Matchup breakdown: Kentucky secondary vs. UT Martin quarterbacks
In preparation for Saturday’s season-opener between Kentucky and UT Martin, Saturday Down South is taking a look at the key matchups that may decide the showdown between the Wildcats and the Skyhawks.
Kentucky secondary vs. UT Martin quarterbacks Dylan Favre and Jarod Neal
It seems Mark Stoops’ secondary will have to prepare for two quarterbacks this week in anticipation of Saturday’s season opener against the UT Martin Skyhawks.
The Skyhawks relied on two different signal callers last season in Jarod Neal and Dylan Favre, both of whom started at least five of UT Martin’s 12 games in 2013 (Neal started seven games while Favre started five).
One year later, Skyhawks’ head coach Jason Simpson still hasn’t made up his mind about a starting quarterback, and has now begun using that indecisiveness to his team’s advantage.
“I’ll just kind of keep that under wraps,” Simpson told the Jackson Sun this week regarding his ongoing quarterback battle.
Simply put, Simpson is holding his cards close to the vest and forcing Stoops and the Kentucky defense to gameplan for two different quarterbacks. Neal drew the start in last season’s opener, but both quarterbacks saw time during that game, leaving the door open for both to alternate under center on Saturday as well.
Simpson said he likes the way Neal manages the offense at the line of scrimmage and the way he delivers the ball to his receivers from the pocket. He also praised Favre’s ability to extend plays outside the pocket and turn broken plays into positive gains, similar to his uncle, Brett.
Without knowing who will be leading UT Martin’s huddles on Saturday, the Wildcats are preparing for both Neal and Favre to take snaps under center.
Luckily, Stoops’ cornerbacks are among his most experienced position groups on an otherwise youthful squad.
Starting cornerbacks Fred Tiller and Cody Quinn have gained a wealth of experience throughout the last two seasons after being thrown on the field as true freshmen by then-coach Joker Phillips in 2012. Their development took a major step forward under Stoops’ leadership in 2013, and is poised to continue in 2014.
Backup corner J.D. Harmon was eased into the lineup as a freshman last season, while fellow backup Nate Willis has seen it all entering his senior season.
Senior safety Ashely Lowery will be tasked with anchoring UK’s secondary, while fellow defensive backs A.J. Stamps and Blake McLain will have the opportunity to cover sideline to sideline and react to what Favre or Neal are doing from the pocket.
UT Martin will bring two quarterbacks with two differing playing styles to Lexington on Saturday, but if the UK secondary can swallow up the Skyhawks’ targets in the passing game, their quarterback may not matter.