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2009 Kentucky Preview - Offense
Kentucky WR Randall Cobb
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Kentucky Wildcat Offense
Preview 2009 - Offense
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What you need to know: Everyone
needed to be replaced from the big-time UK offense of 2007, and
it showed finishing 106th in the nation in offense and averaging
just 22.6 points per game. There should be a big improvement
this season with most of the key starters returning. It'll all
start up front with a potentially strong line with four senior
starters leading the way, but there has to be more of a push for
the ground game. There's speed to burn in the backfield, and if
everyone is healthy, there should be plenty of fireworks when
the athletic backs get the ball in their hands. The receiving
corps can fly, but there needs to be more from the tight ends
and a No. 2 target has to step up and shine next to Randall
Cobb. QB Mike Hartline was fine at times last year, but nothing
special, and now he'll try to become more of a leader and a
playmaker for the offense. He has the arm, the receivers have
the speed, and the line will provide the time. There's no reason
UK should have the nation's 105th most efficient passing game
Passing: Mike Hartline
172-311, 1,666 yds, 9 TD, 8 INT
Rushing: Randall Cobb
79 carries, 316 yds, 7 TD
Receiving: Derrick Locke
23 catches, 195 yds, 1 TD
Star of the offense:
Sophomore WR Randall Cobb
Player who has to step up and become a star: Senior TE
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore OG Stuart Hines
Best pro prospect: Cobb
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Cobb, 2) RB Alfonso
Smith, 3) RB Derrick Locke
Strength of the offense: Speed, Line Experience
Weakness of the offense: Running Game, No. 2 Receiver
The idea is for junior Mike
Hartline to become more of a playmaker and not just be
along for the ride. He held the starting job for most of last
year and did a decent job, completing 55% of his passes for
1,666 yards and nine touchdowns with eight interceptions, but he
was hardly special. The 6-6, 204-pounder has a big arm and good
all-around tools, but the pure drop-back passer isn't a runner
and he needs to be more efficient while coming up with more big
plays. While he might not have been special, he had his moments,
highlighted by earning the Most Outstanding Offensive Player
honor in the Liberty Bowl throwing for 204 yards and a score
against East Carolina.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Will Fidler
was the No. 3 man last year and got a little bit of mop-up time
completing 3-of-4 passes for 26 yards. The 6-4, 225-pounder is a
bomber who has gotten better and better in practices and is
being given every opportunity to show what he can do. Over the
shoulder injury that caused him to miss most of 2007, he's
expected to be the second man in the mix and could even see a
start or two if Hartline struggles.
sophomore Tyler Sargent is a walk-on with the
smarts and the arm to step in if there's an absolute emergency.
While the coaching staff would likely turn to Randall Cobb if
it's down to the No. 3 quarterback, Sargent is getting his
chances in practice to show he could play if needed.
Ryan Mossakowski was one of the team's top
recruits getting offers by several other big-time schools. He
could've gone almost anywhere, but the 6-4, 201-pound Texan will
push for the starting job right away with a great arm and
tremendous quickness. Not only did the 6-4, 201-pounder throw
for 6,834 yards and 49 scores in three years, but he ran for 787
yards and 19 scores.
Morgan Newton was
Indiana's Mr. Football after throwing for 22 scores and rushing
for 26 more. The 6-4, 220-pounder led his team to three straight
state titles and will be given every shot to show what he can do
right away. While not considered the prospect that Mossakowki
is, he's not far off.
Watch Out For ... Hartline to be the unquestioned
No. 1. There might be some talk about an open competition for
the job, it's Hartline's gig. Fidler has showed enough to see
action, but he's not going to be the starter unless Hartline
falls flat on his face.
Strength: Passers. The coaching staff has gone after
pro-style, big passers, and it has them. There are several big
arms to go around. Pushing the ball down the field shouldn't be
Weakness: Mobility. With Randall Cobb firmly entrenched
at wide receiver, there's no rushing element whatsoever coming
out of the backfield.
The Wildcats have a nice twosome in
Hartline and Fidler who have improved, and there's always Cobb
to throw on the field if there's a big problem. Hartline isn't
going to earn any all-SEC honors, but he should be a
better-than-serviceable. He'll win a few games for the team this
year by being more effective than the quarterback on the other
6-1, 204-pound senior Alfonso Smith is a big,
tough runner with track speed and the ability to use it when he
gets into the open. However, he has made his biggest plays as a
receiver, catching 16 passes for 204 yards and a score
highlighted by a 71-yard play against Arkansas. Very smart and
very promising, it's time for him to be more than a strong
special teamer. He averaged 4.2 yards per carry last season
rushing for 313 yards and two scores, and he can do far more. 92
of his rushing yards came against Mississippi State, and he has
been fine when he's been given the workload to handle.
5-11, 240-pound senior John Conner has done a
nice job of paving the way for the running game over the last
few years and has been a strong special teamer. He ran for 47
yards and caught 11 passes for 89 yards, but his role is mostly
to be a blocker and to be a jack-of-all-trades. After bulking up
he could end up doing more in short yardage situations.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Moncell
Allen is quick enough to be used as a tailback, and at
5-7 and 225 pounds, sturdy enough to be a blocking fullback.
Academics have been an issue, but when everything is right, he
should be a key part of the rushing attack after going for just
202 yards with a score last season and catching five passes for
39 yards and a touchdown. Great in practices, he has to show he
can produce on the field.
Junior Derrick Locke
has phenomenal athleticism and next-level speed, but he has to
get past a blown out knee suffered halfway through the season.
Originally, his knee was considered so bad that he wasn't
expected to play again. While he'll need more time to get back,
and he might not be the same athlete he was when he was an
All-America-caliber long-jumper. He ran for 303 yards with a
score, highlighted by a 96-yard day against Norfolk State, but
he was tremendous as a receiver catching 23 passes for 195 yards
and a score. He was also an elite kickoff returner averaging
28.5 yards per try with a 100-yard return for a score against
Western Kentucky. When he's right, he'll be used in a variety of
Adding more bulk to the mix is A.J. Nance,
a 5-11, 250-pound junior who moved over from linebacker to the
backfield. He only ran three times, but he was a strong special
teamer and wasn't bad when he had to block for the running game.
It'll be a shock if he ever handles the ball, but he knows what
he's doing now and should be used more on offense while
continuing to be great in kickoff coverage.
Watch Out For ... more creativity. The running
game struggled throughout last year and needed Randall Cobb to
get the ball in a variety of ways. The quarterbacks aren't going
to do any running and the backs will have to do more when they
get the chance. The coaching staff will have to get the ball to
the receivers more on end-arounds and will have to design more
Strength: Speed. Smith and Locke are as fast as any
backs in the SEC. They didn't break off enough big plays last
year, but they have too much speed to not be given the ball time
and again to hope for the home run. There's no reason the ground
game should average 3.7 yards per carry.
Weakness: Health. Smith has had ankle issues, Allen,
while healthy, has had other problems, and Locke has to get his
knee right. The production has been way too mediocre with the
team's leading rusher, Tony Dixon, only running for 430 yards.
He's gone, and now it'll be up to Smith, Allen, and Locke to
The running backs have to do more
than just be along for the ride. They can all catch and there's
enough speed to hope for far more pop and much more production
now that Randall Cobb will do more as a receiver.
With leading receiver Dicky Lyons gone, the
hope is for Randall Cobb to provide more pop
and more explosion. As a true freshman, the 5-11, 188-pounder
did a little of everything rushing for 316 yards and seven
scores, catching 21 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and
completing 53% of his passes for 542 yards with two touchdowns
and five interceptions. He also returned punts averaging 8.4
yards per try. The lefty won't be doing too much as a
quarterback, if anything, but he'll still get the ball as a
runner. All of his production came in the second half of the
year and the team wouldn't have gotten to a bowl game without
him. Now he needs to be even more of a star as the team's most
dangerous offensive weapon.
6-0, 182-pound sophomore
Gene McCaskill ended up starting four games as
a true freshman and made 15 grabs for 181 yards. A South
Carolina high school state-championship level sprinter, he has
4.5 speed and the ability to use it to stretch the field. He's
great when he gets the ball in his hands and should be able to
take more short grabs for big gains. He has tremendous upside.
Junior Kyrus Lanxter turned in a nice
season with 23 catches for 195 yards and a score highlighted by
a five grab, 46-yard day with a score against East Carolina. At
6-2 and 205 pounds he has good size and next-level speed with
tremendous big-play potential. He's way too fast and way too
explosive to only average 8.5 yards per catch as a key reserve.
He should flourish in a starting role.
senior T.C. Drake returns after starting in
eight games and making 12 catches for 204 yards. While he wasn't
a huge part of the passing game, he averaged 17 yards per grab
and showed the potential to be a matchup problem at tight end.
He's more of a tall, big wideout than a true tight end, and
while he's not the greatest blocker, he's physical and he's
willing to hit.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-0, 170-pound sophomore
Eric Adeyemi saw a little time as a true
freshman, getting three starts, making 13 catches for 108 yards.
Lightning fast, the former Florida high school track star is one
of the SEC's speedier players with sub-4.4 wheels. He'll start
out behind McCaskill, but he should be a dangerous No. 4 option
as a field stretcher.
JUCO transfer Chris
Matthews was the team's top recruit and considered by
everyone as one of the nation's top five JUCO transfers. The
6-5, 210-pounder made 80 catches for 1,235 yards and 11 scores
in nine games for Los Angeles Harbor College. He has it all with
speed and hands to go along with his size.
Sophomore Matt Roark
originally wanted to be a quarterback but was quickly moved to
wide receiver. He's not polished by any stretch, but the 6-5,
202-pounder has the basic skills and good tools to become a
dangerous target. With great leaping ability, he plays even
bigger than his size and will once again be a key part of the
special teams as a kick blocker. He caught one pass for 16 yards
in his limited time.
E.J. Fields was
supposed to see action right away as a true freshman before
suffering a hamstring injury. At 6-1 and 195 pounds, the
redshirt freshman has decent size and is extremely quick with
track speed. He was a Kentucky high school champion sprinter who
has the potential to be one of the team's breakout players.
Senior Maurice Grinter will be a bigger,
tough tight end option playing behind T.C. Drake. A starter for
half of last year, the former fullback ended up making 12
catches for 162 yards and two scores while also serving as a
solid blocker. The 6-3, 253-pounder is athletic for his size and
should be dangerous in two tight end sets.
Watch Out For ... more from the tight ends. The
offense has missed having a dangerous target at tight end,
usually the staple of the UK offense. Drake and Grinter are
veterans who have nice hands and the upside to become strong
receivers, but they each need to do more. That should happen
with improved quarterback play.
Strength: Speed. If nothing else, UK has a lighting fast
corps that should be able to blow past any secondary. There's
4.4 speed across the board, and warp wheels whenever Adeyemi is
in. However ...
Weakness: Big plays. The speed and athleticism has to
translate into more production. The UK passing game averaged a
mere 9.8 yards per completion with just 11 touchdowns. There's
way too much upside and athleticism for this to not be a more
There's a world of speed and a
boatload of upside, but the production has to come. Cobb is a
great one who should be the top target, and Lanxter is coming
off a good season, but there needs to be stronger second and
third options and the tight ends need to do more. This could be
a great group of receivers, but there's more work to do.
After starting the last two years at
guard, Zipp Duncan will move over to left tackle to
replace Garry Williams. The 6-5, 285-pound senior has seen a little time
at right guard but has spent most of his career at left guard after
moving over from defensive end by way of tight end. Athletic for a
guard, he has the ability to make a seamless transition outside.
With Duncan moving spots, 6-4, 330-pound senior Christian
Johnson will step in at left guard. Expected to start last year
at left guard after starting 12 times in 2006, he was suspended for
parts of 2007 and ended up starting three times and serving as a key
backup. He suffered a back injury and missed all of last year, but now
he's back bringing a nice combination of size and strength, along with
plenty of experience, to the positon.
Gonzalez was one of the biggest question marks going into last
year after suffering a knee injury and turned in a solid campaign
starting every game at center. The 6-3, 300-pounder has great size and
turned out to be extremely reliable. Now, the team's most improved
player has to be better for the running game.
Filling in the
hole at right guard, where Jess Beets started most of last year, will be
Stuart Hines, a 6-4, 295-pound sophomore who'll push
for time at left guard as well. While he's not huge, he's a lot bigger
after bulking up over the last two years and he could end up seeing time
at tackle if absolutely needed. He'll be an athletic guard who'll be a
mainstay on the line for the next three years.
If he can get past
a shoulder problem, senior Justin Jeffries should be an
anchor at right tackle. The 6-6, 320-pounder has been the starter over
the last two years at the position and has grown into an excellent pass
blocker. One of the team's most reliable players, he has a great frame
and long arms to keep pass rushers at bay.
Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Jake
Lanefski started the last four games last year at right guard
after starting out last year as a reserve center. The 6-4, 286-pounder
wasn't bad, but he's not the prospect that Hines is even though he has
all the tools. Not polished, he should be a key reserve and could still
be in the hunt for the starting gig.
6-4, 310-pound junior
Brad Durham has been a nice backup over the last two
years and a good special teamer. He'll once again work as a backup right
tackle with three starts under his belt, and while he's not a top pass
blocker, he's good enough to step in for stretches without much of a
Sophomore Billy Joe Murphy can do a
little of everything for the line and will be a main backup at both
tackle spots. The 6-6, 298-pounder has even seen practice time at guard.
He got two starts early in the year at left tackle and will start out
behind Duncan, but he'll move around where needed.
Watch Out For ... Hines. While the left side of
the line has the tough veterans in Duncan and Johnson, the right side
could turn out to be better if Hines becomes as good as expected. He's
like an extra tackle at guard and should be able to move well.
Strength: Pass protection. A nightmare of a problem two
years ago allowing 38 sacks, the athletic, veteran line gave up just 13
sacks. This year's line should equal the production.
Weakness: Run blocking. This isn't the most
physical group. While it'll be good on the move, the line isn't going to
plow over anyone's defensive front. Calling this a finesse line is a bit
unfair, but the tag might fit if the ground game averages under four
yards a carry again.
The line has size, depth, and plenty of options to play around
with. While this won't be the team's strength, and there aren't any
sure-thing all-stars, there are good veterans to rely on with four
senior starters forming a tight wall against even the best of the SEC
pass rushing fronts.