College Football Preview: The 2014 Kentucky Wildcats
2014 College Football Preview
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Overview: New coach, same result, as the Kentucky Wildcats finished 2-10 in Mark Stoops first season as head coach. The Wildcats finished winless in SEC play and lost their last four games to end the season. Kentucky hasn’t participated in a bowl game in three seasons and has won just four combined games in their last two seasons. While Kentucky fans can’t help but remain realistic, they have to believe they are a better program than what they’ve shown as of late. This season should tell a lot about just how far the Wildcats are from competing again.
Offense: Kentucky’s offense was ranked 13th in the SEC, but there’s potential for that to improve this season. Kentucky returns four of its five starting offensive linemen and have its top four receivers returning, including Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons. Leading rusher Jojo Kemp looks to build on a successful freshman season where he had 482 yards, and Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard will finally have a chance to prove himself to the Wildcat fans. Quarterback is the biggest concern for Kentucky, but Patrick Towles, Drew Barker and Reese Phillips are all highly recruited players who will push each other during the offseason. Whoever wins the starting job should be ready to go and help lead this better than advertised Kentucky offense in the right direction.
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Defense: Stoops’ defenses are known for making drastic strides in their second season and it should be no different with Kentucky. The Wildcats return eight starters from a defense that ranked 13th in the SEC. The main reason to believe this unit can take a step forward is the defensive line combination of Alvin Dupree and Za'Darius Smith, a duo that racked up 13 sacks last season. Despite the loss of leading tackler Avery Williamson, the Wildcats do return six of their seven top tacklers. Kentucky’s secondary is the area that has to improve more than ever, but it will get a boost from junior college transfer A.J. Stamps. Like the offense, Kentucky’s defense should be much better than last season.
Special Teams: Freshman Austin MacGinnis will handle the placekicking duties and will have a chance to prove why he was so highly recruited. Landon Foster is one of the better punters in the country when healthy and Kentucky has to be thrilled that he is ready to go after being banged up much of last season.
Outlook: It goes without saying that Kentucky will always be a basketball school first and it’s tough to see this team truly compete in a conference loaded from top to bottom. While expectations shouldn’t be high, Kentucky fans can expect a team that’s going to compete and should at least double last year’s win total. The Kentucky team is experienced and is starting to recruit above-average athletes. This team will make you money this season if you pay close attention.