Cleat Geeks

Kentucky Wildcats Team 2018 Mid-Summer Outlook

Every College Football team has an obstacle that puts them in a tough spot to win in the upcoming 2018 season. The Kentucky Wildcats are a team that has great characteristics on multiple areas where they can easily succeed. On the other side of the spectrum, those same characteristics might not be an absolute positive trait to have in other areas as they learned from last year. The Kentucky Wildcats have a lot of talent and potential but that may not be relevant if Head Coach Mark Stoops does not properly utilize his team in this remaining offseason.

 

Kentucky is led by high-level talent on both sides of the ball

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Photo by; Zimbio

It is not common that the Kentucky Wildcats have a high amount of talent that is considered worthy of the NFL or simply as a 1st or 2nd team All-SEC selection. The Wildcats have two players in OLB Josh Allen and RB Benny Snell Jr. who have either received All-SEC recognition or an overlook analysis for the NFL Draft. The Wildcats do not have the worst reputation in the SEC in terms of recruiting and getting high-volume players. When, however, the Wildcats have not only one great player as leaders but two, then the Wildcats might have a chance to experience something great.

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Photo by; Courier-Journal

RB Benny Snell Jr. is one of the most experienced Running Backs in the SEC as he has been playing and starting for the Wildcats for years. Athlon Sports named Snell as a preseason 1st team All-SEC Running Back along with Alabama’s Damien Harris for the upcoming season. Snell is the top returning rusher in the SEC as he rushed for 1,333 yards on 262 rushing attempts (an average of 5.1 yards per rush) for 19 touchdowns. He has 226 rushing yards more accounted for last season than Texas A&M RB Aeris Williams. He is also the only returning player who has rushed for 100 yards per game or more as he averaged 102.5 yards per game. The Wildcats will certainly rely on his experience of Snell’s playmaking ability and his leadership as a motivated, tough leader. An example of his leadership was made when he was inadvertently tossed out of the Music City Bowl early in the 1-point loss to Northwestern when he was helped up by the head referee. He did not get enraged by the questionable call but he went to the locker room and avoided statements that would have gotten him in trouble with the university or the NCAA.

Despite not being an All-SEC selection last season, OLB Josh Allen has been a pivotal player for the Kentucky Wildcats. He is, by far, one of the best players on the Wildcats team due to his high-level talent and what his versatility, as well as productivity, bring to the pass rush unit, fellow Linebackers, and team overall. He is the leader of an aggressive pass rush defense that was ranked tied for 40th in the nation with 28 sacks. Allen, last season, accounted for 66 total tackles, 32 solo tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, and 7 sacks. He possesses the ability to easily penetrate the backfield, make the tackle in open fields, consistency put pressure on the Quarterback, easily reads the plays between run and pass, stay in zone coverage, and finally get into man coverage against slot Receivers and Tight Ends. Allen has been given multiple NFL Drafts analysis by multiple teams and analysts since the 2016 College Football season. If Josh Allen would have forgone his senior season to go to the 2018 NFL Draft, he would have potentially been selected in the 1st or 2nd round. The defense will rely on his star playmaking ability to help the defense be more efficient as last year as they were ranked 74th in points allowed per game (28.2).

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A lack of Quarterback experience might not hurt Kentucky but the lack of Receivers will

With Stephen Johnson gone, the Kentucky Wildcats will need to look for a new starting Quarterback this upcoming season. The only passing experience that the Kentucky Wildcats have gone through is WR Lynn Bowden on his trick plays where he threw for 92 yards on 3 completions (out of 4 attempts) and one interception. There are basically only two Quarterbacks in the mix for the Wildcats to start. Terry Wilson is a junior college transfer where he originally started his career with the Oregon Ducks. He is dual-threat Quarterback who is more accustom to playing in a slow tempo read-option team, which makes a case for him to be a starter. Gunner Hoak has the benefit of learning the same Offensive play schemes and overall systematics through his two years with the Kentucky Wildcats already. He is pro-style Quarterback that can air it out in tough game situations.Image result for kentucky wildcats football

Whoever starts at the Quarterback position will have to endure the tough reality of the lack of experience at the Wide Receiver position. The Wildcats return only 3 of the top 7 players who accounted for over 100 receiving yards last season. One of them is Athlon Sports’ preseason 2nd team All-SEC as he accounted for 16 receptions for 286 yards and 4 touchdowns. The only two experienced Wide Outs the Wildcats have are Tavin Richardson (27 receptions for 371 yards and 1 touchdown) and Lynn Bowden Jr. (17 receptions for 210 yards). The only other Wide Outs either have less than 5 receptions last season or no receptions. Due to the lack of deep Receivers also with a good Tight End and two versatile Running Backs, this may force either more pressure on the inexperienced Receivers with Hoak as the Quarterback. With Wilson at Quarterback, the offense might stay conservatively progressive offense, which might make it harder for the Wildcats to climb back into high-scoring games if their defense gives up too much exposure.

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The Defensive Backs must perform much more efficiently

Experience can be a great tool for athletes to build on but so must pressure. This season, the Wildcats return all four of their starting Defensive Backs from the previous season. This Defensive Back unit, however, was mainly the reason that the Kentucky Wildcats were ranked 103rd in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (251.3 yards) and 92nd in total yards allowed per game (426.9 yards). This was a Defensive Back unit that was not solid in coverages and staying on their man consistency. Last season, 3 of the top 6 players in terms of accounting for total tackles were Defensive Backs including 2 of the top 3 tacklers being Safeties Mike Edwards (96 total tackles) and Darius West (85 total tackles).

All the starting DB’s started off strong early in their career for Head Coach Mark Stoops but only S Mike Edwards has continued that consistency and efficiency. The other three in S Darius West, CB Chris Westry, and CB Derrick Baity will need to live up to the expectations of Coach Stoops and Defensive Coordinator Matt House. House may need to add another Safety in the mix or have a Linebacker help in zone coverage. Each of the Defensive Backs must maintain themselves in single coverage to avoid long grueling drives that ate up the clock and then gives the opposing offense points on the board.

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Kentucky has a grueling schedule to stand upon

This season will not be easy for the Kentucky Wildcats and Head Coach Mark Stoops as they have many issues to fix in the remainder of the offseason. They will need to fix those flaws in their units as best they can with an incredibly tough 2018 schedule coming in this upcoming season. Their second trip of the season (September 8th) will require a trip to the Gainesville, Florida to face the Florida Gators under new Head Coach Dan Mullen, who will be supplying much-needed revitalization for the offense. They then have three tough games in a row between the Mississippi State (September 22nd), the South Carolina Gamecocks (September 29th), and at the Texas A&M Aggies (October 6th) under new Head Coach Jimbo Fisher. After a trip to Columbia, Missouri to face the Missouri Tigers (October 27th), the Wildcats have a tough November slate at home against the Georgia Bulldogs (November 3rd), at the Tennessee Volunteers (November 10th), and finally in the regular season finale at their cross-conference rivalry in the Louisville Cardinals (November 24th). If Coach Stoops wants to survive their tough season with this schedule, proper coaching and training must be taken into place. The Wildcats are their own worst enemies as that was evident in close games last season. They cannot avoid any mishaps and lose focus if Coach Stoops wants to return for another season.

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