Published February 21, 2012 - 10:09am
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Continuing the series in off-season improvements is the Kentucky Wildcats.
Kentucky had more or less a forgettable season in 2011; however, they did beat the Tennessee Vols for the first time in 26 years. Even though a bowl game was not accomplished, the Tennessee win made it pretty sweet.
Kentucky can improve in certainly more areas than one in this off-season and during spring practice. But can’t all teams? One area they must get better is at the quarterback position.
The quarterback play during the 2011 season was sometimes very hard to watch. Morgan Newton was pretty hyped coming into this year, but things did not go as anyone had hoped, certainly Newton himself.
As a backup quarterback to start the year, Maxwell Smith broke into the lineup around midseason, and he did a decent job during his time.
Both quarterbacks showed some sparks at times, but nothing really seemed to improve throughout the year, especially how the position was being played.
The funny thing is that Kentucky did not beat Tennessee with a quarterback; rather, they beat the Vols with a senior wide receiver running the option offense who only threw for 15 yards.
In 2011, Kentucky was last in scoring offense and total offense in the SEC. The Wildcats averaged a forgettable 135.6 passing yards per game, good for last in the SEC as well.
From the first snap of the season in game one, Newton never really got comfortable. He played in more games than Smith (10), but only threw for 793 yards and eight touchdowns, completing 47.7 percent of his passes – 26 yards fewer than Smith. Newton looks to have every ounce of talent and physical play as anyone in the league; however, things have just not taken off for Newton, yet. The athleticism is there, but he just has to find it before it’s too late. He needs confidence; he needs things to slow down for him.
Maxwell Smith did not fair much better than Newton. Smith did throw for 819 yards and four touchdowns on the year in eight games.
Kentucky has to decide what they want to do as an offense. Newton gives you a runner-thrower combination who can make some things happen. Smith is more of a conventional drop-back passer, and a bit of a power running game would be needed to complement his style of play.
Behind Newton and Smith, transfer Jacob Russell could get a look as well. Russell is 6’4” and 223lbs, so he has good size. Also, incoming freshman Patrick Towles could get a look at the position as well. Towles certainly looks like a good prospect at 6’5”, 232lbs.
No matter who wins the starting job for the Wildcats, he will be expected to produce at the position. There is some depth and options at the position for the Wildcats, but the quarterback play must improve for 2012.