R eenergized by head coach Mark Stoops, Kentucky fans feel a reason for passion about their football program…though it’ll never come within sniffing distance of basketball in Lexington. Still, over 50,000 blue-and-white enthusiasts came out to support UK’s spring game, and though the Wildcat roster may be short on talent, fans are excited about what the future will hold for UK with Stoops at the helm.
Unfortunately for Stoops, fan involvement doesn’t directly translate to wins. And with such a young roster, the Wildcats will most likely be undermanned until Stoops gets more of his players on campus.
2013 Kentucky Football Preview
Virtually no spot on the UK roster has a guaranteed starter, and the quarterback position is no different. All five Kentucky QBs received equal playing time, and almost all of them returned lackluster results. Of the five, three are of special note at QB: Jalen Whitlow, Patrick Towles and Maxwell Smith. Whitlow seemed to impress coaches the most with his ability to both pass and tuck and run when needed to create plays. But his lack of arm strength makes him a poor fit for offensive coordinator Neal Brown and his passing offense. Kentucky is going to throw about 70% of the time, and their no-huddle offense will require a naturally gifted passer that can drop back and pass 35 to 50 times a games.
Not that Kentucky wants to be so one dimensional, as the Wildcats intend to use the run to setup deep passes. But the Cats ability to run, with an sub-level SEC offensive line, will call that reasoning into question.
In 2013, what Stoops will try to do is implement the style of offense he wants at Kentucky in the future. What you’ll see in blue and white this season is a shell of what he hopes to put on the field in future seasons. That takes time and is beyond the scope of our 2013 Kentucky Football Preview, but there are signs that Stoops is on the right track.
Unlike the offensive side of the ball, the defensive oriented Stoops has been able to improve defensive talent. In Stoops first move as a recruiter, he was able to lock-up junior transfer and defensive end Za’Darius Smith. Smith, alongside fellow defensive end Bud Dupree, will be able to dictate tempo to offensive lines and close running lanes.
Kentucky has capable defensive secondary, with players like Ashley Lowery that can turn bad passes into turnovers. Whereas last year UK seemed to be on cruise control, heading toward a ditch, fans should have reason to be excited when they look at the vast improvements that Stoops has made on the defensive side of the ball.
The problem is, no matter how good UK is on defense this year, the offense must improve significantly if the team hopes to take pressure off the defensive unit.
There’s no doubt that Stoops is doing great things at Kentucky, and much like Bret Bielema in Arkansas, Stoops has changed the mentality of Kentucky in the short time he’s been on campus. It’s clear that current and potential players are excited to play for Stoops. But still, the problem remains that UK is drastically understaffed and they will have challenges getting to more than four wins this year with a schedule that includes Louisville, Florida, South Carolina, Alabama and Georgia.
Thanks for checking out our 2013 Kentucky Football Preview. We’ve gone through the entire SEC with our previews, but that does not end our series. Check back tomorrow as we recap our series and reveal our picks in the SEC East and SEC West.
—Special to the Capstone Report By Alex DeRemer.