Five Spring Practice Questions

There are many questions that the University of Kentucky will have to answer this spring, during their annual spring practice sessions. Kentucky Sports Report brings you five of those questions.

1.Will Morgan Newton take charge of the quarterback position in spring practice?

Morgan Newton is the incumbent starter going into this season. He started several games as a true freshman and also started Kentucky's bowl game this past season. He's absolutely the most experienced quarterback on the roster, but there are questions about his accuracy and ability to make the plays necessary for the offense to succeed.

The only real competition he'll face in the spring is from freshman Maxwell Smith. The California native has a big arm to go along with a big frame. Smith is a student of the game and appears to be a player capable of playing at a high level for the Wildcats based on physical skills. With the transfer of sophomore Ryan Mossakowski, Smith is going to have to be prepared early on as the second stringer.

2.How will Kentucky replace offensive stars Mike Hartline, Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Chris Matthews?

Replacing that group of players will prove to be difficult early on. Each of those players brought knowledge of what Joker Phillips wanted as well as the ability to execute the plans put in front of them. However the Wildcats have some good young talent in place.

If Morgan Newton is able to run the full offense, which he should be able to do by his third year in the system, the Wildcats have a chance to be a fairly potent offense again.

Wide receiver LaRod King is a big target who is a solid first receiver for the Kentucky offense. Players like Gene McCaskill, Matt Roark and Brian Adams will all bring their abilities to the receiver position as well. Both McCaskill and Roark are experienced players who understand the offense completely. Brian Adams is a player with big play potential and if he learns the nuances, he'll be a major contributor to the team as a sophomore.

At running back, losing Locke is a blow, but there are many players capable of stepping in. Sophomore Raymond Sanders has played several snaps in the system and has the speed and the bounce to be a heavy contributor to the offense. Additionally redshirt freshman Brandon Gainer will have a chance to show his ample abilities at running back, proving that he can be an every down back.

3.What impact will Rick Minter have on the Kentucky defense?

A consistent complaint that Kentucky fans have had over the years is the defense's passive, reactive nature. In many cases, that kind of defense can be effective, depending on the level of talent available. At Kentucky, where the Wildcats aren't loaded with four and five star recruits, there needs to be somewhat of a gimmick to be effective on defense.

Rick Minter is a 3-4 coach with 4-3 personnel. What Minter will be doing with the Kentucky defense is trying to bring pressure from different players and be unpredictable. There are questions about whether he and Joker Phillips will ultimately transition Kentucky into a 3-4 defense or if they will stick with a hybrid sort of scheme.

4.What player on the roster will have "the light" come on and become a major contributor?

There are always questions about which players who haven't seen much action will have an opportunity to step into a major role. After all, it's a new season and new beginnings. Kentucky has many players who could become heavy contributors to the Wildcats' team this year.

Kentucky is looking for help at linebacker and a couple of players who will have a chance to carve out a niche for themselves are sophomores Jewell Ratliff and Avery Williamson. Redshirt freshman Malcolm McDuffen also will have a chance to earn some quality playing time. They all have the athleticism and the size to be contributors to the team.

Brice Laughlin and Mister Cobble will both have opportunities in the middle of Kentucky's defense to contribute. With Shane McCord and Ricky Lumpkin graduating, there are openings. Laughlin and Cobble are big, strong players who can make plays for Kentucky's defense.

Others to watch are Aaron Boyd (WR), Jerrell Priester (DB/WR/KR) and Dave Ulinski (OL).

5.How can the special teams improve from last season's performance?

One of the most overlooked parts of football is special teams, but if you watched Kentucky play last season, you know that special teams were a problem all season. Special teams coach Greg Nord had never been responsible for special teams prior to last season and he took his lumps in his inaugural effort.

Nord will learn from his errors from last season and make as many adjustments as he can to make the unit run more smoothly, however his inexperience in that role is still glaring. Having another session of practices will do nothing but help the unit improve and Nord will work his unit with the help of other members of the staff.

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