2007 Kentucky Preview - Offense
Kentucky Wildcat Offense
Preview 2007 - Offense
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What you need to know:
The Wildcat offense exploded last
year thanks to the emergence of Andre Woodson as a superstar
quarterback. It'll be bombs away once again, as Woodson chose to
come back for his senior year and will have all his weapons at
his disposal. Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy, and he
became one of the SEC's most lethal receivers. Dicky Lyons,
tight end Jacob Tamme, and running back Rafael Little are also
back, with Little healthy enough again to be one of the SEC's
best all-around offensive weapons. The problem is the line,
which is mediocre at best, a liability at worst. It could be
what keeps the Wildcats from being special.
Passing: Andre Woodson
264-419, 3,515 yds, 31 TD, 7 INT
Rushing: Rafael Little
140 carries, 673 yds, 3 TD
Receiving: Keenan Burton
77 catches, 1,036 yds, 12
Star of the offense: Senior QB Andre Woodson
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior OT
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore TE T.C. Drake
Best pro prospect: Woodson
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Woodson, 2) WR Keenan
Burton, 3) RB Rafael Little
Strength of the offense: Skill positions
Weakness of the offense: Offensive line
Projected Starter: Going into last year, Andre
Woodson was in a battle with star recruit Curtis Pulley for
the starting job. That quickly changed, and now the senior went
from being a possible backup to a possible first round NFL draft
pick. He always had the measurables with 6-5, 230-pound size,
tremendous strength, a huge arm, and great accuracy, holding the
school record for most consecutive throws without an
interception. He started making better decisions and was quicker
at getting rid of the ball, and the results were tremendous with
3,515 yards, 31 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions
while completing 63% of his passes.
Projected Top Reserves: The second best
quarterback on the team is Curtis Pulley, but the star
recruit of a few years ago has chosen to redshirt so he'll have
two years remaining once Woodson leaves. That leaves a gaping
hole for the number two job. 6-6, 201-pound redshirt freshman
Mike Hartline will be the first option. While he got
stronger in the last year, he still has plenty of room to grow
into his height. With a terrific arm and good mobility, he's a
decent prospect who still needs more developing.
Redshirt freshman Will Fidler is a 6-4, 216-pound bomber
who'll battle with Hartline for the number two job. A talented
pro-style passer, he has the tools to be another good one in
time, but he'll likely have to work and wait a few years before
getting an honest shot at the starting job.
Watch Out For ... Woodson against the top teams.
He lit up Vanderbilt, UL Monroe, Ole Miss and Mississippi State
like a Christmas tree, but struggled was average against
Florida, LSU, Georgia and Tennessee. He did have a nearly
flawless performance against Clemson.
Strength: Passers. Woodson, Hartline and Fidler can all
wing it around. They all have NFL-caliber arms and they can all
put it anywhere they want to.
Weakness: Backups. This is a problem, and a potentially
big one. With Pulley not around to rely on, it'll be sink or
swim with Woodson in the hopes that he can stay healthy.
Hartline and Fidler have potential, but they're not ready for
the SEC primetime.
Woodson is one of the nation's five most talented quarterbacks,
and now he has to be even better and even more consistent to
keep the UK offense rolling. He has all the skills and all the
size you'd want in a passer, and now he has the experience and
the confidence. If he plays the entire year, he'll put up
tremendous numbers and the Wildcats will have a great year. If
he gets banged up and the backups enter the picture, the season
might not go down the tubes, but there will be problems.
Projected Starters: 5-10, 195-pound senior
Rafael Little has been one of the SEC's best all-around
players when he's been able to stay healthy. Thanks to a knee
problem, he only played in nine games last year, but he led the
team with 673 rushing yards and three touchdown, and was fourth
on the team with 31 catches for 392 yards and two scores. He's
also one of the nation's elite punt returners, averaging 22.6
yards per try. Extremely quick and productive, the coaching
staff tries to find every way possible to get him the ball.
Trying to pave the way for Little, and help the cause behind a
shaky line, will be 6-3, 250--pound sophomore Maurice Grinter,
who only got one carry for a one-yard touchdown and three
catches for 18 yards and a score. Fast, big and physical, he
needs to get over a tendonitis problem in his knee to be more
Projected Top Reserves: 5-9, 203-pound junior
Tony Dixon is a decent, experienced reserve who stepped in
when Little was hurt and ran for 303 yards and four touchdowns.
He appeared ready to become the starter as a freshman before
suffering a broken leg, and then Little emerged as a star. The
former cornerback is a stronger runner than he appears with
tremendous speed and hands.
Third in the mix will be 6-1, 190-pound Alfonso Smith, a
good prospect who hasn't been able to break through and get a
whole bunch of playing time. He ran 60 times last year for 250
yards and two touchdowns, and caught six passes for 96 yards,
and now the sophomore should get more chances to use his track
228-pound sophomore John Conner is a former walk-on who's
mostly been a special teamer. He started out the year as the
starting fullback, but quickly gave way to a third receiver
thrown into the rotation, and to Grinter. He won't get the ball
his way too much, if at all, but he got a touchdown on one of
his two catches.
Watch Out For ... Little to be the Little of 2005.
He certainly wasn't bad last year, but he started out with a
wrist injury, and was never quite right with his bad knee. After
having surgery on his knee, and getting some rest, he should be
back and ready to roll.
Strength: Rotation. Little can do a little of
everything, and Dixon and Smith showed last year that they're
able to run the ball well at times. The backups aren't going to
dominate and aren't going to scare anyone, but they can play.
Weakness: The offensive line. The front five didn't give
the backs a whole bunch of room to move, and it likely won't be
much better this year. The backs will have to create many of
their own plays.
Even if Rafael Little returns 100%
healthy, Kentucky, statistically, won't be among the SEC's
rushing leaders thanks to an average line and several sacks sure
to be taken by Andre Woodson. Even so, Little is one of the
league's most explosive backs and should be the key cog in the
attack. Tony Dixon and Alfonso Smith are good backup options who
could shine if they got some consistent holes.
Projected Starters: 6-2, 195-pound senior
Keenan Burton finally stayed healthy for a full season and
showed what he could do, blowing up with 77 catches for 1,036
yards and 12 touchdowns. He showed off the speed and moves he
displayed early in his career, but had problems with a wrist
injury early on and a foot problem as a sophomore. Now he has to
show he can rip apart the better teams. Nine of his scores came
against Central Michigan, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and UL
Monroe, and while he was great against Georgia, he was held in
check by Florida, South Carolina, LSU, Tennessee and Clemson.
More than just a sidekick to Burton, 5-11, 190-pound junior
Dicky Lyons emerged as a playmaker in his own right with 50
grabs for 822 yards and nine scores. He scored two touchdowns in
each of his first three games and came up with just three in his
final ten games, but he showed off his flashes of great speed
throughout the year to finish with a 16.4-yard-per-catch
6-5, 240-pound senior tight end Jacob Tamme emerged as a
top target, finishing third on the team with 32 grabs for 386
yards and two scores. He started out his career as a big wide
receiver, and now he's a matchup nightmare with enough speed to
be used deep and good enough hands to be a reliable third down
target. He's not going to block anyone, but that's not what he's
Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 186-pound junior
DeMoreo Ford didn't quite play as well as expected as he was
still recovering from a knee injury that cost him most of 2005.
He has the speed to be a field-stretcher, evidenced by a 70-yard
score in the win over Clemson, and now he should do even more
playing behind Lyons.
One of the team's steadier targets is 6-3, 198-pound senior
Steve Johnson, one of the better receivers in spring ball.
He'll see time in three-wide sets after making 12 catches for
159 yards and a score last season, but he's not going to push
Burton for starting time. With his size and athleticism, he'll
be too strong to keep off the field for long.
Working as a promising backup option behind Tamme, and in two
tight end sets, will be 6-6, 230-pound sophomore T.C. Drake,
a great receiver who is yet another tall, big wideout playing
tight end. He'll have to battle with 6-5, 240-pound sophomore
Ross Bogue, who's a bit more of a blocker, for time, but
everyone will get passes their way.
Watch Out For ... the tight ends to get even more
work. Tamme is a sure-thing, but it'll be the emergence of Drake
and Bogue that'll allow the passing game to be even more
efficient. All the tight ends can run good routes and catch, and
all will be found by Andre Woodson to keep things moving.
Strength: Experience. The top three receivers return,
and make it four if you include running back Rafael Little.
Burton is an All-SEC star who'll be the focus of everyone's
defensive game plan, and that'll open things up for everyone
Weakness: Relying on Burton for a full season.
Considering the injury problems of the past, the team had better
have a plan B ready in case its star goes down for any stretch
of time. Johnson and Ford are good backups, but they're not
There's a vast array of weapons for
Andre Woodson to work with and plenty of chances to spread the
ball around. With so much experience and so many good hands to
make teams pay for keying on Keenan Burton, it'll be another
huge year for the passing game. Expect a steady rotation of
several players to keep throwing different looks at defenses,
but it'll be Burton, Dicky Lyons, and Jacob Tamme who make the
Projected Starters: The line is considered a problem area, but
the left side should be decent with the return of junior Garry
Williams at tackle and junior Christian Johnson at guard.
The 6-3, 290-pound Williams took over the starting job in the second
week of the season and never let it go, becoming the team's best
lineman. While he struggled at times with his consistency in pass
protection, he showed flashes of All-SEC caliber talent and should be
the rock of the Wildcat line for the next two seasons.
The 6-4, 325-pound Johnson got better as the season wore on and should
be one of the team's best run blocker. With a great combination of size
and strength, he's a rock who should flourish next to Williams.
One of the keys to the line will be the expected emergence of 6-5,
275-pound senior Eric Scott at center. While he's not all that
big, the former defensive lineman is extremely physical and one of the
best athletes on the line. No UK lineman moves as fast or as well as he
The right side will be the biggest question mark, with the biggest hole
to be filled at tackle with 6-5, 283-pound junior James Alexander
taking over for Michael Aitcheson. A veteran reserve who started the
opener on the left side, and should be decent as the season goes on in
pass protection. Even though he's spent the last few years beefing up,
he's still undersized. However, he can move.
Stepping in at guard will be 6-1, 287-pound senior Jason Leger, a
former defensive tackle who's still trying to figure out the ins and
outs of playing on the offensive side. He got a few starts at guard, but
he ended up getting hurt and was out this spring. He needs to emerge as
a consistent all-around blocker.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-2, 277-pound JUCO
transfer Jess Beets was expected to step in and emerge as a
starter at right guard, but he was hurt and underwent knee surgery this
spring. If and when he's ready to go this fall, he'll likely be in the
starting mix, giving Leger a huge push.
JUCO transfer Josh Winchell will see plenty of playing time at
right tackle if he doesn't take over the starting job. At 6-3 and 305
pounds, he's a far bigger prospect than Alexander with the size and the
feet to become a key factor. He has to be healthy and he has to show he
can be consistent.
The team's top recruit this year is Stuart Hines, a tremendous
prospect who needs to add around 15 pounds to his 275-pound frame.
Considering the concerns and the question marks along the line, he might
see time sooner than later if he doesn't move over to the defensive
Watch Out For ... the JUCO transfers. The plan was
for Beets and Winchell to step in and shine right away on the right
side. It still might happen this fall as long as everyone is healthy. If
nothing else, these two have to provide quality, dependable depth.
Strength: The left side. Williams and Johnson might be
the keys to the offense. If they progress as expected, the Wildcats will
have an area to build around and work behind.
Weakness: Blocking. If you have an offensive line that
can't do that, it's a problem, and there wasn't much help this spring
with a slew of injuries proving to be a problem in creating some sort of
And here's the problem. Kentucky might have skill players
to light up anyone in the SEC, but they're not going to have a whole
bunch of time to work behind a line that'll need at least a few games
before the right fit is found. Write the depth chart in pencil; several
things are going to change early on and several players will get chances