neal Brown and staff were running this updated "Air Raid" offense at Texas Tech, they never got on the bus with fewer than 10 options at wide receiver. They like to have stockpiles of them, using players who can make plays in different ways. They'd like to see some true playmakers emerge, especially from the group of newcomers like Jeff Badet, Alex Montgomery, Ryan Timmons and Javess Blue. Timmons and Montgomery have drawn considerable praise from their coaches during fall camp and likely will be regulars in the rotation. A collection of walk-ons also has impressed in camp and one or two could be in the rotation.

Outlook : A group maligned for its lack of production and bounty of dropped balls in the spring seemed to have turned it around before Saturday's scrimmage, when some of those familiar problems came back. But Brown believes the receivers are going to be far better this season than they were last season. He's created a diverse group of players of varying speed and skill level including making former tight end Ronnie Shields a full-time receiver and it could turn out to be special. It helps that the new players have been pushing the veteran guys, making everyone better, coaches have said.


Running Backs:
Scouting the UK running backs:
Senior Sanders standing out in deep backfield

The main man: Senior Raymond Sanders has separated himself from a talented backfield with his maturity, knowledge of the game and blocking ability. His versatility doesn't hurt either. He's been able to score in multiple ways, including catching passes, which makes him a great option in Neal Brown's offense. For his career , Sanders has run for 1,078 yards and eight touchdowns. He's also caught 39 passes for 238 yards and a score.

The supporting cast: Running backs take a pounding during the season, especially in the Southeastern Conference, but UK seems to have a fairly deep collection of promising, versatile backs, including senior Jonathan George (108 carries for 504 yards and four scores last season), sophomore Dyshawn Mobley, who is coming back from hernia surgery , and freshman Jojo Kemp, who was rated the No. 10 multipurpose back in the nation by Rivals.com. They all offer different running styles that could prove useful.

Outlook: Two players in this position group, Kemp and George, earned the designation of "pit bull" by Coach Mark Stoops this week for their attacking style. The Cats are going to need all of their top dogs at this spot to be successful this season, especially as they break in a lot of new wide receivers. The Air Raid focuses on wide receivers, but the running backs might be the most key position for UK to find success this season.


Offensive Line:
Scouting the UK offensive line:
New offense forces linemen to get up to speed

The main man: Kentucky has several veterans back to anchor the line but perhaps none more important than Darrian Miller, who has played in 24 games , including 14 starts. His size, speed and ability to pick up the new offense have made him a leader by example, said position coach John Schlarman. "He doesn't blow assignments, doesn't have poor technique. He does the little things right."

The supporting cast: Kentucky doesn't have a bunch of stars, but it does have quite a few players returning on the offensive line that have been in the trenches before and played well, including right guard Kevin Mitchell, who has played in 30 games with 13 starts. There's Zach West, who started every game last season at left guard but is coming back from shoulder surgery. West is vying for time at that spot with Teven Eatmon-Nared, who played in eight games last season. Others like Max Godby, Jon Toth and Jordan Swindle have been drawing praise in fall camp and will be key contributors.

Outlook : This offensive line doesn't have two three-year starters in Matt Smith and Larry Warford to anchor it like it did last season, but it does have a tight-knit group of guys who like to work together and are being cross-trained to fill multiple positions when needed. The position group isn't as deep as coaches want it to be, but they believe that will come with time. The offensive line was one of the surprises of the spring and it has continued to improve as players' conditioning and understanding of the new offense has improved.

 

Tight Ends:
Scouting the UK tight ends:
Senior Kendrick might be hidden gem

The main man: Anthony Kendrick has drawn tons of pre-season praise from his new coaches with a slimmed down body and a physical presence. The 6-foot-3, 233-pound senior from Texas hasn't played in a game since 2011, but coaches think he can be a difference maker, especially in the passing game.

The supporting cast: Give him the situation and tight ends coach Vince Marrow believes he has a tight end who can help. The former NFL tight end is high on Kendrick and fellow senior Jordan Aumiller, whom Marrow said has good size and blocking ability. "But what's impressed me most lately is how he's running, getting up the field." The Cats also have other options in Steven Borden, a junior college transfer, who is still getting used to the system and speed as well as stalwart Tyler Robinson, who has shown flashes of potential.

Outlook : A position that has been underused since Jacob Tamme played it in the 2007-08 season and had 56 catches for 619 yards and six touchdowns, the UK tight end could see a resurgence in offensive coordinator Neal Brown's system, with lots of talk about two-tight end sets. Marrow likes how many options Kentucky has at the position. "I'm happy with all five of those guys," he said. "You hear some coaches be political and they say that. No, I like all five of those guys. Because they all can do something to help us." The key, he said, is figuring out where to put them so they can have the most success within the scheme.

 

Secondary:
Scouting the UK secondary:
Depth, size are concerns

The main man: The Cats return lots of players who helped out toward the end of the season when their were injuries, but the true star of this unit is junior safety Ashely Lowery, who had 43 tackles (fifth on the team) in eight games last season, including three for a loss. Lowery also had an interception. Coaches still haven't figured out if there will be missed game action for Lowery, who was charged with a DUI after his car accident in early May. His legal situation hasn't been settled.

The supporting cast: Sophomores Cody Quinn (25 tackles) and Fred Tiller (27 tackles) have shown vast improvement from last season, but Quinn has been sidelined much of the last week of camp with an ankle injury. Several other newcomers have had to step in, including junior college player Nate Willis, who just arrived on campus last week and true freshman Blake McClain, who was a safety to start camp. Jaleel Hytche also has been in the thin rotation. At safety, junior Eric Dixon has seized the other starting spot with Lowery, with Glenn Faulkner and Daron Blaylock getting time in relief.

Outlook : Some of the unit's biggest problems are based in things it may not be able to fix this season: lack of size and overall depth. But coaches have talked about improved fundamentals and trying to develop some of the younger players into viable options. Stoops has made a living rebuilding secondaries and he has been working with this group heavily during fall camp.

 

Linebackers:
Scouting the UK linebackers:
Avery Williamson setting an example on and off the field

The main man: Middle linebacker Avery Williamson is the undisputed leader of the linebackers, the defense and maybe the entire team. The senior from Milan, Tenn., finished second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in tackles with 135, more than doubling his 49 from the season before. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one recovered.

The supporting cast: Coaches have said Williamson is "miles ahead" of the others at linebacker, but he's doing everything he can to bring the rest of them up to cruising speed. Other likely starters include junior Kory Brown and sophomore Khalid Henderson. Miles Simpson, a starter last year with 70 tackles, could add some depth, as could Josh Forrest (13 tackles) and Tyler Brause.

Outlook : Linebacker was one of the few positions on the field where the new staff wasn't able to bring in some highly touted talent. It's also a place where UK could use some added depth. In turn, it's now a place where the Cats can't afford any kind of injury. The coaches are beyond pleased with Williamson and are hoping the others can follow his big-play making lead this season. The work ethics of Brown and Henderson have both been lauded, so they're likely to be key contributors.

 

Defensive Line:
Scouting the UK defensive line:
Finally at end, Dupree justifies the means

The main man: There isn't just one, and that could benefit Kentucky all season. Senior tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble have 31 starts and 138 tackles between them. On each end are two All-SEC-caliber ends in juniors Bud Dupree and junior-college transfer Za'Darius Smith.

The supporting cast: Unlike most positions on this football team, the defensive line seems to not only have impressive starters, but also a stable of backups who have drawn praise from their coaches for being sound. At the tackle spots, Mike Douglas and Tristian Johnson have each started games in the past. Other names like Thomas Chapman and Christian Coleman have been in the regular rotation. At the end spots, TraVaughn Paschal has been getting regular reps with Smith injured for part of camp, as have Alvin Davis and Farrington Huguenin.

Outlook: There are big question marks and short depth charts at almost every other spot on the Kentucky defense, so the line will have to carry a big load as the other positions get up to speed. "I always tell my guys they've gotta be part of the solution, not the problem," position coach Jimmy Brumbaugh said. "It all starts up front, no matter what. Whether you have an older secondary or a younger secondary, it's always on the front, because that's where it all starts." There are veteran leaders there who seem to have bought into the new coaches' system and seem poised to have a strong season.

 

UK Quarterback Is Up For Grabs
By Mark Story

When Hal Mumme installed the original Air Raid at Kentucky before the 1997 season, there was no quarterback competition. Even though Mumme inherited Billy Jack Haskins as UK's incumbent starter, the new coach named Tim Couch as Kentucky's starting quarterback in December.

Flash forward 16 years. Another new Kentucky head man, Mark Stoops, has hired former Mumme-era Kentucky wide-out Neal Brown as his offensive coordinator with the charge of bringing a pass-oriented, spread attack back to Commonwealth Stadium.

Yet Air Raid 2.0 has a very different scenario than the original did in terms of picking a starting quarterback. As Kentucky officially begins pre-season practice, an intriguing three-headed QB competition will be front and center.

Three sophomores are in the mix to be the first starting QB of the Stoops era.

Maxwell Smith has shown immense promise at Kentucky, but has had trouble staying on the field due to injuries. Patrick Towles was a Kentucky high school football legend at Fort Thomas Highlands. Jalen Whitlow was the star of UK's spring football game.

Who will Stoops and Brown choose in what shapes up as the most visible decision of the new staff's first season? Here are three pros and three cons for each of the three quarterback candidates.

Maxwell Smith

Pros

1. In the three full games he played last season before injuries wrecked his season (and earned him a medical redshirt), the 6-foot-4, 218-pound California product averaged 322 yards a game passing and completed 68.5 percent of his throws.

2. Smith is the only QB on the UK roster with the experience of starting an SEC game that Kentucky won he threw for 283 yards and two TDs as a true freshman making his first career start in UK's 30-13 win over Mississippi in 2011.

3. Smith's quick release and ability to make snap reads should be perfect for an Air Raid quarterback.

Cons

1. Injuries. Smith started three games in 2011 and got knocked out of action by an injured shoulder. He missed one game in 2012 because of the shoulder problem , then the final seven games because of an ankle injury. Can Smith stay on the field?

2. Smith is a pure pocket passer who brings no "dual-threat" potential to UK's spread attack.

3. Those four interceptions Smith threw in Kentucky's loss to Western Kentucky last season seem an aberration he has thrown no picks in five of the seven UK games in which he has played extensively. Still, Smith's performance against a strong Western pass rush raises the question of how effective he will be against defenses that can make him "move his feet."

Patrick Towles

Pros

1. In Towles' first career drive at UK last season against Mississippi State, Towles completed five of five passes for 71 yards with a 32-yard TD pass to La'Rod King. That showed a glimpse of what he can be.

2. The 6-foot-5, 225-pounder has dropped 17 pounds from his listed playing weight of last season. That should enhance his ability to keep plays alive with his feet.

3. After earning Mr. Football honors and quarterbacking his Highlands team to three Kentucky state championships, Towles would be a hugely popular choice should he earn the Kentucky starting job.

Cons

1. By his own admission , Towles' passing mechanics, especially his footwork, were not where they needed to be at the end of spring practice

2. In the Blue-White Spring Game, Towles was easily the least effective (6-for-14 passing for 35 yards with an interception and a TD pass) of the three QB contenders.

3. As the only one of the quarterback candidates who has never started a game for Kentucky, Towles is the most unproven in terms of making reads and decisions under SEC-level pressure.

Jalen Whitlow

Pros

1. Whitlow dazzled in the spring game, throwing for 193 yards (17-for-28 with no interceptions) and running for 50 yards while leading drives that yielded three touchdowns and a field goal.

2. Tim Tebow, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel are three SEC quarterbacks who have proven the potency in a spread offense of having a signal caller who can make plays with their legs. Alone among the UK contenders, Whitlow would bring that extra dimension.

3. After surviving seven starts last season as a true freshman after Smith was sidelined with injury, Whitlow seemed to "carry himself" with a different level of confidence in the spring.

Cons

1. Whitlow went 1-6 in 2012 as a starter, 0-6 in SEC games.

2. The Prattville, Ala., product failed to complete better than 50 percent of his throws in seven different games last season.

3. He looked better throwing the ball in the spring game but, even with the potential extra dimension Whitlow would bring with his mobility, is he an accurate enough passer to run the Air Raid an offense that is predicated on a quarterback's ability to make quick throws that hit receivers in stride?



Submitted by Richard Cheeks

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