Kentucky Preview 2006
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
Off. 23, Def. 25, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 21
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.
at Miss State
2005 Record: 3-8
Louisville L 31-24
at Indiana L 38-14
Florida L 49-28
at So Carolina L 44-16
at Ole Miss L 13-7
Auburn L 49-27
Vanderbilt W 48-43
at Georgia L 45-13
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The Last Time Kentucky…
- Passing touchdowns: Opponents 24 - Kentucky 6
- Punt return average: Kentucky 17.2 - Opponents 6.3
- Second quarter scoring: Opponents 148 - Kentucky 43
…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)
…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)