The Kentucky Wildcats topped their win total from the 2012-13 seasons combined with five wins last season, but Mark Stoops and the Cats still have plenty of work to do.

Kentucky also lost its last six games of last season with a chance to clinch bowl eligibility all six times, and the program is still seeking its first bowl berth of the Stoops era and its first bowl appearance since the 2010 season.

The Cats are now back to work this spring as they aim to finally get over the six-win hump this fall. If they’re to do so, here are five priorities they must focus on this spring:

1. Continue developing Patrick Towles: With backup Reese Phillips out for the season after rupturing his achilles during the team’s first week of practice this spring, the quarterback job is more securely in Towles’ hands now than ever. The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster is backup rising redshirt freshman Drew Barker, who’s never taken a live snap at the college level and has had multiple incidents off the field calling his maturity into question.

Towles showed flashes of excellence in his first year as the starter last year, but he failed to protect the ball well enough in SEC play. The UK coaching staff must work with Towles on his decision-making, his poise in the pocket and his ability to make reads beyond the first read on a given play, but if he can show modest improvement in those areas it will pay major dividends for the entire offense.

2. Continue developing the young wide receivers: Kentucky signed five touted wide receiver prospects in the class of 2014, all five of which could make an impact this fall. The best of the bunch, Thaddeus Snodgrass, redshirted last year and may need more time to find his role in the offense despite his incredible talent. The other four — Dorian Baker, Blake Bone, Garrett Johnson and T.V. Williams — all got their feet wet last year and must show growth in the Air Raid offense this fall.

Kentucky changed offensive coordinators but not systems on offense, so this shouldn’t be a difficult transition period on that side of the ball. If these wideouts can’t find roles within the offense and can’t develop timing with Towles, it’s going to present a major setback for the offense under new OC Shannon Dawson, who has a history of success in developing wideouts.

3. Find creative ways to use Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp: It’s ironic that despite entering Year 3 in the Air Raid, the Kentucky offense’s two best weapons are both tailbacks: Williams and Kemp (no disrespect to rising junior wideout Ryan Timmons). However, both players are versatile in that they can run inside, outside, catch passes and pass protect, meaning UK could theoretically keep one of them on the field at all times when it has the ball.

However, it must think of creative ways to use these exceptional playmakers. Neither is a “power back” per se, but both have an ability to run through players or run around them with dynamic athleticism in the open field. If UK can keep both players involved, it will add a wrinkle to the offense that should occupy opposing defenses, in turn creating opportunities for the young wideouts mentioned above.

4. Work Matt Elam into ‘game shape’: Elam arrived at Kentucky as a true freshman last season weighing nearly 400 pounds, and although he did not redshirt he also failed to make a major impact from his defensive tackle position, seeing limited action throughout the year. The expectation will be for him to make a greater impact up the middle in 2015, but in order to do so he must work himself into “game shape” allowing him to use his enormous frame effectively rather than to simply take up space.

Elam has the kind of power that blows up running plays in the backfield and collapses pockets up the middle. He’s a difference maker and is as talented as he is large, but he can’t be himself if he gets tired easily and can’t stay on the field for long stretches. Because of his size and strength, he’s going to face plenty of double teams as he sees more playing time, and those will exhaust even the most fit players. Elam must get himself into better shape this spring and summer to reach his full potential as a sophomore this fall.

5. Find replacements for Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith: Dupree and Smith were arguably one of the best defensive end tandems in the nation that no one talked about in 2014. Dupree began and ended his senior season with more career sacks than any other active player in the SEC, and Smith, a former junior college transfer, worked himself into an NFL prospect in his two years in Lexington.

However, both players are now on their way to the pros, leaving a gaping lack of dynamic pass rushers on the Wildcats’ roster. Dupree and Smith combined for 44 percent of UK’s sacks last season, and no one returning in 2015 had more than 2.5 sacks a year ago. Whether its Jason Hatcher, Cory Johnson, Regie Meant or someone else, Kentucky must begin finding its best pass rushers and grooming them to make plays in obvious passing situations. The SEC is weak at quarterback again this year, and having an explosive pass rush could make a tremendous difference for Kentucky.