Published May 31, 2012 - 10:14am
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Some Kentucky football fans are optimistic for this season, while most are not. This make-or-break year for Joker Phillips will be under the microscope for both fans and the Kentucky administration throughout this season.
Wildcat fans want to see improvement. Rich Brooks left the program in good condition with talent in the program, but the success and further continuation of what was started has seemed to escape Phillips.
Kentucky is staring at a 5-7 season in the rearview and the first bowl-absent season since 2005.
Kentucky’s aim is to not win the East or play for an SEC Championship; rather, this program needs to get back to relevancy and being competitive on any given Saturday.
I’m slightly more optimistic for the Cats than others, and here are five reasons Kentucky football will be relevant in 2012:
5. Rick Minter: This is the second year under defensive coordinator Rick Minter, and Joker Phillips tasked Minter with creating a defense that is more aggressive and creates more turnovers. Even though the stats were not all that great, let’s remember that Kentucky played Florida, LSU and South Carolina in a three-game stretch. That’s enough to make any defense beat down. However, in three of the last four games, Kentucky held their opponents to 19 or fewer points, including holding Tennessee to seven. While it wasn’t a miraculous turnaround, it did get better. I think this year could be an improvement as well, even though Kentucky lost its top two tacklers in Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy.
4. Tennessee: Ah, yes. This will be dubbed The Streak. But in order to be called a streak, it has to be two in a row. The hardest part was breaking the ice. Now, the Cats have to keep it alive when they travel to Neyland. Several things came together last year for Kentucky in this football game, and all Cats fans care about this one. Kentucky seems to always upset a team every year.
3. Maxwell Smith: He wasn’t the starter going into the season, but he is the starter now. Smith stepped in as a freshman and played some tough minutes in some very tough football games. Starter Morgan Newton struggled all year, both from injuries to on-the-field execution issues, and Smith got his shot. He played very well this spring. He has a ton of upside at the position and the arm to get it done. I like the way this kid shows poise in tough situations.
2. Demarco Robinson: The breakout player for the Cats’ spring was Demarco Robinson. Robinson possesses an elite skill set that can really help this squad in a hurry. He’ll be a great one-two punch with La’Rod King. Robinson caught nine passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Kentucky needs him to step up in the worst way, and he has all the skills to excel.
1. RB Depth: The staple of this Kentucky team will be how effective they run the football. And while the O-Line is tasked with opening up holes for the backs, this position group is very deep and quite talented. All of CoShik Williams, Josh Clemons and Raymond Sanders return, while incoming freshmen Justin Taylor and Dyshawn Mobley will be added come fall. This is a deep group. All offensive plays will run through this position and their ability to make plays.