Saturday, June 12, 2010

Pre-Season Preview: Kentucky Wildcats

2009 Record: 7-6 (3-5 in SEC)
2009 Bowl: Music City Bowl (lost to Clemson 21-13)
Final 2009 AP Ranking: N/A
Head Coach: Joker Phillips (First Year Head Coach)
Non-Conference Schedule: at Louisville (9/4), Western Kentucky (9/11), Akron (9/18), Charleston Southern (11/6)

2009 Offensive Statistics
Scoring: 26.1 points per game (8th in SEC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 191 (5th in SEC)
Passing Yards/Game: 140 (last in SEC, 114th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 331 (10th in SEC) 

2009 Defensive Statistics
Scoring: 22.7 points per game (7th in SEC)
Rushing Yards/Game: 182 (11th in SEC, 100th in Nation)
Passing Yards/Game: 177 (7th in SEC, 17th in Nation)
Total Yards/Game: 360 (8th in SEC)

2009 Misc Stats
Turnover Margin: +0.15 per game (7th in SEC)
Penalties: 38 yards per game (1st in SEC, 6th in Nation)

Returning Starters
Offense: 5
Defense: 7
Kicker/Punter: 1

Phil Steele All-SEC Pre-Season
RB Derrick Locke (First Team; Third Team as KR)
PR Randall Cobb (First Team; Second Team as WR)
OG Stuart Hines (Second Team)
DE DeQuin Evans (Third Team)
LB Danny Trevathan (Third Team)
P Ryan Tydlacka (Third Team)

Athlon Sports All-SEC Pre-Season
AP/PR Randall Cobb (First Team)
RB Derrick Locke (Third Team)
OG Stuart Hines (Third Team)
DE DeQuin Evans (Third Team) 

Top Returning Statistical Leaders
Passing: QB Mike Hartline, Sr (79 of 133 for 802 yds, 7 TD, 6 INT, 133 ypg)
Passing: QB Morgan Newton, Soph (75 of 135 for 706, 6 TD, 3 INT, 78 ypg, 2 rushing TDs)
Rushing: RB Derrick Locke, Sr (196 carries for 908 yds, 6 TD, 4.6 ypc, 75 ypg)
Receiving: WR Randall Cobb, Jr (39 rec, 447 yds, 4 TD, 3.3 rec/game, 573 yds rushing, 10 rushing TDs)
Tackles: LB Danny Trevathan, Jr (80)
Sacks: DE DeQuin Evans, Sr (6)
Interceptions: CB Randall Burden, Jr (2)

2010 Pre-Season Rankings
Athlon Sports: #51
Sporting News: #58

2010 Pre-Season SEC East Prediction:
Athlon Sports: #5
Phil Steele: #5

2010 Bowl Prediction
Athlon Sports: Bowl (vs. West Virginia)
Phil Steele: Bowl (vs. Cincinnati)

Rich Brooks retired from Kentucky last year after 4 consecutive winning seasons. This year it's up to First Year Head Coach Joker Phillips to keep the momentum moving. Kentucky has some really good skill position guys in Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke but the question will be if they have enough talent surrounding those guys to compete in the tough SEC East. We sought out the online home of the Big Blue Nation, A Sea of Blue, to see how they were feeling about Joker's inaugural season.

What are the major strengths and biggest weaknesses of the team?

Offensively, our strengths are athleticism, particularly in the form of Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb, and an improved wide receiver corps who may enable our passing game to be better than 114th in the land, like last year.

Our weaknesses offensively include a smaller and less experienced offensive line and lack of experienced depth at the running back position. Who will back up Derrick Locke is a real question mark at this point.

Defensively, our strength is the defensive backfield and defensive line. We have some good returning talent, if a bit young in both places.

Our weakness this year will likely be the linebacking corps, which is singularly young and lacks experienced depth. A lack of quality depth in general on defense is also a weakness.

Looking at the schedule who will be the first major test and why?

Believe it or not, at Louisville -- the first game of the season. With a new coach, better recruiting and the intensity of the rivalry, it will be a real challenge for Joker Phillips to get this win to start the season.

After that, our next big challenge will be at Florida. Florida loses Wildcat-killer Tebow, but they always just reload. Staying competitive in that game will be tough.

What team on the schedule do you fear the most?

This year, I suppose the Gators. They look like the best team in the East right now with Georgia close behind. UK has a history of getting hurt down in the Swamp, and injuries are things we can ill afford this season.

Who is the best player on your team that nobody talks about?

Junior Will linebacker Danny Travathan. Danny will anchor the linebacking corps this year, and he has improved every single year at UK. He is fast and a clean tackler who will make it hard on foes to throw across the middle or to the weak side.

Who is the best offensive player on the team?

A tie -- Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke were both multiple-threat players on both offense and special teams last year. They figure to be either at the head of UK's success or failure.

Who is the most impactful defensive player on the team?

I think this year it may well be DeQuin Evans. The senior JUCO transfer improved every game last year, and this year figures to be our best pass rusher on defense.

What player(s) needs to step up this year in order for the team to reach it's full capability?

Whoever winds up getting the nod at quarterback, be it Mike Hartline, Morgan Newton, or Ryan Mossakowski. If we don't improve our passing numbers this year, it could be the first year we miss a bowl in out of the last six.

Who is the top offensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

Sam Simpson at center. Simpson was a highly sought-after in-state recruit who has the size to help anchor a position that has lately been very good for us. He will probably start out at backup, but he'll see lots of snaps, because centers tend to get beat up a lot.

Who is the top defensive newcomer that can make an impact this year?

I think maybe Patrick Ligon or Tristan Johnson at the defensive ends. They are backups, but they have shown a lot of promise in the spring, and UK badly needs to develop good depth on the d-line. If these guys can deliver in a backup role, UK will be a much better team for it.

Make sure you visit A Sea of Blue this year to keep up with Kentucky and SEC football. You can also follow them on twitter @Truzenzuzex.

Next Up: Ole Miss Rebels

2010 Previews
ACC- Maryland Terrapins
Big 12- Kansas State Wildcats, Missouri Tigers, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Big East- Cincinnati Bearcats, Pittsburgh Panthers, West Virginia Mountaineers
Big Ten- Michigan WolverinesMinnesota Golden Gophers, Northwestern Wildcats, Purdue Boilermakers
Conference USA- Houston CougarsTulane Green Wave, UTEP Miners
MAC- Ball State Cardinals, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Temple Owls, Toledo Rockets
Mountain West- Utah Utes
Pac-10- Oregon Ducks, USC Trojans, Washington Huskies
SEC- South Carolina Gamecocks
Sun Belt- Troy Trojans
WAC- New Mexico State Aggies


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