2013 Kentucky Preview – Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 6, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Kentucky Wildcat Offense


Kentucky Wildcats

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Kentucky Preview | 2013 Kentucky Offense
- 2013 Kentucky Defense | 2013 Kentucky Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Press the fast-forward button. Offensive coordinator Neal Brown is going to crank up the attack and get everything moving. Don’t expect much power and don’t look for much in the way of a thumping running game with a high-octane passing game taking center stage – at least that’s the goal. However, the strength of the offense might be a deep group of running backs working behind a veteran line that should be better. The receiving corps has to be more explosive, and a most importantly, a quarterback has to emerge from the pack of young, maturing options. However things look, the idea is to get the tempo rolling and keep defenses on their heels.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Maxwell Smith
103-150, 975 yds, 8 TD, 4 INT
Rushing: Raymond Sanders
125 carries, 669 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Demarco Robinson
28 catches, 297 yds, 0 TD

Star of the offense: Senior RB Raymond Sanders
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior WR Demarco Robinson
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman C Zach Myers
Best pro prospect: Junior OT Darrian Miller
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Miller, 2) OG Zach West, 3) Sanders
Strength of the offense: Tempo, Running Back
Weakness of the offense: Proven Production, Passing Efficiency

Quarterbacks

There were several quarterback options last season, but it was then-true freshman Jalen Whitlow who ended up taking over and tried to make the best of a bad situation. At 6-2 and 208 pounds, he has decent size and the best athleticism of all the quarterbacks and showed good promise completing 54% of his passes for 801 yards and three touchdowns with two picks. A playmaker, he finished third on the team with 206 yards and three scores. Smart, fast and with a good arm, the tools are all there, but he needs a little more time and polish. However, he’ll make up for problems with his quickness.

6-4, 232-pound sophomore Maxwell Smith is back after missing almost all of last year with an ankle injury. A very big, very strong pure passer with a huge arm, he got bigger over the last year and should be even tougher in the pocket. While he’s not the athlete that Whitlow is, he might be better suited for the offense with the ability to push the ball all over the place. Two years ago, he stepped in and completed 55% of his passes for 819 yards and four score and four picks after taking over for four games late in the season, and he showed flashes of promise and potential with a 283-yard, two score day in the win over Ole Miss.

Trying to fight his way through the roster and into more of a role is sophomore Patrick Towles, a 6-5, 234-pound former Kentucky Mr. Football and Parade All-American who led his high school team to three straight state titles. A true pro-style bomber, he has the look and the gun, but he struggled a bit when given the chance hitting just 19-of-40 passes for 233 yards with a touchdown and a pick.

Watch Out For … Reese Phillips. While he’s not coming in as highly regarded as some of the current quarterbacks were, he fits what the coaching staff wants to do. At 6-2 and 225-pounds, he’s a decent-sized passer out of Tennessee with tremendous accuracy and a live arm. Smart, he’ll get he playbook right away.
Strength: Size. If you’re not a big, strong passer with a live arm and good downfield passing ability, you need not apply. The Wildcats have several options they’re going to play around with, and the coaching staff will have work to do.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. The plays down the field were almost non-existent with the team averaging a pathetic 9.6 yards per completion. UK finished dead last in the SEC in passing efficiency.
Outlook: With the new offense and all the new responsibilities, there should be a big turnaround at the position once a starting quarterback is settled on. Whitlow might have the most all-around skills, and Smith might have done more last season, but Towles showed this offseason that he can play a little, too. The issue might not be settled by the opener.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

The backfield should be a major plus with several decent options led by senior Raymond Sanders, a 5-8, 199-pounder who led the team with 669 yards and five scores averaging 5.4 yards per carry to go along with 18 catches for 111 yards. While he got in plenty of work, his biggest days were early against Kent State with 115 yards and a score and late against Samford with 123 yards and a touchdown. Extremely quick and very athletic, he’s a great all-around back, but he’s not going to be a workhorse.

Also back in the mix and the rotation is Jonathan George, a 5-10, 221-pound senior who finished second on the team with 504 yards and four scores averaging 4.7 yards per carry. A strong receiver, he finished fourth on the team making 21 catches for 223 yards and a score. One of the team’s stronger runners, he brings a little bit of power to go along with good speed. A do-it-all high school star who played receiver, safety, and defensive end as well as running back, he was also an Alabama state champion sprinter in the 200, 400 and relay. If that wasn’t enough, he was also a state champion wrestler.

5-11, 216-pound sophomore Dyshawn Mobley is a good-looking back who did a decent job when he got his chances coming up with 184 yards during his limited action. Shifty, he’s a good, natural runner who ripped off a jaw-dropping 3,068 yards and 48 touchdowns as a high school senior in Tennessee, and he has the speed to do more. Also back is 5-10, 212-pound sophomore Josh Clemons came up with a nice first season as a true freshman finishing second on the team with 279 yards and two scores in just six games while catching four passes for 53 yards. The former Georgia high school star has 4.5 speed and is extremely quick, but he got knocked out with a knee injury and missed all of last year getting healthy.

When the offense uses a fullback, 6-0, 242-pound junior D.J. Warren will once again be the main man, being used almost always as a blocker. He’ll get a few carries, and he caught two passes with a one-yard touchdown, but his role will be to help keep the quarterback upright while trying to blast away for the ground game.

Watch Out For … Jojo Kemp, an interesting 5-10, 190-pound freshman out of Florida who ran for 23 scores last season but could be used more as a receiver. There’s workhorse potential if he gets a little bigger, but he’s an athlete who’ll get the ball in a variety of ways.
Strength: The rotation. Potentially the team’s biggest strength, UK has four very fast, very capable backs now that Clemens is back. Keeping everyone fresh shouldn’t be a problem.
Weakness: SEC defenses. The 206 yards against Georgia was a bit of a shocker, but overall the rushing production struggled against conference teams. Six of the team’s 13 rushing touchdowns came against Samford, Western Kentucky and Kent State.
Outlook: There’s plenty of upside and lots and lots of options to play around with. Sanders might be the best on the lot, but George, Mobley and Clemens will all take turns showing off what they can do. The coaching staff will keep them all working.
Unit Rating: 7.5

Receivers

With leading receiver La’Rod King gone, 5-10, 159-pound junior Demarco Robinson needs to become a bigger factor. He might be small and he might be wispy, but he’s a speedster with the quickness and ability to become a gamebreaker after finishing second on the team with 28 catches for 297 yards highlighted by a seven catch, 75-yard day against WKU.

Sophomore Daryl Collins was expected to be a big deal right out of the box, but he suffered a knee injury and missed all of his first year. Last season he showed glimpses of what he could do with 17 catches for 171 yards, but seven of his grabs came in the opener against Louisville. At 5-11 and 205 pounds and with tremendous speed and athleticism, all the tools are there to be excellent.

6-1, 188-pound sophomore A.J. Legree saw time as a true freshman making 12 catches for 113 yards. Athletic and with tremendous leaping ability, he has the potential to become a matchup problem now that he knows what he’s doing. The Florida native should be a big deal in three-wide sets and behind Robinson. He’s big, but 6-3, 241-pound Steven Borden is a truly large target as either a tight end or wide receiver. The former JUCO transfer from Kilgore might turn out to see more time in two tight end sets, but with great athleticism and excellent hands he could be a tough slot receiver.

6-5, 234-pound junior Ronnie Shields turned into a decent option starting five times and doing a little bit for the passing game with nine catches for 68 yards. He has the skills and the speed to stretch the field a little bit more after averaging just 7.6 yards per try. With 4.6 wheels, he needs to create more of a mismatch. Borden will be one of the key tight ends in the rotation, as will 6-3, 261-pound senior Tyler Robinson, a thumper of a blocker with enough starting experience to do more after catching nine passes for 97 yards and a score.

Watch Out For … Javess Blue, a JUCO transfer from Butler CC in Kansas catching 65 passes for 1,064 yards and 12 scores. The 6-0, 190-pound Florida native is a big play target with the 4.4 speed and hands to become a major factor right out of the box.
Strength: The look. UK has the size and athleticism with the ability to create matchup problems. With good experience at wideout and a few decent options at tight end, the receivers should be able to do more.
Weakness: La’Rod King. The leading target last year came up with 48 grabs, 20 more than Robinson. The Wildcats have to find a No. 1 target who can be a go-to guy like King was. However, ten of his grabs came against Western Kentucky and ten more came in the season finale against Tennessee.
Outlook: The UK targets look the part and they have the skill to thrive in the new offense, but there have to be more big plays down the field and more gamebreaking moments. There’s enough experience and enough talent to be a bigger positive, but the corps has to be more explosive.
Unit Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

The line has to be better and more consistent, and it’s going to take some shuffling, but the left side should be relatively set with junior Darrian Miller back at tackle and sophomore Zach West returning at guard. The 6-5, 288-pound Miller saw a little bit of work as a true freshman seeing time as a blocking tight end in jumbo packages, and last year he took over starting all 12 games on the outside. A nice recruit, he has the frame and the athleticism to become a top pass protector with a little more time. The 6-4, 312-pound West is a very smart, very good blocker who started every game last season. Like Miller, he was a top recruit for the program and is also from Lexington with a great combination of strength and athleticism.

Taking over at center for veteran Matt Smith is 6-3, 289-pound redshirt freshman Zach Myers, a former guard who got tried out at tackle but served as an apprentice at center in his redshirt season. While he’ snot huge, he can move and he should be able to handle the leadership responsibility.

It’s going to be a battle at right tackle with 6-6, 296-pound senior Kevin Mitchell getting a long look after starting last season. The former guard has a good combination of skills, and while he looks like a tackle, he might be better suited inside and could end up starting at right guard if 6-7, 299-pound sophomore Jordan Swindle turns into the main option. He’ll either backup Miller at left tackle or he’ll start on the right side after seeing time throughout last year as a decent reserve.

If it’s not Mitchell at right guard, the Wildcats have a few interesting options in 6-7, 339-pound junior Teven Eatmon-Nared and 6-11, 340-pound sophomore John Gruenschlaeger, who are both built like really, really tall tackles but will be huge guards. Gruenschlaeger has mostly been a special teamer, but he’s very smart and very massive with a tough frame to get around. Eatmon-Nared is a beefed up former tight end who can move.

Watch Out For … Kyle Meadows, the best of a decent lot of recruits for the line. The 6-5, 270-pounder from Ohio needs to add at least 20 more pounds, but he’s already functionally strong enough to handle himself even as a true freshman. The athleticism is there along with good quickness as either a guard or a tackle.
Strength: The starting five. There’s a good enough base of players to work around to expect more. Miller, West and Mitchell are veterans who should be solid, while Myers is a good-looking young center who should shine with a little time.
Weakness: Blocking. The UK line has been disastrous in pass protection over the last few years giving up 35 sacks two years ago and 27 last year. It’s not crazy to suggest that the problems on offense started up front.
Outlook: A major positive for the program for so many years, the line took a dip over the last few seasons and the results showed. The potential is there to make a big jump forward after a few rebuilding years, but it’s going to take some shuffling and trial and error before the right combination is found.
Unit Rating: 6.5

- 2013 Kentucky Preview | 2013 Kentucky Offense
- 2013 Kentucky Defense | 2013 Kentucky Depth Chart