SDS kicks off a series looking in-depth at teams and their biggest subplots heading into 2013. Up next: Kentucky.
- Mississippi State
- Ole Miss
- South Carolina
- Texas A&M
1. Bowl game bound?
That’s what Mark Stoops will be measured by, but any rational college football fan knows Kentucky may not have the depth or the players to notch six regular season wins. Although James Franklin at Vanderbilt and Hugh Freeze at Ole Miss inherited terrible programs and were able to accomplish the feat, Stoops has the tallest measure of any of the three. Not only is the roster depleted, but Stoops also has to go out and play one of the toughest schedules in college football. Taking Kentucky from 2-10 to 6-6 would be quite the accomplishment, and one that would be considered one of the best coaching jobs in college football.
Kentucky has three of them in Max Smith, Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles. Smith is the gunslinger of the three, but Whitlow may give them the best opportunity to win now. The dual-threat Whitlow flashed ability last year and this spring, and he may be the front-runner to start against Western Kentucky week one. Towles may be the best athlete of the three, but he looked very average in 2012, despite getting limited time and being injured. Neal Brown’s offense is called the Air Raid, but it completely revolves around the quarterback and his ability to make plays.
3. Defensive line
There are not many positions Mark Stoops feels comfortable about heading into fall camp, but one of the stronger units is the defensive line. Led by bookends Alvin Dupree and JUCO transfer Za’Darius Smith and tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble, there’s some serious talent to work with. Dupree is a top-five caliber end, while Rumph is a top-10 caliber tackle. We haven’t seen Smith yet, but he’s going to be a factor, and Cobble is a very serviceable tackle, too. Kentucky finished 10th in run defense last year, but expect that number to drastically increase in 2013.
4. Air Raid
Kentucky wants to throw the rock around the yard 40 times per game under new OC Neal Brown. I love the offense and the hire by Mark Stoops, making the Air Raid tough to prepare for week-in and week-out. Ironically, they may not have the depth at receiver to have that type of offense, but the Cats do have a bevy of depth at running back with Raymond Sanders, Jonathan George and Dyshawn Mobley. So, it will be interesting to see the identity of the Wildcats’ offense in 2013, knowing the player personnel that will be plugged and played.
SDS takeaway: Everything about Mark Stoops’ seven-month presence has been impressive. There’s momentum within the program that hasn’t been there in a long time, and the players seem to believe they can accomplish something special this season. I love where the program is headed. The over/under is set at 3.5, and I’m taking the over. I’m a believer. I’ve bought into Big Blue.
Photo Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports