2009 CFN Kentucky Preview
Kentucky RB Alfonso Smith
Kentucky RB Alfonso Smith
Posted Jul 7, 2009

The CFN 2009 Kentucky Wildcats Preview, Breakdown, and Analysis.

Kentucky Wildcats

Preview 20

Pete Fiutak

- 2009 CFN Kentucky Preview | 2009 Kentucky Offense
- 2009 Kentucky Defense
| 2009 Kentucky Depth Chart
- 2008 Kentucky Preview | 2007 Kentucky Preview
| 2006 Kentucky Preview 

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Head coach: Rich Brooks
7th year: 32-41
25th year overall: 123-150-4
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 27, Def. 20, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 12
Ten Best UK Players
1. CB Trevard Lindley, Sr.
2. LB Micah Johnson, Sr.
3. WR Randall Cobb, Soph.
4. DT Corey Peters, Sr.
5. QB Mike Hartline, Jr.
6. RB Alfonso Smith, Sr.
7. RB Derrick Locke, Jr.
8. OT Zipp Duncan, Sr.
9. OT Justin Jeffries, Sr.
10. LB Danny Trevathan, Soph.

2009 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 6-6
2009 Record: 0-0

9/5 Miami Univ. (Cin.)
9/19 Louisville
9/26 Florida
10/3 Alabama
10/10 at South Carolina
10/17 at Auburn
10/24 UL Monroe
10/31 Miss State
11/7 Eastern Kentucky
11/14 at Vanderbilt
11/21 at Georgia
11/28 Tennessee

2008 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 5-7
2008 Record:

8/31 at Louisville W 27-2
9/6 Norfolk State W 38-3
9/13 Middle Tenn W 20-14
9/27 Western Kent. W 41-3
10/4 at Alabama L 17-14
10/11 South Carolina L 24-17
10/18 Arkansas W 21-20
10/25 at Florida L 63-5
11/1 at Miss St W 14-13
11/8 Georgia L 42-38
11/15 Vanderbilt L 31-24
11/22 OPEN DATE 
11/29 at Tennessee L 28-10
Liberty Bowl
1/2 East Carolina W 25-17

No, Kentucky isn't going to be a powerhouse, and it's cursed by being in the SEC East, but that doesn't mean that Rich Brooks isn't doing a whale of a job by making his teams competitive year after year.

There's an old adage when it comes to coaches that once there's talk about a hot seat or firing the head man, it's over. Almost all coaches are eventually canned anyway, and when there's enough discontent and enough losses to force a discussion over job status, it's usually best to cut ties and try again. But Brooks defied the logic by turning Kentucky into a dangerous, tough out who has to be worried about and doesn't get the automatic circle win on the schedule it used to. He did it by upgrading the coaching staff, by keeping the ship on track by not changing through rocky times, and he did it by bringing in more speed and athleticism.

Kentucky might not always get the top players compared to the Floridas, Tennessees, and Georgias of the SEC world, but it has gotten its share of great prospects while filling in the gaps with athletes who might not be the best football players, and football players who might not be the best athletes. While the results have been a bit uneven over the years, the program has played hard and has survived in the nation's toughest conference. Now there needs to be more of an attitude and there has to be more consistency.

If Kentucky is good enough to stay with Alabama last year in a 17-14 battle, then why did it struggle so much with Middle Tennessee? How could a team that battled with Georgia in a 42-38 loss beat a woeful Mississippi State team by one? The fact of the matter is that last year's veteran team beat the teams it was supposed to, for the most part, and battled hard over the course of the rest of the season.

There was only one ugly blowout game, a 63-5 loss to Florida, but UK's seven wins were over Louisville, Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee, Western Kentucky, Arkansas, and Mississippi State, six non-bowl teams, before beating East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl. And while the Cats lost to Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt all by seven points or fewer, they were also two points away from being winless in SEC play. Now the trick will be to see of all the speed, athleticism, and promise that Brooks has brought in can produce wins over someone other than the weak and the sad.

This year's team might be a year away from being truly dangerous, but there are some bright spots. The offensive line should be the best UK has seen in seasons. There are a few fantastic playmakers in LB Micah Johnson, CB Trevard Lindley, and WR Randall Cobb to start with, and promising players like QB Mike Hartline and LB Danny Travathan who appear ready to make a big impact. Throw in a lightning fast group of skill players (outside of Hartline), a big defensive line, and a good rotation in the secondary, and UK has the makings to be promising.

Brooks has never made excuses, even though he could've last year in an injury-plagued season, and he's not going to blame any problems this year on youth. However, with a decent schedule and enough upside to hope for a few stunners, Kentucky could be a key part of the SEC title picture with Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama coming to Lexington. However, the Cats aren't going to be in the hunt, as entertaining and as scary as they'll be against the big boys.

What to watch for on offense: The line. There needs to be a No. 2 wide receiver to help out Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline needs to become more of a playmaker at quarterback, and the speedy, versatile running backs have to be more productive, and it can all happen if the line becomes the strength of the team. Last year's front five helped UK finish first in the SEC and fourth in the nation in sacks allowed, giving up 13, and it wasn't awful for the ground game. Now with four senior starters, and a fifth in sophomore guard Stuart Hines who might be the most talented one of the bunch, this group should allow everyone else to do their jobs. While this might not be the high-flying spread attack of 2007, it should be more balanced and better than last year when injuries struck. The line will have a major part in the turnaround.

What to watch for on defense: The ends. Not only does Kentucky have to replace its two starting ends, it has to replace Jeremy Jarmon, who came back for his senior year but was suspended, and Ventrell Jenkins, who's off playing for the Buffalo Bills following a great career. Collins Ukwu has big-time upside as a pass rusher on one side, while 296-pound Chandler Burden has good athleticism for his size on the other side. These two have to do something, anything on the outside early on to take the pressure off the tackles who have to focus on holding up against the run. If the ends don't produce, the rebuilding secondary will have issues.

The team will be far better if …
the kicking game is better. UK kickers Lones Seiber and Ryan Tydlacka combined to hit 14-of-25 field goals last year. Seiber is a three-year starter with nice range, but he hasn't shown it off enough and he has missed too many kicks. Last year's team played in eight games decided by seven points or fewer, and it needs Seiber to be a rock to be the difference between a bowl and an also-ran, stay-at-home season.

The Schedule: It's not bad after what should be an emotionally-charged stretch to start the season facing Louisville, Florida, and Alabama, along with Miami University, meaning the Wildcats don't go on the road until October 10th. While Florida and Tennessee have to come to Lexington, two of the games against the West, at Auburn and Mississippi State, are against teams that didn't go bowling last year. There are only four road games, but two come late with trips in back-to-back weeks against Vanderbilt and Georgia before closing out against Tennessee. While the Louisville game is the big rivalry battle, the non-conference schedule is light and breezy.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore WR Randall Cobb. Without Cobb, Kentucky doesn't go to a bowl game last year. As a true freshman, Cobb stepped up as a running quarterback and bailed the team out of the fire in a win over Mississippi State, and he almost single-handedly pulled off an upset win over Georgia  in a 42-38 loss. He got dinged up late in the year, but he was still one of the team's top receivers and the second-leading rusher. Now he'll be the No. 1 target who has to use his talent and experience to once again be an explosive all-around playmaker.

Best Defensive Player: Senior CB Trevard Lindley. LB Micah Johnson is in the mix and should be an All-SEC performer, but Lindley will likely earn All-America honors. One of the steadiest pass defenders in college football over the last three years, and a sure tackler who doesn't miss anything that comes his way, he's the one the secondary works around. There won't likely be too many passes thrown his way, but he'll make the most of his chances.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Mike Hartline. The offense needed to replace Andre Woodson last year, and it did a bad job of it. Hartline wasn't awful, and he had a few big moments, but he struggled with his efficiency and didn't use his big arm enough to make things happen. He vowed this offseason to take a bigger role in the attack both as a player and a leader, and he came up with a strong spring. While there's talk of a quarterback controversy going into the fall, this is Hartline's team.

The season will be a success if ... UK wins eight games for the third time in four years. This is no small feat even with the favorable schedule. The team isn't going to be as good as last year when it went 7-6, and it'll probably look ugly at times against teams it should beat. However, there's enough speed and athleticism, and there's enough talent, to demand nothing less than another winning season. Get to the bowl, and the Cats are great winning three straight and as almost a near-lock to get an extra game this time around, too.

Key game: Sept. 19 vs. Louisville. After struggling for so long in the in-state rivalry, UK won its second straight last season with a 27-2 stomping on opening day. The Cardinals have improved, but the Wildcats can't afford to blow the home game with Florida, Alabama, at South Carolina and at Auburn to follow. Last year, UK got off to a 4-0 start before diving into SEC play. A loss to UofL this year might mean a 1-5 start.

2008 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Opponents 101 - Kentucky 34
- Sacks: Kentucky 32 for 195 yards - Opponents 13 for 88 yards
- Field goals: Kentucky 14-of-25 - Opponents 9-of-23

- 2009 CFN Kentucky Preview | 2009 Kentucky Offense
- 2009 Kentucky Defense
| 2009 Kentucky Depth Chart
- 2008 Kentucky Preview | 2007 Kentucky Preview
| 2006 Kentucky Preview 


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 -by AllWildcats.com  Jul 14, 2009

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