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2014 Kentucky Recruiting Class Analysis

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 7, 2014


Kentucky Wildcats 2014 ... Head Coach: Mark Stoops


Kentucky Wildcats

2013 Record: 2-10
8/31 WKU (in Nashville) L 35-26
9/7 Miami Univ. W 41-7
9/14 Louisville L 27-13
9/21 OPEN DATE
9/28 Florida L 24-7
10/5 at South Carolina L 35-28
10/12 Alabama L 48-7
10/19 OPEN DATE
10/26 at Miss State L 28-22
11/2 Alabama State W 48-14
11/9 Missouri L 48-17
11/16 at Vanderbilt L 22-6
11/23 at Georgia L 59-17
11/30 Tennessee L 27-14


Kentucky | The Entire 2014 Recruiting Class

Team Concerns For 2014: The O has to do more to stay on the field, and the D has to do more to get off of it. The Wildcats went through some growing pains on offense averaging just 341 yards per game and scoring 17 points or fewer in each of the last four games. Moving the chains was next to impossible, converting a mere 31% of the time on third downs and holding on to the ball for just 28 minutes a game. The defense needs to get far tougher against the run.

The 2014 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. There aren’t any big holes in the class – there’s a little something for everywhere. An outstanding class was strongest up front on D where 340-pound Matthew Elam and JUCO transfer Cory Johnson could form the cornerstone of the line. DE Denzel Ware was a good pickup out of Florida, and Tymere Dubose should be a good pass rusher with a little bit of time. It’s a big class with Drew Barker the quarterback of the near future and WR Thaddeus Snodgrass a terrific name with a better game.

2013 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 35. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. It's an easy pitch for Mark Stoops - come to Kentucky and get a shot at the defensive line right away. Ends Alvonte Bell and Reggie Meant, along with JUCO transfer Za'Darius Smith, might all be as good as anything the Wildcats have coming back, while Jacob Hyde brings a much-needed 310-pound body to eventually stick on the inside. Safety Marcus McWilson and JUCO transfer Nate Willis need to be answers for the secondary.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 43. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive playmakers. The last three recruiting classes have mostly focused on upgrading the offense, but that didn’t exactly payoff in a dismal 2011. It was a young crew of talented skill players that needed time, but now it’s time to produce. The defense has to stronger and more productive, and this class is focusing on getting more options for an already decent-looking secondary. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 45. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receiver. The secondary gets a huge boost with safety Glen Faulkner a find and corners Eric Dixon and Daylen Hall, and the offensive line got help with tackle Darrian Miller a future All-SEC factor, but the bulk is at receiver. Rich Brooks focused on skill players a few years ago, and Joker Phillips loaded up with this class with six good receivers and tight end Alvin Dupree to boost the depth right away, but speedsters like Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins should be stars in the future.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 38. That Class Was Heavy On ... The running game. Last year Rich Brooks made sure the future of the passing game was set by bringing in three quarterbacks, five wide receivers and two tight ends. The future became the present with so many issues at quarterback last season. this year, new head man Joker Phillips made sure the running game was secure with four very good prospects led by Brandon Gainer out of Miami and Raymond Sanders out of Georgia. In an interesting move, Phillips also loaded up on tight ends bringing in four with Alex Smith a big blocker and Tyler Brause like a big receiver. Don't dismiss the big signing of Joe Mansour, one of the nation's top punting prospects.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 32. That Class Was Heavy On ... the passing game. Three quarterbacks, five wide receivers and two tight ends … head coach Rich Brooks is looking for more out of a passing attack that was supposed to feature Curtis Pulley, before he was booted off the team. There aren’t any stars at receiver, but Anthony Kendrick, Ridge Wilson, LaRod King and Chris Matthews are big. Really big. 6-3 and up big. The quarterback battle will be tremendous with Morgan Newton, Ryan Mossakowski and Brian Adams all starting-quality prospects.

at Georgia 59, Kentucky 17
Basically … Aaron Murray threw four first half touchdown passes before getting knocked out for the game with a knee injury. Arthur Lynch caught two short touchdown passes and Todd Gurley scored on pass plays from 16 and 24 yards away. Down 21-0, Kentucky got on the board with a 69-yard Dyshawn Mobley run, and was down 59-10 before scoring late on a 30-yard Javess Blue catch.
- Before getting hurt, Aaron Murray completed 18-of-23 passes for 183 yards and four touchdowns with a pick. Hutson Mason stepped in and completed 13-of-19 passes for 189 yards and a score and ran for a touchdown.
- Kentucky QB Maxwell Smith completed 10-of-16 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown.
- Kentucky RB Dyshawn Mobley ran ten times for 92 yards and a touchdown.
- Georgia RB Todd Gurley ran eight times for 77 yards and caught five passes for 90 yards and two scores.

at Vanderbilt 22, Kentucky 6
Basically … Kentucky scored in the first quarter on a two-yard Jojo Kemp run, and that was it for the Wildcat offense that turned it over four times and didn’t get back on the board. Vanderbilt scored 22 unanswered points, starting with Steven Clark returning the blocked extra point off the Kemp touchdown for two points. Carey Spear hit two field goals and Brian Kimbrow ran for a 21-yard score for the Commodores.
- The two teams combined for 19 penalties with Kentucky committing ten for 85 yards and Vanderbilt nine for 74 yards. Kentucky gave up four turnovers and Vandy didn’t give it up.
- Vanderbilt QB Austyn Carta-Samuels completed 19-of-24 passes for 184 yards.
- Kentucky QB Jalen Whitlow completed 14-of-28 passes for 120 yards with four picks, and he ran 17 times for a team-leading 69 yards.
- Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews caught 12 passes for 141 yards.

Missouri 48, at Kentucky 17
Basically … Down 3-0 early, Missouri cranked up 28 straight points to take control of the game with two Henry Josey touchdown runs and two Dorial Green-Beckham touchdown catches. DGB made two more scoring grabs in the second half on passes from 22 and seven yards out, and Josey ripped off an 86-yard touchdown dash to put it away for good. UK got into the end zone on one-yard runs from Jalen Whitlow and Raymond Sanders.
- James Franklin was available, but Maty Mauk took control of the game from the start finishing 17-of-28 for 203 yards and five scores. Dorial Green –Beckham caught seven passes for 100 yards and four scores.
- Kentucky’s Jalen Whitlow completed 17-of-27 passes for 225 yards, and he ran 24 times for 44 yards and a touchdown.
- Missouri came up with seven sacks, Kentucky zero. Kony Ealy came up with two sacks, Michael Sam didn’t get any.
- Kentucky controlled the clock, holding on to the ball for 37:26 having it for over 21 minutes in the second half.

at Kentucky 48, Alabama State 14
Basically … Jalen Whitlow ran for an 88-yard score on the opening drive, and after Alabama State scored on a 32-yard Isaiah Crowell touchdown run, Kentucky went on a 41-0 run helped by another Whitlow touchdown run and two more scoring passes. Demarco Robinson recovered a fumble in the end zone, and Joe Mansour hit two field goals before ASU got back on the board on a 68-yard Jamel Johnson touchdown catch.
- Jalen Whitlow completed 16-of-26 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and he led Kentucky with 101 rushing yards and two touchdowns on ten carries.
- Kentucky outgained Alabama State 422 yards to 297.
- Alabama State committed 11 penalties for 90 yards and lost two fumbles. Kentucky committed four penalties and didn’t turn the ball over.
- ASU RB Isaiah Crowell ran 12 times for 84 yards and a score.

at Mississippi State 28, Kentucky 22
Basically … Mississippi State built up a 21-7 first half lead on two Jameon Lewis touchdowns, the second coming on a 17-yard trick play pass, and Malcolm Johnson scores on a 60-yard scoring play, but it would be a fight to hang on. Kentucky answered Johnson’s play with a 51-yard Ryan Timmons touchdown catch and got two Joe Mansour field goals, with the second making it a six point game with just over eight minutes to play. The Bulldog defense held on.
- It’s Dak Prescott’s offense now. Tyler Russell saw a little time, but he only completed one of two passes for ten yards. Prescott was a passer, completing 23-of-34 passes for 268 yards and two scores, but he was held to just 33 rushing yards. I’Tavius Mathers showed flashes over the last few games, and he led the way with 65 yards on 12 carries. He’s not a workhorse, but he needs the ball more.
- Kentucky’s problem is consistency. The running game worked, with Raymond Sanders taking off for 86 yards, and Jojo Kemp added 63 yards and a score, but the offense sputtered in the fourth quarter and couldn’t do anything more than a field goal with the game on the line. It was a decent performance, but it was another loss.
- The Wildcats might be playing a little better, but can it get any luck with the right takeaway at the right time? With Alabama State up next, win No. 2 is coming, and this it’s time to play spoiler. Can the secondary hold up to deal with Missouri or stun Vanderbilt on the road? Mark Stoops needs something positive to build on.
- Was this the corner-turning moment for MSU? It was the first SEC win of the season, but it’s still going to be a fight to get two more wins to become bowl eligible with road games at South Carolina and Texas A&M up next before facing Alabama. The offense doesn’t have enough pop to win any of the three games – the D has to force turnovers. It didn’t come up with any against UK.

Alabama 48, at Kentucky 7
Basically … The Crimson Tide scored the first 31 points of the game with T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake each running for two scores. Following a 30-yard Javess Blue touchdown catch for UK in the third, it was all Bama the rest of the way with 17 unanswered points, highlighted by a 20-yard Kevin Norwood touchdown catch.
- Outside of two lost fumbles, there isn’t a lot for Nick Saban to complain about. The offense was sharp and balanced, cranking out 668 total yards, and AJ McCarron was excellent, completing 21-of-35 passes for 359 yards and a score. The 1-2 punch of T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake each rumbled for over 100 yards.
- Kentucky was playing the No. 1 team in the country, and it looked like it. There was one nice drive that led to points, and that was it for an offense that was stuffed on drive after drive. The Cats couldn’t keep the chains moving with too many misfires on third downs.
- The Wildcat defense has been fine at times this year, but it didn’t have any ideas to slow down the Tide attack. The defensive front was blasted off the ball throughout the game, and the Bama backs ran for too many big yards. Once again, Avery Williamson was the team’s defensive star with 13 stops and a fumble recovery.
- Yawn. Once again, Alabama was able to go through the motions, for the most part, in yet another cold, cool performance without having to work too hard. The No. 1 team in the country is making it look easy, and now the task is to stay interested with Arkansas and Tennessee up next before dealing with LSU.

at South Carolina 35, Kentucky 28
Basically … South Carolina appeared to be on its way to a nice and easy day, getting out to a 21-0 first half lead started out with a 62-yard Damiere Byrd touchdown catch from Connor Shaw, along with two Mike Davis touchdown runs. The 27-7 lead in the fourth quarter seemed insurmountable, but Kentucky fought back with two touchdown passes from Jalen Whitlow and a one-yard touchdown run to pull within seven after a Shaw short scoring run, but South Carolina got the onside kick and ran out the clock.
- Can South Carolina keep its focus for a full sixty minutes? It had Vanderbilt dead, but the game became a fight late. It didn’t show up against UCF, and then the team turned it on in the second half. Kentucky might be the worst team in the SEC, but USC allowed it back in the game late with a defense that couldn’t put the clamps down. The Gamecocks got the win, but it was a fight.
- Kentucky didn’t give up, showing great fight in the fourth quarter, and now the team knows that Jalen Whitlow really can play. He didn’t lead the way to the win, but he completed 17-of-24 passes for 178 yards and two scores, and he ran for 69 yards and a touchdown. He was fantastic, and he almost pulled it off.
- Can this fourth quarter carry over for UK? With Alabama coming up next, probably not, but if the team can play like this against Mississippi State, there’s a chance to come up with an upset in Starkville. To do that, Whitlow needs help from the running backs, and the defense has to make more plays at the point of attack. South Carolina had too many manageable third down chances.
- Get ready for the storyline – Jadeveon Clowney’s ribs hurt and he sat out. Steve Spurrier was hardly happy about it, and while it didn’t matter for a while, the team needed him late. With quarterback Connor Shaw playing a week after getting hurt, and fighting his way to a 17-of-20, 262-yard, one score, 50 rushing yard day with one touchdown, Clowney sitting out could be divisive.

Florida 24, at Kentucky 7
Basically … Tyler Murphy filled in fine for Jeff Driskel, throwing a nine-yard touchdown pass to Trey Burton and running for a nine-yard score to give the Gators a 21-7 first half lead. Matt Jones kicked off the scoring for Florida with a two-yard touchdown run, and Austin Hardin put the game away in the fourth with a 33-yard field goal. Kentucky’s only score came on a Joe Mansour 25-yard run in the first.
- It was only one game against the worst team in the SEC, but Tyler Murphy was nearly flawless. He threw a pick, but he completed 15-of-18 passes for 156 yards and a score. He came up with lots and lots of safe throws, but he did what he needed to do. Matt Jones and his 176 rushing yards took the heat off.
- Kentucky was stuffed cold by the Florida defense – it needed more big mistakes from the Gator offense. Maxwell Smith only threw for 90 yards, and while Jalen Whitlow completed 5-of-6 passes, they went for just 35 yards. The quarterbacks were under constant pressure.
- Losing Dominique Easley will eventually be devastating, but not this week against Kentucky. The Florida defense got a nice game from Dante Fowler on the end, coming up with five tackles with two sacks. The D swallowed up the Wildcat ground game.
- Kentucky is going to have big, big problems against decent SEC defensive lines. The Wildcat offensive style isn’t working without the blocking coming from the offensive front – the backfield didn’t have any time to operate.

Louisville 27, at Kentucky 13, Sept. 14
Basically … Louisville didn’t exactly come out hot, but the defense kept the game tight. Teddy Bridgewater found DeVante Parker for a 13-yard touchdown and Senorise Perry scored twice on the way to a 27-6 lead before UK finally got into the end zone on a three-yard Alexander Montgomery catch late in the fourth.
- Because these things matter, it’ll be a hard sell for Teddy Bridgewater to win the Heisman after this. He completed 16-of-28 passes for 250 yards and a score, and while he didn’t make any mistakes and the Cardinals got the win, it was hardly impressive.
- Kentucky is still playing around with its quarterback situation, and both options had their good and bad moments. Maxwell Smith only completed 9-of-20 passes for 109 yards, while Jalen Whitlow showed more mobility and a wee bit more accuracy. Neither one could move the offense to meaningful points.
- Avery Williamson continues to be Kentucky’s main defensive playmaker making 15 stops with a tackle for loss. The defensive front got decent pressure at times on Bridgewater.
- Senorise Parker keeps establishing himself as the Cardinals’ main rusher, going 11 times for 100 yards and two scores. Michael Dyer had a nice game, too, with 62 yards on 11 carries.

at Kentucky 41, Miami University 7, Sept. 7
Basically … The Wildcats had no problems getting the offense rolling early as Jalen Whitlow kicked off the scoring with a nine-yard touchdown run and Maxwell Smith threw three long touchdown passes on the way to the easy win. Javess Blue closed out the first half with an 88-yard scoring play, and Jonathan George scored from 48 yards out. MU’s only touchdown came in the first half on a fumble recovery from Chris Wade.
- The two quarterback situation worked for UK. Maxwell Smith bombed away for 310 yards and three touchdowns on an effective 15-of-23 day, while Jalen Whitlow completed 10-of-12 passes and ran for 48 yards. Miami didn’t have any answers.
- Miami will never have a top-shelf running game, but the passing attack was a disaster for the second week in a row. Austin Boucher only completed 4-of-14 passes for 23 yards and was the team’s leading rusher with 28.
- Kentucky defensive end Za’Darius Smith was all but unblockable coming up with three sacks and six tackles.
- Miami was 1-of-16 on third down chances and was outgained 675 yards to 122.

WKU 35, Kentucky 26, Aug. 31
Basically … WKU took control of the game from the start with two Keshawn Simpson touchdown runs and an Antonio Andrews three-yard scoring dash. Kentucky stayed in the game helped by a five-yard Jonathan George touchdown run late in the first half, but WKU opened up the second half with 14 straight points to stay ahead for good.
- WKU wasn’t consistent and it struggled to keep the chains moving, but it controlled the clock and took advantage of every opportunity. The Hilltoppers were able to stay ahead and hung on.
- The Kentucky offense was sped up, but that turned into a problem with the attack wasn’t working. Maxwell Smith was effective late, and Jalen Whitlow connected on short passes early, but overall the offense didn’t come through when it had the chances.
- The Hilltoppers gave up a slew of yards, but they didn’t break. Xavius Boyd was a disruptive force making ten tackles with two sacks as the defense brought the heat from all angles.
- Get ready for a huge year from UK middle linebacker Avery Williamson. He came up with 14 tackles with a fumble recovery. He was in on everything.

Spring Analysis

Why To Be Excited ... There’s always a burst of enthusiasm and excitement when a new head coach takes over, and Mark Stoops comes in looking to change plenty of things around right away. For a team that was so miserable in so many areas over the last few years, and with some of the weaker SEC teams like Vanderbilt and Ole Miss showing that it’s possible to succeed in the brutal league, there aren’t any excuses being made. Like all new coaches, Stoops is saying all the right things about the team needing to attack more, being more aggressive, and get stronger and nastier overall, but in this case it could actually be true. He’s a different type of coach than Joker Phillips, and it’s going to be a different-looking team.

Why To Be Grouchy ... Here’s the problem. Stoops is all about the defense and getting tougher and more productive on that side of the ball, but the D wasn’t necessarily the problem. Yes, UK ranked 13th out of the 14 SEC teams in scoring defense and 11th in total D, but allowing 391 yards per game wasn’t that bad. The concern is on offense, and while seven starters return, the best player, guard Larry Warford, is gone along with center Matt Smith and top receiver La’Rod King. There’s still a major question mark at quarterback, hoping for Jalen Whitlow to take a step forward after taking over the top spot by the end of last year, and it would be nice if there was a steady ground game.

What Needs Working On ... Putting points on the board. It’s so simple – you can’t win if you don’t score. Kentucky hung 47 on a good Kent State team, put up 31 in the loss to WKU, shocked Georgia with 24 points, and blew up FCSer Samford for 24 points. The offense failed to score more than 17 in any of the other eight games while getting blown out by Louisville, Florida, South Carolina, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The defense will get plenty of attention under Stoops, but at some point, the offense has to start carrying some of the weight.

Non-Conference Games: WKU, Miami University, Louisville, Alabama State
Games Against The West: Alabama, at Mississippi State
Realistic Best Case Record: 6-6
Worst Case Record: 2-10
Likely Finish: 3-9

Pre-Preseason Projected Wins: WKU, Miami University, Alabama State

Pre-Preseason Projected Losses: Louisville, Florida, at South Carolina, Alabama, at Mississippi State, Missouri, at Vanderbilt, at Georgia, Tennessee

Schedule Analysis: After the problems of last year and with a new coaching staff, the Wildcats need wins and they need them fast. However, Western Kentucky and head coach Bobby Petrino won’t be pushovers in the opener in Nashville, but it’s a must win as is the follow-up with Miami University before the rivalry date against Louisville. Alabama State is the other non-conference game, but that’s not until early November.

There’s a week off before one of the nastiest three game stretches on any schedule – Florida, at South Carolina, Alabama. There’s a break after the date with the Tide before having to go to Mississippi State. The Alabama State game will be a much-needed break, but beating Missouri at home the week after could turn out to be the key to the season – it’s a winnable home game before having to go on the road to face Vanderbilt and Georgia. The year ends up with Tennessee at home.

Team Concerns For 2013:
Offense, offense, offense. New head coach Mark Stoops' first job is to jumpstart an attack that averaged under 18 points per game and sputtered and coughed in SEC play scoring 17 points or fewer in every league game except the 29-24 loss to Georgia. The passing game was painfully inefficient with an unsettled quarterback situation, and the defense couldn't pick up the slack getting bombed on time and again. Generating more stops behind the line is a must for the defensive front.

The 2013 Class Is Heavy On ... Defensive linemen. It's an easy pitch for Mark Stoops - come to Kentucky and get a shot at the defensive line right away. Ends Alvonte Bell and Reggie Meant, along with JUCO transfer Za'Darius Smith, might all be as good as anything the Wildcats have coming back, while Jacob Hyde brings a much-needed 310-pound body to eventually stick on the inside. Safety Marcus McWilson and JUCO transfer Nate Willis need to be answers for the secondary.

2012 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 43. That Class Was Heavy On ... Defensive playmakers. The last three recruiting classes have mostly focused on upgrading the offense, but that didn’t exactly payoff in a dismal 2011. It was a young crew of talented skill players that needed time, but now it’s time to produce. The defense has to stronger and more productive, and this class is focusing on getting more options for an already decent-looking secondary. 

2011 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 45. That Class Was Heavy On ... Receiver. The secondary gets a huge boost with safety Glen Faulkner a find and corners Eric Dixon and Daylen Hall, and the offensive line got help with tackle Darrian Miller a future All-SEC factor, but the bulk is at receiver. Rich Brooks focused on skill players a few years ago, and Joker Phillips loaded up with this class with six good receivers and tight end Alvin Dupree to boost the depth right away, but speedsters like Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins should be stars in the future.

2010 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 38. That Class Was Heavy On ... The running game. Last year Rich Brooks made sure the future of the passing game was set by bringing in three quarterbacks, five wide receivers and two tight ends. The future became the present with so many issues at quarterback last season. this year, new head man Joker Phillips made sure the running game was secure with four very good prospects led by Brandon Gainer out of Miami and Raymond Sanders out of Georgia. In an interesting move, Phillips also loaded up on tight ends bringing in four with Alex Smith a big blocker and Tyler Brause like a big receiver. Don't dismiss the big signing of Joe Mansour, one of the nation's top punting prospects.

2009 CFN Recruiting Ranking: 32. That Class Was Heavy On ... the passing game. Three quarterbacks, five wide receivers and two tight ends … head coach Rich Brooks is looking for more out of a passing attack that was supposed to feature Curtis Pulley, before he was booted off the team. There aren’t any stars at receiver, but Anthony Kendrick, Ridge Wilson, LaRod King and Chris Matthews are big. Really big. 6-3 and up big. The quarterback battle will be tremendous with Morgan Newton, Ryan Mossakowski and Brian Adams all starting-quality prospects.


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