Kentucky’s regular season recap: It all starts with the quarterback

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SDS recaps every team’s 2013 regular season:

Kentucky Wildcats

Final Record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 SEC

Kentucky finished with the exact same overall record and conference record as last year. Only last season, the Wildcats fired Joker Phillips and hired Mark Stoops. This season, the growing pains of trying to build a program are obvious. There’s a lack of playmakers and athletes on both sides of the ball, but for the second straight season, Stoops should haul in a big recruiting class to help fill that void.

Related: Kentucky’s recruiting class pledges to stay together

Stoops wants to run a spread ‘em out, throw it 45 times per game offense, but he simply didn’t have the personnel. OC Neal Brown was handcuffed in trying to run a system that required an accurate passing quarterback and a bevy of receivers. Brown had neither.

Kentucky’s offense scored 20.5 points per game, good for 13th in the league, and averaged just 193.4 passing yards per game on 28.6 attempts per game. Brown averaged 45.7 attempts per game at Texas Tech. This offense starts and ends with a competent quarterback who can make big plays down the field.

A stout defensive line that featured Bud Dupree, Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble and Za’Darius Smith was actually a little better than expected, but maybe the numbers didn’t reflect that. Dupree had the best year of the bunch, making 61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. And bookend Smith notched 59 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. The Cats finished as the SEC’s 12th best run defense and the worst scoring defense, giving up 31.2 points per game.

Related: Kentucky signs several players early for 2014

Linebacker Avery Williamson finished fourth in the SEC with 102 tackles, and he’s a next-level player who can eat up ball carriers, similar to Danny Trevathan. Khalid Henderson is a young linebacker who Stoops can mold to lead his future defense. The pass defense finished ninth in the SEC, giving up 229.8 yards per game, but they gave up 22 touchdowns, the third highest in the league, and only forced three INTs.

There’s a nice young nucleus of players returning on both sides, but again, another big recruiting class has to inject athletes and immediate players into the mix.

Related: See where Kentucky QB commit Barker ranks in pro-style SEC commits

Here’s a look at the team stats:

Category (SEC rank)
Scoring Offense 20.5 PPG (13th)
Rushing Offense 147.92 YPG (12th)
Passing Offense 193.4 YPG (10th)
Total Offense 341.3 YPG (13th)
Scoring Defense 31.2 PPG (14th)
Rushing Defense 197.33 YPG (12th)
Passing Defense 229.8 YPG (9th)
Total Defense 427.2 YPG (13th)

One that got away: There were actually two games that got away from the Cats during the regular season. First, opening with a loss against Bobby Petrino and Western Kentucky got the ball rolling in the wrong direction. Down 35-17 in the fourth, UK did fight back to cut the lead to 35-26, but it ultimately ended with the same final score. The second game came against Mississippi State on the road. Jalen Whitlow entered the game and provided a spark, and the Wildcats actually cut the lead to 21-19 in the third quarter. However, the game ended when the Cats couldn’t convert down six points in MSU territory and ultimately turned it over on downs and lost 28-22. Both were winnable games for Mark Stoops’ troops.

Offensive Stud: I love two freshmen for the Cats. First, RB Jojo Kemp led the team in rushing with 482 yards on 100 carries and three touchdowns. Secondly, Ryan Timmons is going to be a star. Timmons caught 32 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns. Both should give Kentucky hope for the future. Another player to watch out for is RB Dyshawn Mobley, who averaged seven yards per carry with one TD.

Defensive Stud: Bud Dupree once again led the Cats in defensive numbers. That’s two years in a row he’s been the guy on defense. Dupree is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker that NFL coaches love as difference makers. Dupree registered 61 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three QB hurries and two forced fumbles.

What’s Next: It looks like Kentucky will hold its recruiting class together down the stretch, despite a rough finish to the season. The obvious player they have to get is QB Drew Barker, who should start immediately next season. In addition, the Cats need receivers and playmakers in the worst way, but QB Jalen Whitlow could be moved to receiver to help. Kentucky looked like they were excited about football again early in the season, and a few key early season wins in 2014 will go a long way in helping build a program for Stoops and Kentucky.

Photo Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Nice postmortem on the Wildcats’ season. One note, on your players to watch: The team has confirmed that Dyshawn Mobley has left the team and has been given his release to transfer. I have not heard of where he may land, yet.

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