2009 Kentucky Wildcats Football Preview
2008 Record: (7-6, 2-6)
2008 Bowl: Liberty Bowl vs. East Carolina (W 25-19)
Coach: Rich Brooks (32-41 at Kentucky, 123-150-4 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Randy Sanders
Defensive Coordinator: Steve Brown
Other Key Returnees: WR E.J. Adams, S Ashton Cobb, TE T.C. Drake, G Zipp Duncan, C Jorge Gonzalez, OT Justin Jeffries, WR Kyrus Lanxter, DT Corey Peters
Key Losses: G Jess Beets, RB Tony Dixon, DE Ventrell Jenkins, CB David Jones, LB Braxton Kelley, WR Dicky Lyons, S Marcus McClinton, DT Myron Pryor, OT Garry Williams, LB Johnny Williams
There is little doubt that Kentucky is increasing their talent level across the board. And over the last few years it has shown as the Wildcats, under the leadership of Coach Rich Brooks, have won three consecutive bowl games. That is pretty impressive for a team that not long ago had absolutely no expectations. Those expectations are much higher these days and Coach Brooks has a group that probably will not win the SEC East, but they can pull off some upsets here and there.
Most of the offense is back and that should be a good thing. Right? The offensive line takes the biggest hit, losing tackle Garry Williams, but it was also the line that made the offense at least halfway decent last season. With center Jorge Gonzalez and Zipp Duncan moving over to the left tackle spot after starting 26 straight games at guard, the Wildcats line will once again be a dominating force. Tailbacks Alfonso Smith and Moncell Allen are a dangerous one-two duo who can also do some damage catching the ball. Speaking of catching the ball, that is what Randall Cobb should be doing most of the time. However, the dynamic playmaker is also the team’s top returning rusher and spent a lot of time under center last season. Ideally Cobb will only be playing quarterback to mix things up, but he very well could end up spending games at a time as the signal caller.
That is because Mike Hartline has not been an efficient quarterback. Now that he is an upperclassman Hartline has to be much more effective or Cobb, or even one of a couple of talented freshmen, will take over his job. The defense was pretty good last year, but that was mostly the frontline and now they have to find a way to replace tackle Myron Pryor and end Ventrell Jenkins. The secondary returns Trevard Lindley, who will be one of the best corners in the nation this year, and safety Ashton Cobb, but their pass defense was not that spectacular to begin with considering the SEC did not sport many teams that were great at passing the ball.
The Bottom Line for the Wildcats:
The two most important things to keep an eye on are the defensive line and the quarterback situations. The Wildcats tallied nearly 2.5 sacks per game last season and their ability to get into the opponents backfield really made the entire defense much better. If they do not get into the backfield this year the defense could be exposed. And that puts the pressure on the offense and it remains to be seen if Hartline can live up to that pressure.
By Joel Welser
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