Even with that said, this might be the most talent assembled by Coach Rich Brooks during his tenure in Lexington. Should the Wildcats execute on offense and give their defense a chance, Kentucky will likely put on a good showing against Alabama on Saturday.
Kentucky started off 2-0 after defeating Miami of Ohio in Cincinnati 45-0 and then went on to defeat Louisville two weeks later in Commonwealth Stadium 31-27. In both of those games, the Wildcat offense showed spark, the ability to consistently move the ball. The 41-7 drubbing at the hands of Florida appeared to be a major step back, however. So the Cats come into Saturday's game standing at 2-1 and just starting a gauntlet of tough games (vs Alabama, at South Carolina, at Auburn).
To talk about the Wildcat offense, you have to begin with Mike Hartline. The much-maligned quarterback has shown improvement over last season, but there are still many questions. Hartline has been surrounded by better weapons this season and expectations are higher for the junior. Hartline has thrown for 485 yards and four touchdowns through three games, completing 62 per cent of his passes. But there's a thought that he's too careful and needs to take more chances down the field with Kentucky's explosive receivers Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews.
Kentucky's running game has looked good at times behind the speed of Derrick Locke. Locke has rushed for 173 yards this season with two touchdowns. Junior running back Moncell Allen leads the halfbacks in yards per carry with 7.0 per touch, but he has only has 12 touches through three games. If healthy (quad injury), he'll likely get more carries against a physical Alabama defense.
At wide receiver, Kentucky's best player is Randall Cobb. Last season Cobb played quarterback, wide receiver and returned punts. Cobb also lines up in the backfield at running back on occasion and will line up at quarterback in the "Wildcat" formation. Cobb's caught 18 passes for 191 yards this season and two touchdowns. Chris Matthews (6-5, 210) might be the most physically gifted player on the receiving corps. Matthews poses a deep threat and if Hartline takes chances down the field, Matthews can cash in on those gambles.
Kentucky boasts one of the most experienced offensive lines in the league behind four senior starters. Led by All-SEC selection Zipp Duncan, the line has opened holes for the running backs and protected Hartline well this season. Hartline has only been sacked three times this season--all against Florida--and the line protects him well, giving him plenty of time to throw.
Kentucky will line up in the I-formation, the shotgun, the Wildcat, and three wide. On rare occasions they will line up with five wide receivers. The wildcats run a pro-style offense and will try to be a close to 50/50 run/pass team.
Defensively Kentucky returns outstanding players from last year's defense at each level. Corey Peters (defensive tackle), Micah Johnson (middle linebacker) and Trevard Lindley (corner) are each All-SEC selections. They also have an array of good prospects all over the defense.
Four year starter Corey Peters is the leader of the defensive line. Ricky Lumpkin brings experience to the tackle position opposite Peters. At defensive end, the Wildcats have struggled with little experience at the spot. DeQuin Evans has proved to be a solid prospect who can get a pass rush. Collins Ukwu and Chandler Burden both return from last season's team and have had problems against SEC tackles.
At linebacker, Micah Johnson heads up this group. He's the leading tackler this year with 25 total. Sam Maxwell and Danny Trevathan flank Johnson on either side. They are the fourth and fifth leading tacklers respectively. This is a strong and athletic group, but they struggle in pass coverage.
In the defensive backfield, All-America corner Trevard Lindley leads the way and is expected to shut down one side of the field. At the other corner, Kentucky starts junior Paul Warford, a physical corner who excels at stopping the run. Safeties Calvin Harrison and Winston Guy have both been very active. Guy is Kentucky's second leading tackler from the free-safety position and is possibly the most athletic player on the Wildcat defense.
Kentucky lines up in a base 4-3 defense. It's a pretty basic scheme for the most part, not a lot of blitzing. Steve Brown will often leave his corners on an island against receivers. On passing downs, Kentucky brings in nickel back Randall Burden and will often move linebacker Danny Trevathan down to defensive end to provide a better pass rush.
Kentucky has struggled on special teams this year. Aside from one long kickoff return by Derrick Locke, kick coverage and kick returning have been average at best. Ryan Tylacka has proved to be a solid replacement for All-SEC punter Tim Masthay (40 ypp). Kentucky has struggled the last couple of seasons in protecting punts and that reared it's head last weekend against Florida as the Wildcats gave up another blocked punt to the Gators.
Editor's Note: Brian Eldridge of Scout's Kentucky Sports Report provided this scouting report on Kentucky for BamaMag.com. A similar report on Alabama was done by ‘BAMA Editor Kirk McNair for UK fans at http://www.kentucky.scout.com