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There Is A Such Thing As A Blue Wildcat (Kentucky Wildcats Preview)

Posted by Ryne E. Hancock on August 31, 2007

(This is a joint article between “Doc” Hancock and Matt)

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“Doc’s” Take On The Kentucky Wildcats:

The last time high expectations were set upon the University of Kentucky in football, Harry Truman was President and Bear Bryant (yes, that Bear Bryant) was coach in the early 1950’s when the Wildcats went to three straight New Years’ Day bowls from 1950 to 1952.

And the last time, before last year’s Music City Bowl win over Clemson, that the school won a bowl game, a group of unsupervised kids that would later become operators of a blog that is quickly being regarded as one of the best in the South, was still giving their parents fits as newborn babies.

This year, as Rich Brooks begins his fourth season in Lexington as the recipent of a brand-new contract extension that will more than likely keep him in there for another two years, the Wildcats are out to prove a point to everyone in the conference that Kentucky is no longer a pushover in the SEC.

Quarterback Andre Woodson returns to Lexington for his senior season after posting one of the best passing stats in a season in school history, throwing for 3,515 yards and 31 touchdowns for a 63 percent passing rate and only seven interceptions. Not only that, Woodson has a record 162 passes without an interception, which he’ll probably continue when the Wildcats face the Eastern Kentucky Colonels on Saturday.

At receiver, the cupboard is filled with talented wideouts such as Keenan Burton, Dicky Lyons, and tight end Jacob Tamme. In 2006, the trio of wideouts caught a combined 159 balls for a total of 2,244 yards and 23 touchdowns while Burton and Tamme earned All-SEC honors for the Wildcats.

At running back the Wildcats return senior Rafael Little who after rushing for over 1,000 yards in 2005, had 140 rushes and 673 yards plus 3 touchdowns in an injury-filled 2006 season. The interesting thing about it was the fact that he averaged 5 yards per carry with 31 catches out of the backfield in 2006.

Joining him in the backfield will be second-stringer Tony Dixon, who was second on the team with 303 yards on the ground and third-stringer Alfonso Smith, who added an additional 250 yards of rushing for the Wildcats.

On defense, the Wildcats look to improve on what was without question, a disastrous year on the field as they allowed 453 yards per contest, one of the worst in the nation. Three starters were lost from last year’s unit and returning to Lexington will be senior tackle Myron Pryor, who was the team’s top defensive lineman with 42 tackles and a team-leading 5 sacks. Along with Pryor, end Jeremy Jarmon will be inserted into a starting role after beginning his 2006 season on the bench and not getting any playing time until the middle of the season. Despite this, he recorded 30 tackles and four sacks.

In the secondary, Marcus McClinton, Trevard Lindley, and Roger Williams are back in Lexington to add on to their modest success in 2006. McClinton recorded 65 tackles and four interceptions while Lindley ranked fourth in the conference with 12 pass breakups and earned Kentucky’s highlight of the year with an amazing interception against Clemson in the Music City Bowl plus a game-saving interception against the Georgia Bulldogs that gave Kentucky the 24-20 victory.

“Doc’s” Diagnosis: For a school that’s had little to celebrate in their football history, much like a certain university here in the city of Memphis, last season’s success caught everyone by surprise in Lexington. With LSU, Florida, Tennessee, and archrival Louisville visiting Commonwealth Stadium, expect the Wildcats to beat one of those four at home. The Wildcats also have road trips to South Carolina, Arkansas, LSU, as well as one to Georgia where the Bulldogs will have revenge on their minds after last year’s loss. With that being said, Kentucky will again surprise people in the conference and could nab a berth in the Liberty Bowl if all goes well.

“Doc’s” Projected record: 7-5 (4-4 SEC)

Resurgence In The Bluegrass

Matt’s Take On The Kentucky Wildcats:

I figured I wouldn’t be able to read through “Doc’s” football previews without putting in my two cents in on MY Kentucky Wildcats, so we decided on a joint venture for the preview of them.

“Doc” was spot on with his preview but I am going to delve a little deeper when I take a look at this season.

The quarterback situation is a no-brainer as Andre Woodson is the face of the offense and has heard his name drop among the top five NFL quarterback prospects as well as being on Ivan Maisel’s Preseason All-American List as the lone quarterback. Woodson had a stellar year last year off a less-than-mediocre sophomore campaign. Woodson has stayed healthy and diligent in the offseason and there is no reason to not expect the same, if not better than, last year.

Some coaches in the SEC have whispered talk regarding Kentucky’s offensive “skill players” as being in the SEC and this includes wide receivers Kennan Burton and Dicky Lyons, Junior. Behind the two standouts, however, are Steve Johnson, who played very well at the end of last season and should be a strong force on the offense (barring any repercussions from his recent arrest), and DeMoreo Ford, who lacks some size but has the speed to make up for it as seen in the Music City Bowl. Both should help add depth to the strong wide receiver position if they’re able to play (see: Johnson). As always (or it seems like the always in the past few seasons for Kentucky faithful), the consummate professional, on and off the field, in Jacob Tamme plays with wide receiver-type hands out of the tight end position. Backing up Tamme are a stable of competitors led by T.C. Drake, who has the experience from every game last year to be a viable backup.

In the backfield, speed dominates as Rafael Little looks to return to his all-purpose yardage domination of 2005 after seeing injuries plague his 2006 campaign. Little is a solid rusher but is versatile with the ability to catch out of the backfield as well as return punts. Tony Dixon and Alfonso Smith are also fast and should provide quality support to Little in a conference that relies on speed more than any in the nation. I expect big things from a man called “Little” this year and he could turn out to be the surprise MVP of this team considering all that he can do.

As I have stated before, the SEC is one of, if not the, fastest conference in the nation on the field. However, luckily for Big Blue nation, I have heard that the team’s average 40-yard-dash time has improved every year under Brooks and this can mainly be attributed to being back at full strength in terms of scholarship availability. The coaching staff is now able to go and offer scholarships to not just stud “skill position” players, but also to speedsters and stars on both sides of the line. Thus, the offensive line should be improved from last year and has some added depth. For this offense to hit on all cylinders like we know it can, the linemen up front will need to play every game like it is their last.

On the defense side of the game, there is only one way to go and that is up. After posting one of the worst defenses in NCAA Division 1 football last season, the Wildcats should be improved under first-year defensive coordinator Steve Brown. All the while, linebacker Wesley Woodyard and defensive back Marcus McClinton remain the faces and emotional leaders of the defense and Woodyard is a guy who can reign in plenty of personal honors this season.

Although Woodyard gets all of the pop on the defense (and rightfully so), other big players on the defense that should become household names in the Bluegrass this season, if they aren’t already, are tackle Myron Pryor and end Jeremy Jarmon. Both provided solid play among the front seven last year, combining for nine sacks and 13 tackles for loss. I am not speculating that Kentucky will improve on defense, I am saying that they have to. Aside from the Louisville and LSU games last season, the offense was did its best to remain consistent and posted solid numbers the majority of the time; now it is time for the defense to step up to allow this team to turn the corner in the SEC. Kentucky cannot expect to win shootouts with the likes of Louisville and LSU, among others, if they don’t have an ounce of defense (as sometimes was the case last season).

Corey Peters, Dominic Lewis, Micah Johnson (who is a stud recruit entering his second season), and Johnny Williams round out some of the regulars up front that you’ll hear on gamedays to help improve on the worst run defense in the SEC, and Trevard Lindley, Roger Williams, and Ashton Cobb will provide McClinton with support in the secondary, among others.

Tim Masthay will handle punts and kickoffs while Lones Seiber leads the three-man depth chart for field goal duties this season.

Final Thoughts: This is a hard team to predict as we could get the team that played against LSU last season (loss, 0-49) or we could get the team that showed up against Clemson and the ACC in the Music City Bowl in December (win, 28-20). Kentucky has an offense to compete with the best of them and, assuming nothing goes awry, it may be up to the defense to step up to notch victories we wouldn’t have had last season. Unfortunately, with Louisville as a yearly non-conference opponent and the always difficult SEC schedule, Kentucky could just as easily be 7-5 as they could be 5-7. 6-6 would split the difference but I feel they’ll get at least on upset (i.e. Georgia from last season) and in attempt to not just give you the same prediction as “Doc,” I am going with two SEC upsets and an 8-4 record with Kentucky sweeping the non-conference schedule. Louisville will be tough but Commonwealth will be rocking.

Matt’s Projected Record: 8-4 (4-4 SEC) ~ I am going out on a limb here but I really think Kentucky can make it happen

2007 Kentucky Wildcats Schedule:

Sept. 1st Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 8th Kent State

Sept. 15th Louisville

Sept. 22nd @ Arkansas

Sept. 29th Florida Atlantic

Oct. 4th @ South Carolina

Oct. 13th LSU

Oct. 20th Florida

Oct. 27th Mississippi State

Nov. 10th @ Vanderbilt

Nov. 17th @ Georgia

Nov. 24th Tennessee

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5 Responses to “There Is A Such Thing As A Blue Wildcat (Kentucky Wildcats Preview)”

  1. Steven said

    Personally, I think Kentucky this year will be 6-6 or maybe 5-7 and even that will take winning about 3 SEC games.

    WINS: (3)
    Wins against EKU, Kent State and Florida Atlantic should be 3 easy wins.

    PROBABLE WINS: (2)
    Mississippi State (IMHO this is almost a lock as MSU has nothing)
    @ Vanderbilt (While I am not nearly as sold on Vandy as some are, playing them in Vandy will make it a tough game for Kentucky IMHO. Still, in the end, Kentucky should get the W.

    LOSSES: (3)
    Louisville: after what I saw last night, I think Louisville will not only beat Kentucky, but will beat them pretty bad this year. That game could easily end up 60-40 or so….
    LSU: few teams in the SEC will even compete for 4 full quarters with LSU.
    Tennessee: TN will want revenge and should have the talent to outlast & by the end of the game, outscore Kentucky.

    POSSIBLE WINS, BUT LONGSHOTS: (4)
    Now we get to all those games that we can easily debate.

    Personally, I don’t like Kentucky’s chances on the road against ARK, USC or UGA. Not that Kentucky can’t beat any of these teams, but even if you feel Kentucky is about even with those teams talent-wise (which I don’t), the home field advantage in all those could very well be the deciding factor.

    Finally, we come to Florida in Lexington. Florida will definetly be down some this year (by their standards) and Kentucky will likely be up this season (by their standards), but we are still talking about a very talented, deep and well-coached Gator program. While this game may be very close, I just think the Gators confidence will “will” them to the win.

    So the way I see it Kentucky is 5-3 with 4 longshots. It would be very possible for them to win 1 and maybe even a surprise 2 of those games. That only give them 6 to 7 wins though and that is assuming that they don’t stump their toe with MSU or Vanderbilt.

    It is good to be optimistic, thats what we fan(atics) do, but if I had to bet the farm on my predictions for the Wildcats I would have them around 6-6, give or take 1 game.

  2. Matt said

    Agreed, I basically said the latter part in my final take. It could easily be 7-5 or 5-7 with 6-6 splitting the difference. However, Doc finished his portion before I did mine and had 7-5 already predicted.

    I could’ve went 6-6, and nearly did, but I can see them taking 2 of the 7 Losses/Longshots you listed. That would put them at 7-5, which again, was already taken by Doc so I went with 8-4.

    Plus, the last time Kentucky played Murray State was in 2003 with a 4-8 squad and Kentucky still beat them 37-6. Granted it was in 2003, but I haven’t heard of drastic improvements of Murray State in 3 and a half years so I don’t think a WHOLE LOT of stock should be put in Louisville’s win in terms of how great they’ll be.

    We all know they can score points and chew up yards, but we’re also improved from last year and the game is at home. Not saying we will win, but I think we have a better shot than indicated by the UofL/Murray State blowout.

  3. Matt said

    I mean we were 7-5 last year in regular season with Ole Miss instead of Arkansas and the upset over Georgia. So it could go several ways…

  4. Steven said

    Oh yeah, it is definetly possible.

    I can see Kentucky again upsetting 1 or 2 teams along the way, but as is the case in college football, it is also possible that they are upset by someone.

    That’s what makes the sport so great….. on any given day the underdog can play well and the favored can choke.

    Heck, I am still hoping USC can find a way to beat LSU. LOL

  5. My pick for the upset would be against LSU at home. Florida would be second on my list.

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