Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
2012 SEASON IN REVIEW: In an SEC that is generally strong from top to bottom,
Kentucky was one of the few pushovers in 2012, finishing a mere 2-10 overall
while going winless in eight league contests.
The Wildcats' season got off to a difficult start, as they traveled to
nationally-ranked Louisville and fell, 32-14, but they bounced back nicely in
game two by hammering out a 47-14 triumph over Kent State, a team which
eventually finished with 11 wins. However, from there the squad fell into a
tailspin with eight consecutive losses before salvaging the season somewhat
with a win over FCS foe Samford (34-3).
After UK qualified for the Compass Bowl in 2010, the team had declined under
Joke Phillips, who was fired at the end of last season. Supplanting Phillips
in 2013 will be first-time head coach Mark Stoops, who has been an assistant
in recent years at programs such as Florida State, Arizona and Miami-Florida.
OFFENSE: Kentucky's offense put up the fewest points in the SEC a season ago,
scoring just 17.9 ppg on 315.0 ypg. Stoops brought in former Texas Tech
offensive coordinator Neal Brown to run the unit with the hopes of
implementing a similar run-and-gun style that the Red Raiders employ.
The new regime is still assessing its situation under center, with Jalen
Whitlow, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles -- all sophomores -- duking it out
for the starting job. All three saw action last season, with Smith (.687
completion percentage, 975 yards, eight TDs, four interceptions) being the
"We're not at any decision yet," Stoops said about the quarterback
competition. "They're all good. They've worked extremely hard. They've all
done some very good things in the spring. We're just going to have to continue
to work through that process right now. If anybody emerges and just takes the
reins and becomes the clear cut leader, well name 'em. Other than that, we'll
continue to work through that process."
No returning receiver had more than 300 yards in 2012. Demarco Robinson will
act as the No. 1 wideout on the depth chart and an increased number of targets
should allow him to improve upon a lackluster 2012 campaign (28 rec, 297
Raymond Sanders made the most of his 125 carries a year ago, rushing for 669
yards and five touchdowns. Jonathan George (504 yards, four TDs) will also see
plenty of action in the backfield this fall.
DEFENSE: Not surprisingly, the Wildcats' defense was also one of the worst in
the SEC in 2012, allowing foes to score 31.0 ppg and gain 391.0 ypg while
forcing just 13 turnovers in 12 games, but the return of seven starters should
help the unit this time around.
All three top tacklers from last season -- Avery Williamson (135 tackles),
Alvin Dupree (91) and Miles Simpson (70) -- return to the front seven. Dupree
is a quality playmaker in the defensive backfield as well, adding 12.5 TFL and
6.5 sacks, both team-highs.
Donte Rumph (six TFL, four sacks) is a solid interior presence, and Ashely
Lowery (43 tackles, one pick) will start at safety once again.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Joe Mansour will replace Craig McIntosh as the team's
placekicker. Landon Foster was one of the most active punters in the nation in
2012, kicking it away 61 times with a 42.9 yard average.
DeMarcus Sweat contributed to special teams as a freshman with 25 kickoff
returns, but averaged just over 20 yards.
OUTLOOK: These are dark times for the Kentucky football program, but with the
hiring of Stoops and his staff, there's light at the end of the tunnel. In his
first offseason, Stoops reeled in on of the top recruiting classes in the
nation, leaving the program optimistic for the future.
"We understand there's a lot of hard work that lies ahead, but we're embracing
that process and working hard each and every day to improve this team. There's
a lot of work to be done, but we're excited."
Stoops may have what it takes to bring the Wildcats back to respectability in
the SEC, but expecting a one-year turnaround would be unwise. They are clearly
less-equipped than their conference brethren. Any improvement over their two-
win season in 2012 should be considered a success.
The Sports Network