Coaching Changes: Rick Minter's 4-2-5 scheme is set up to be unpredictable and force the offense into turning over the ball with confusing looks and quarterback pressure. Does Kentucky's personnel fit into that scheme? And if so, can they make the plays necessary to make this defense viable?
There will be no clear answer after Saturday, but what you can measure is how aggressive they will be and that is something that everybody wants to see; a more aggressive Wildcat defense.
Positional Changes: Ridge Wilson, Winston Guy, Martavius Neloms and Taylor Wyndham have been the most widely publicized position changes for this team. Each of these players has moved because the staff sees how they could become more of a threat to make plays.
Wilson will play some linebacker, but will also line up as a rush end at times. The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Wilson is perfect as a hybrid and could really cause havoc for the opposing offense with his ability to move around.
Winston Guy played a lot of free-safety last season, but struggled finding the ball and in coverage. Guy, not previously known as a great tackler, became a good tackler and wound up with over 100 tackles last season, as an asset in run support. Guy will play the hybrid safety/linebacker role. With his ability to make plays at the line and his speed, Guy could be a difficult player to handle for an offense.
Neloms, known as a physical corner, moved to safety this season. While Neloms won't wow you with any physical attribute, he goes hard every second and he makes plays for a defense. Moving him to safety seems natural and if he gets used to taking on more physical blockers while playing safety, Neloms' move could turn out to be huge for a defense that wants its best players on the field.
Always known as a pass-rusher and play-maker, Taylor Wyndham has moved from defensive end to defensive tackle. While at 250-pounds, Wyndham's size is going to be a liability, his quickness could be an asset in passing situations. This move may not ultimately stick, but for the time being we'll see whether Wyndham can make plays on the inside for Kentucky's defense.
Quarterback Development: Questions have always surrounded Morgan Newton and his ability to lead the Wildcat team as quarterback. Expectations were a little inflated and Newton, like most freshmen, still needs time to develop. This spring he's looked good and if not for many dropped passes, he would have had a great spring. He's on schedule at this point and looks to be a good option for Kentucky at quarterback.
Linebacker Encore: If you mention Kentucky's linebackers, the first name that comes to mind is Danny Trevathan. The rising senior had a huge season last year and while it could be too much to ask him to duplicate those numbers, he could contribute more as a leader next season and help the young players at his position. Ronnie Sneed, Avery Williamson and Qua Huzzie all need to step up and provide depth for the Wildcat linebacking unit.
Tight Ends and Fullbacks: Kentucky has had the luxury of players like John Conner and Moncell Allen at full back the last few seasons. At tight end Kentucky has been searching for a difference-maker since Jacob Tamme graduated. Now with no major candidates at fullback, there are several tight ends on the roster that could possibly play a role blocking out of the backfield as well as receiving the ball at tight end and blocking from the line. Even with the transfer of Alex Smith, the group still has several viable candidates. Could we see Tyler Robinson, Jordan Aumiller, Ronnie Shields or Anthony Kendrick step up and play the dual role at fullback and tight end?
Receivers step up: La'Rod King and Matt Roark played a lot of snaps last season. Now they appear to be the leaders of the unit with Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews both gone. Neither has really had the spring that Joker Phillips expects, but they have been solid. Brian Adams having more time to focus on the gridiron will also lead to him being a valuable contributor this fall, but there's not a lot to expect from him this spring. If this unit keeps the incoming freshmen off the field in the fall, then they are performing well. Saturday could bolster the staff's confidence in this group.
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