Kentucky Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
Kentucky Wildcats
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Kentucky Wildcats Preview 2006 - Further Analysis

1st and Ten – Little Man – Ask coaches throughout the SEC about the running backs that they’ll see this fall, and you’ll see grown men run their fingers through their hair and let out a big sigh.  Nothing like having to face some of the best running backs in the nation week after week..  The names are quite impressive.  Kenny Irons.  Arian Foster.  Darren McFadden.  Pick one from Georgia.  But, one guy who is also on the minds of most SEC defensive coordinators is Kentucky’s Rafael Little.  The 5’10”, 200 pound dynamo was a 1,000 yard rusher in 2005 and is as dynamic an offensive talent as has set foot on the Lexington campus in some time.  Like McFadden from Arkansas, he’s a complete back who can hurt a defense with his quickness in the running game, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and he can also return kicks.  Hmm, sounds a lot like the guy who won the stiff-armed trophy last year.  Although Little has a long way to go to emulate the great Reggie Bush, the impact that he has for this Kentucky offense is nearly the same.  If after reading that list of runners above, you question whether Little belongs in that group, pop in the Vanderbilt tape from last year.  372 yards later, you might have to re-think your stance.  The Kentucky coaching staff will tell anyone who listens that Tony Dixon will push Little for the starting spot, but this kid is a star and will be the bellcow for this offense.  Dixon will help to take some pressure off of Little, but when the Cats need a play to be made, it’s going to be Little’s ball.

2nd and Seven – Bo Knows Ballin’ – The Wildcat secondary was the worst pass defense in the conference last season, but that wasn’t due to the play of last year’s defensive MVP Bo Smith. Smith, a smart, physical cornerback, was fourth on the team in tackles with 63 and led the team with 2 interceptions.  Although the rest of the secondary spots are up in the air, Smith gives defensive coordinator Mike Archer a lockdown corner on one side of the field.  The problem is that most teams will go away from him and challenge the youngsters on the other side.  Consequently, Archer is going to have to find ways to keep Smith active and let him still affect the game.  As teams start to go away from him, he might be the perfect backside corner ‘cat’ blitzer, especially from the short side. 

3rd and Three – Line of Distinction – Kentucky’s offense finally has some quality skill players.  Keenan Burton is ready to break out (finally).  Rafael Little is special.  But, when that’s the case, the offensive line always stinks, right?  Well, not this year.  The offensive line may not have a Joe Thomas or a Justin Blalock, but after three years, offensive line coach Jimmy Heggins finally has some returning experience and some grown up talent.  Each of the five projected starters started at least one game last year and their backups might be even better.  They have eight guys who could play significant minutes, if everyone stays healthy, something Fatu Turituri and Aaron Miller weren’t able to do last season.  The offense was much improved over 2004, and with a line like this, they should be even better this year.

4th and One – Pulley Action – Some players are just way too good to keep off the field.  When Marques Hagans, former UVA QB, couldn’t beat out Matt Schaub, he moved into an inside WR/slot position just so he could put pressure on opposing defenses.  With that being said, don’t be surprised to see Curtis Pulley all over the field this year.  He’s listed as a backup QB, but that’s just an alias, well, if the Cats want to maximize the sophomore’s stout athletic ability.  He did a little of everything last year – throwing, running, receiving, returning and even blocking kicks.  QB Andre Woodson didn’t play well enough last year to keep Pulley out of QB meetings this year, but offensive coordinator has to continue to find ways to get Pulley the ball this year.  Just imagine – Pulley, Little and Burton – that’s a threesome that could put some defenses on red alert this fall.

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