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2008 Kentucky Preview - Offense
Kentucky OT Garry Williams
Kentucky OT Garry Williams
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Apr 28, 2008


CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Kentucky Wildcat Offense

Kentucky Wildcats

Preview 2008 - Offense

- 2008 CFN Kentucky Preview | 2008 Kentucky Offense
- 2008 Kentucky Defense
| 2008 Kentucky Depth Chart
- 2007 CFN Kentucky Preview
| 2006 CFN Kentucky Preview   

What you need to know:
Everyone of note has to be replaced. QB Andre Woodson and his 40 touchdown passes. gone. Keenan Burton, Steve Johnson and Jacob Tamme, who combined for 182 catches and 28 touchdowns ... gone. Leading rusher Rafael Little, who also caught 42 passes, is also gone. However, there's tremendous speed returning at receiver and running back with Alfonso Smith about to become the back the offense can work around. Derrick Locke isn't a bad second option. Dicky Lyons is the one returning receiver of note, but he has to prove he's a No. 1. The line, led by all-star tackle Garry Williams, is experienced, but it has to be far, far better in pass protection to give the new starting quarterback time. And there's the problem. With Curtis Pulley booted from the team, it's now up to Mike Hartline, and he didn't exactly rock the Casbah in practices. He'll be decent, but he has to be great for an offense that led the SEC in passing in each of the last two seasons.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Mike Hartline
4-6, 34 yds, 0 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Derrick Locke
94 carries, 521 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: DIcky Lyons
56 catches, 655 yds, 7 TD

Star of the offense: Senior OT Garry Williams
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore QB Mike Hartline
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore WR Kyrus Lanxter
Best pro prospect: Williams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Williams, 2) RB Alfonso Smith, 3) WR Dicky Lyons
Strength of the offense: Speed, Line experience
Weakness of the offense: Pass protection, quarterback

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: It's not like Mike Hartline was the main backup last season completing just four of six passes for 34 yards with an interception in his limited time, and now he's the main man after Curtis Pulley was kicked off the team. With a terrific arm and decent mobility, though not as much as Pulley, the 6-6, 201-pound sophomore has decent tools and plenty of upside. He's still not polished, but he's a good prospect.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Will Fidler is the clear No. 3, and more than Pulley and Hartline, he's a bomber. A good, pro-style passer, he never got a shot last year after suffering a shoulder injury causing him to miss most of the season. While he has the tools to be a good one in time, he'll still have to wait for his opportunity to arise.

It was a dead-even heat for the starting quarterback job going into the fall, but Curtis Pulley was kicked off the team after violating team rules. The 6-4, 200-pound junior was a star for the scout team last year, and was a head-turning recruit for the program a few years ago, and now he has to put together his career somewhere else. He redshirted last year, with Andre Woodson returning for his final season, and saw a little time as a receiver catching 21 passes in 2006, and serving as a strong special teamer. He's tall and thin, but he has a strong arm to go along with his great mobility.


Watch Out For ... Hartline to be fine. Neither Pulley nor Hartline has taken the job by the horns, and the slightest opening from either one would've given the other one a shot to step in. Now the pressure is off and it's all Hartline.
Strength
:
Passers. Hartline and Fidler can wing it around with NFL-caliber arms. Helping the cause is mobility, with Hartline having more than Andre Woodson.
Weakness
:
Experience. Pulley's main experience was at receiver, while Hartline has seen minimal action. There isn't enough on the field production to be comfortable.
Outlook:
The top high school prospects have to play up to their hype. Pulley had the skills, but he never really showed them off, while Hartline is just good enough to take the starting job and hold it for the next three years if he shows a little more consistency. Hartline isn't Woodson, but he'll  have to become the leader of the offense right now.
Rating: 6.5

Running Backs

Projected Starters: While losing the all-around talents of Rafael Little will hurt, especially after a 1,013-yard, three touchdown season, but Alfonso Smith should grow into a better pure runner. The 6-1, 200-pound junior had a great spring after running 21 times for 149 yards and two touchdowns averaging 7.1 yards per carry, and caught seven passes for 22 yards and a score. Along with his offensive duties he was a great special teamer, but he got banged up with an ankle injury. He has the size and the track speed, and now he'll get to show it off more.

5-11, 228-pound junior John Conner will try to pave the way for Smith and the ground game when the offense uses a fullback. He only ran six times, but he averaged 6.2 yards per carry with two scores, and he caught seven passes for 37 yards and two scores. While he's not big, he's a physical blocker and strong special teamer.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Derrick Locke had a nice first season finishing second on the team with 521 yards and five touchdowns averaging 5.5 yards per carry. At 5-10 and 180 pounds, he's no big, but he can move. Really move. An All-America long jumper, he has devastating speed and showed last year that he's not a track guy playing football; he can play. He caught seven passes for 86 yards, and should do far more. The coaching staff will invent ways to get him the ball in space.

Senior Tony Dixon is a 5-9, 203-pound veteran who finished third on the team with 411 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.7 yards per carry, and he caught 13 passes for 91 yards. Now he needs a little luck. The former cornerback suffered a broken leg as a freshman and had a variety of problems last year with an ankle problem and a shoulder injury. His 2006 was off because he had a hamstring injury. Now he has to get back in the mix after missing time this spring hurt.

Adding more bulk at fullback is 5-11, 240-pound junior A.J. Nance, a linebacker who could move back to the defensive side if needed. He started out as a strongside linebacker making eight tackles, was moved to the middle, and then made the switch to fullback as the only option over 228 pounds.

Watch Out For ... Smith to add even more pop to the running game. Considering Little was supposed to be a gamebreaker, and he usually was, his biggest run was just 38 yards. Smith will have at least three runs longer than that this year.
Strength
:
Speed. Smith is a high school track guy with excellent wheels in a 200-pound body. Locke is an elite NCAA track guy who has next level wheels and athleticism. Each of them should do big things when they get the ball in space.
Weakness
:
Health. Dixon can't shake the injury bug, Smith has an ankle problem and Locke isn't all that big and won't be able to take a big pounding. There are several options to work with, but they all need to be part of the mix for the ground game to work.
Outlook:
Even with the SEC's most productive passing game, the running game wasn't ignored. Now, even without Little, it should be even better with three very fast, very promising options. However, everyone has to stay healthy. There are weapons to work with to allow the offense to switch to a more balanced attack.
Rating: 7

Receivers

Projected Starters: Almost everyone is gone except one key cog in the receiving mix. 5-11, 190-pound senior Dicky Lyons finished third on the team with 56 catches for 655 yards and seven touchdowns, and while he's been a productive receiver and return man, now he has to be a No. 1 target. The key will be consistency. He has thrived as a second and third banana, and has shown excellent flashes, catching eight passes for 124 yards and three touchdowns against Florida, but he'll have to show he can be the main man week in and week out.

Sophomore Kyrus Lanxter is a 6-3, 187-pound speedster and big-time recruit who needs to grow into a deep threat. He saw time as a true freshman catching a pass for six yards in his five games of work, and now he'll be asked to become an immediate terror. He averaged 32.6 yards per catch as a high school senior and he has big-play potential.

Trying to replace Jacob Tamme at tight end will be junior T.C. Drake, and he's a good one. More of a tall, big wideout than a normal tight end, the 6-6, 235-pounder only caught one pass last year, but it went for a two-yard touchdown. He showed this off-season that he could become a regular part of the offense and might be a field stretcher.

Projected Top Reserves: 5-10, 186-pound junior DeMoreo Ford has been still fighting to get back in after recovering from a knee injury that cost him most of 2005, and he struggled last year to make an impact with just seven catches for 47 yards. Now he has to come back after rupturing a patella tendon. When healthy, has the speed to be a field-stretcher, evidenced by a 70-yard score in the win over Clemson in 2006, but ne needs some luck.

Former defensive back E.J. Adams will move over to the offensive side after making ten tackles and breaking up a pass last year in nine games, with two starters, in the secondary. The 6-0, 190-pound junior is a big-time athlete who has the ability to replace Steve Johnson as a dangerous deep threat, and he should also be great when he has a chance to make something happen on short passes.

Looking to become a factor will be Anthony Mosley, a 6-0, 170-pound redshirt freshman who had a nice first year on the practice squad and now will look to see time behind Lyons. One of the team's fastest players, he runs a 4.36 40 and is still working on getting better. A high school track guy, he took up football late in his career.

While Drake is more of a receiving tight end, 6-5, 240-pound junior Ross Bogue is more of a blocker. A good special teamer for the last two yards, he has the ability to be a part of the offense and showed good enough receiving skills this off-season to be a factor.

Watch Out For ...Lanxter. He still needs a lot of polish and he's going to make a ton of mistakes, but he has the speed and the talent to eventually become a big-time playmaker. Now he needs to learn how to play fast.
Strength
:
Speed. Lanxter can fly, Mosley is a special runner, and Adams is a tremendous athlete. These are just the complementary targets to Lyons. Getting deep won't be a problem.
Weakness
:
Experience. Throwing RB Rafael Little in the equation, UK loses four of its top five targets, tied for sixth on the list are two running backs and Ford, who's banged up. Basically, it's Lyons and a bunch of new guys.
Outlook:
There's going to be a big-time learning curve here. There's upside, talent, and lots and lots of speed, but considering the corps won't have a veteran quarterback like Andre Woodson making things easier, it could be a wildly inconsistent year. Even so, expect lots of deep ball and plenty of home runs.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Linemen

Projected Starters
:
The line might not have done much in pass protection and was merely mediocre for the running game, but it has a star in senior Garry Williams, who is going into his third year as the starter at left tackle after earning All-SEC honors last year. the 6-3, 300-pounder is a pounder for the ground game and isn't a miserable pass protector, but he'll get his doors blown off by the speed rushers. Even so, he's a good one to work around with 28 career starts.

Taking over at left guard in a full-time role is Christian Johnson, a 6-4, 325-pound senior who started three games last season. He started 12 games in 2006, was suspended in the spring of 2007, and will now be among the team's best run blockers.
. With a great combination of size and strength, along with plenty of experience, he'll be a reliable cog in the system.

Replacing Eric Scott at center will be junior Jorge Gonzalez, and he could be one of the biggest question marks up front with only four games of experience thanks to a knee injury that knocked him out in 2006. He's not anywhere near the athlete Scott was, but at 6-3 and 300 pounds, he's bigger.

6-2, 285-pound senior Jess Beets saw five games of action after coming in from the JUCO ranks where he earned All-America honors at Saddleback College. He was going to step in and start right away and become a bigger factor, but he suffered a knee injury in spring ball of 2007 and it took a while to get back. He'll get the nod at right guard.

Junior Justin Jeffries was an All-Freshman selection two years ago working as a defensive and offensive lineman. He and was one of the team's most reliable offensive players starting every game at right tackle. At 6-6 and 310 pounds, he has the size and the long arms to be much stronger in pass protection.

Projected Top Reserves: While Johnson will get the first look at left guard, he'll still have to fight off 6-5, 285-pound junior Zipp Duncan for the gig. Duncan started 10 games last year on the left side and three on the right. Originally he came to Kentucky as a good tight end prospect and a possible defensive end before moving over to tackle full time early last year. He's one of the team's more athletic guards.

6-4, 310-pound sophomore Brad Durham saw time in every game as a true freshman on special teams, and now he'll work behind Jeffries at right tackle. He has seen just enough action on offense to not be coming into the season cold, but he'll need to more work to be ready for a starting job in 2009.

The team's top recruit last year was redshirt freshman Stuart Hines, a tremendous prospect who needs to keep adding weight to do more at right guard. He bulked up over the last year to get to 285 pounds on his 6-4 frame, and very soon he'll need to be a key contributor.

6-5, 298-pound junior James Alexander missed all of last year with a back problem, but he has extensive experience starting a few times over his first two seasons at both tackle spots. He's very strong and very athletic behind Williams at left tackle.

Watch Out For ... a bit of a battle for the guard spots. While Beets and Johnson are the best options, Duncan is a decent veteran with enough starting experience to push for one of the jobs going into the season.
Strength
:
The left side. Williams and Johnson are good big men on the left side, and Duncan isn't a slouch if he steps into the guard role. Williams has the potential to be an NFL starter if he comes up with a strong year. This is the area the offense will work behind.
Weakness
:
Pass protection. The size and experience on the line helped pave the way to a good rushing season, but Andre Woodson almost got killed as the line allowed an SEC-most 38 sacks. There's too much experience to not be better.
Outlook:
The line has size, depth, and plenty of options to play around with, but it has to be far better in pass protection with a new starting quarterback getting his feet wet. Williams is a star at left tackle and the other four spots are solid. Now they have to be great.
Rating: 6.5