Kentucky Preview 2006
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Kentucky Wildcats Preview 2006  

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

Is Kentucky a case of a young team on the verge of doing some big things after suffering through growing pains, or did head coach Rich Brooks and his staff stock the shelves for next year's coaching staff to shine with?

With five wins in the last two seasons and one winning campaign since 2000, UK football hasn't exactly been a juggernaut. There are several obvious issues from the perception of being a basketball school to the rough life in the SEC, but if Louisville can become a powerhouse, then so can Kentucky ... some day.

50 lettermen and 14 starters return providing experience, but this is still a very, very young team relying on several sophomores needing to play like longtime veterans. There are still too many question marks and a sure problem with continuity just about everywhere, so it might be another long season unless everything clicks at once.

Head coach: Rich Brooks
4th year: 9-25
22nd year overall: 100-134-4
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 23, Def. 25, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best UK Players
1. RB Rafael Little, Jr.
2. LB Wesley Woodyard, Jr.
3. TE Jacob Tamme, Jr.
4. QB Andre Woodson, Jr.
5. QB Curtis Pulley, Soph.
6. C Matt McCutchan, Sr.
7. WR Keenan Burton, Jr.
8. SS Roger Williams, Jr.
9. DE Nii Adjei Oninku, Soph.
10. DE Durrell White, Sr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 at Louisville
9/9 Texas State
9/16 Ole Miss
9/23 at Florida
9/30 Central Michigan
10/7 South Carolina
10/14 at LSU
10/28 at Miss State
11/4 Georgia
11/11 Vanderbilt
11/18 UL Monroe
11/25 at Tennessee

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 3
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/4 Louisville L 31-24
9/10 Idaho State W 41-29
9/17 at Indiana L 38-14
9/24 Florida L 49-28
10/8 at So Carolina L 44-16
10/22 at Ole Miss L 13-7
10/29 Miss State W 13-7
11/5 Auburn L 49-27
11/12 at Vanderbilt W 48-43
11/19 at Georgia L 45-13
11/26 Tennessee L 27-8

Who's the starting quarterback going to be? Can the veteran offensive line get any sort of a push for the ground game? Is there a number two receiver to help out Keenan Burton, and can Burton finally stay healthy? Will the front four do anything after getting shoved all over the place while failing to generate any sort of a pass rush? Can the secondary pick off a pass after helping the D pick off only five passes? Can new placekicker J.J. Housley produce like Taylor Begley? And the biggest question of all, is Rich Brooks the right coach for the program?

This has been asked from the moment his was hired a few years ago with some UKers considering him a lame-duck coach after all the problems of the last two years. Of the nine wins in the Books era, two have been against D-IAA teams, two have been over Vanderbilt, two have been over Mississippi State, two have been over Indiana, and one was against Ohio. Brooks doesn't have to win the SEC East, but his team has to be far more competitive against the big boys and could use a win over someone with a pulse.

Can Kentucky do what Vanderbilt did last year and be a surprise team in the East? It has the potential and enough athleticism to come close, and the schedule is conducive to flirting with bowl eligibility. No matter what happens, this will be a turning point season for the program.

The Schedule: If you're assuming the battles against heavyweights like Louisville, Florida, LSU and Tennessee are going to be losses no matter what, then playing those games on the road is a plus. The SEC slate is as easy as it can possibly get playing Ole Miss and Mississippi State from the West. The home slate is conducive for at least five wins with Texas State, Central Michigan, Ole Miss, Vanderbilt and UL Monroe all must-victories to have any dreams of a bowl bid, while the road trip to Mississippi State has to be circled as an opportunity for another win. There's a nice stretch of three home games late in the season before finishing up against Tennessee.

Best Offensive Player: Junior RB Rafael Little. Can the do-it-all star stay healthy? He led the team in rushing and receiving last year and was one of the nation's best punt returners. There's more talent around him this year, but he'll be the sparkplug who makes everything else go. He was dinged up in spring ball and has to play a full season for the Wildcats to have any hope of winning six games.

Best Defensive Player: Junior LB Wesley Woodyard. Cornerback Bo Smith was in the running for the honor of being the team's best defensive player before getting booted off the team. Woodyard move from safety last season to outside linebacker and was a smashing success leading the team in tackles while continuing to be a strong player in pass coverage. He's expected to wreak even more havoc on the weakside now that he knows what he's doing.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Andre Woodson and/or sophomore QB Cutis Pulley. They're accurate combining to complete 59% of their passes last season, but one has to step up and become the playmaking leader of the team. Woodson is a linebacker-sized passer while Pulley is a dual-threat athlete with a ton of upside. All that matters is putting points on the board, and one has to show he can do it.

The season will be a success if ... Kentucky wins six games and is better against the big boys. There's absolutely no reason to shoot for anything less than a bowl game considering the relatively easy schedule. Beating teams like LSU, Florida and Tennessee might be too much to ask for, but the Wildcats have to be more competitive against the good teams. Anything less than the post-season might mean the end of the Rich Brooks era.

Key game: October 7 vs. South Carolina. Consider this the litmus test for where the program is at. This isn't a good enough team with at Florida, and it's strong enough to beat Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. South Carolina is a mid-level team coming into Lexington thinking it can roll over UK after winning 44-16. With games against LSU and Georgia over the next few weeks, a win over the Gamecocks might be a must.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Passing touchdowns: Opponents 24 - Kentucky 6
- Punt return average: Kentucky 17.2 - Opponents 6.3
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 148 - Kentucky 43

The Last Time Kentucky…
…played in a bowl game…1999 (Music City Bowl vs. Syracuse)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…1996 (Vanderbilt)
…was shutout…2004 (Louisville)
…scored 50 points…2004 (Indiana)
…went undefeated…1898
…won a conference title…1976 (share, SEC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…2000 (Jared Lorenzen)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Rafael Little)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1999 (James Whalen)
…had a first-round draft choice…2003 (DT Dewayne Robertson)

Related Stories
Kentucky Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Kentucky Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by  Aug 8, 2006
Kentucky Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by  Aug 8, 2006

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