We’ll do this every week, where we break down the Cards opponent on StraitCards.com. This one is going to be a little different. All week we have been breaking down U of L and UK at every position. So, because I hate extra work, I’m going to run a snippet and then a link to each UK position. Like it or hate it, I don’t really care. Just be happy that football is finally here.
Here we go.
Quarterback – Sophomore Maxwell Smith (6-4, 224) came to UK from California with little to no fanfare at all. But, after Morgan Newton struggled through the middle portion of the season and then suffered a shoulder injury last year, it was Smith that was thrust under center. He didn’t set the world on fire, completing 84-of-153 passes for 819 yards and four touchdowns in eight games and three starts.
But, he showed excellent field presence and accuracy under center, two things that Newton struggled with. His familiarity with the playbook and understanding of the offense seem to be the key reason that Joker Phillips and the staff will name Smith the starter. And this was his reputation out of high school. This is a kid that scored 1480 on his SAT and even as a high school senior was glorified for his ability to read defenses and coverages. (Read more)
Running Back – Kentucky’s running backs are arguably the highlight of the team going into this season. The Wildcats ended the 2011 season battered and bruised at this position with two of its players’ seasons cut short which required the coaching staff to improvise to fill the positions. This season the team’s bench offers some depth from which the coaching staff has to utilize. However, their production will rely on the effectiveness of this season’s offensive line. (Read more)
Wide Receiver – Led by a new position coach (Pat Washington replaces Tee Martin who left for USC), the wide receivers will turn to a group of seniors looking the make their final mark on the Kentucky football program, while talented underclassmen provide hope for an offense looking for consistency and more explosive plays. (Read more)
Tight End – Ever since the graduation of current Denver Bronco Jacob Tamme, the tight-end position has not been featured or even implemented into the UK offense. Since Tamme left UK, no tight-end has caught more than 18 balls in a season. As a fan, we remember the likes of Jacob Tamme and wish to see them rack up numbers like a video game. Everything coming out of the UK camp indicates these guys will play more of the role of an extra offensive lineman and continue the blocking trend rather than opening up for screen passes. The real enigma is the players really want the opportunity to catch those passes. How much will Joker allow? (Read more)
Offensive Line – Kentucky’s offensive line coach Mike Summers has conveyed a steady stream of tempered optimism over the course of the Cats’ preseason camp. The offensive line is short on experience but high on potential, and Kentucky’s season opener against Louisville in 9 short days will prove which factor weighs most heavily on the offense. Will the lack of experience lead to slipped blocks and closed lanes or will the young line’s potential compensate for the lack of time on the field? The only way to answer that question is by taking a look at the players. (Read more)
Defensive Line – Despite losing three of the top four leading tacklers due to graduation, the defense looks to continue the natural progression expected in year two of a new system. For that to occur, the 2012 Kentucky defense will rely heavily on the most experienced position grouping on the team; the defensive line.
The Kentucky defense will be multiple in their fronts and will vary from play to play, but the base defense will feature three down linemen. To run a successful 3-4 defense you have to have a nose tackle that demands a double team and can hold the point of attack, allowing your linebackers to roam and make plays. Minter and Washington feel they have those anchors in Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph. (Read more)
Linebacker – The Wildcats graduated 90 starts and 819 tackles from a year ago. Needless to say, they have some holes to fill in Minter’s 3-4 defense. While the 2012 group of linebackers may lack experience, the UK coaching staff is extremely excited about their upside.
After two seasons in the backup role, junior middle linebacker Avery Williamson (6-1, 243) is now the leader of the defense. And it is a role that he has really embraced, spending hours upon hours in the film room during the offseason. Embracing that leadership role is key because of the emphasis that Minter puts on the middle linebacker position. (Read more)
Secondary – Former UK player Mike Cassity begins his second stint with the Wildcats as an assistant coach, taking over secondary duties from the departed Steve Brown. Cassity brings 37 years of coaching experience back to Lexington, and he may need all of those lessons learned to erase the questions surrounding his position grouping lacking experienced depth.
After claiming one of the starting cornerback positions and earning the praise of the coaching staff throughout spring practice, redshirt freshman Marcus Caffey was ruled academically ineligible and will have to sit out the entire 2012 season. The trickle down will affect both levels of the secondary as senior Martavius Neloms moves back to corner after spending the 2011 season at strong safety. Neloms, always known as a sure tackler even while spending his first two years at UK as a corner, had adjusted nicely to his new safety position finishing 3rd on the team in tackles. One of the fastest players on the team, the coaching staff has been pleased with his transition back to corner and do not expect him to miss a beat. (Read more)
Special Teams – While often overlooked, the special teams unit is an important part of any football team, and it does win games. UK’s special teams unit, or “special forces” as Coach Joker Phillips likes to call it, is coming off a rough season from last year. The 2011 Cats were second to last in the SEC in kickoff returns averaging 20.3 yards and worst in the SEC on punt returns with an average of only 1.8 yards. (Read more)
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