WHAT THEY RETURN: The biggest positive for the Kentucky offense going into this season is the return of four starters on the offensive line. Offensive tackle Chandler Burden, center Matt Smith and offensive guards Larry Warford and Stuart Hines return after all seeing plenty of playing time last season. The continuity on the offensive line should help an offense breaking in new playmakers.
The back seven players on the Kentucky defense will return familiar players. 2010 All-SEC and 2011 preseason All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan returns to anchor the defense. As a junior, Trevathan led the team with 144 tackles (85 solo), while safety Winston Guy was second on the team with 106 tackles. Trevathan recorded 16 tackles for loss.
Guy also recorded three interceptions and returns at safety while the Wildcats have three experienced players at cornerback. Randall Burden, Martavius Neloms and Anthony Mosley all saw time on the field last year and combined for 125 tackles.
WHAT THEY LOST: The key playmakers of the 2010 Kentucky offense are gone. Quarterback Mike Hartline, who had a 66% completion rate and threw for 3,128 yards and 23 touchdowns last year, graduated. He split time with Randall Cobb, who also played wide receiver and running back. Cobb combined to lead the team with 2,396 all-purpose yards.
Running back Derrick Locke ran for 887 yards and ten touchdowns last season but has also moved on. The Wildcats also lose their top receiver from 2010, as Chris Matthews had 925 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.
BREAKOUT PLAYER: Quarterback Morgan Newton. The former five-star recruit sat two years behind Hartline to learn, but he still got some experience that should make the transition easier. Newton went 25-for-43, throwing for 265 yards.
He should be able to transition into the starting role easier with four offensive linemen returning to the team. He is a unique threat in that he also rushed for 50 yards in mop up duty last season. The junior is athletic enough to move the pocket and throw on the run if needed.
La'Rod King will be the go-to receiver this season after catching five touchdowns and recording 478 receiving yards.
PLAYER/POSITION THAT NEEDS TO STEP UP: The defensive line needs to improve this season. The Wildcats were 11th in rushing defense in 2010 and tied for 10th (with Florida) with only 21 sacks. Trevathan is the returning player with the most sacks (three).
Taylor Wyndham needs to step up during his junior season after recording 2.5 sacks last season. The 6-5, 255-pound Collins Ukwu had only one sack as a sophomore, and the Wildcats will be counting on him to carry the load this season.