Whitlow's Development: If you're looking for a silver lining to the end of a disastrous 2012 season for the Wildcats, it would have to be the play of freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow in the final two games of the season. After struggling to get much going with the downfield passing attack for most of the season, Whitlow showed some glimpses of what the coaches had praised back in the summertime when the Alabama native was raising a few eyebrows. He completed 29 of 45 passes for a career-high 225 yards and a touchdown against the Volunteers, a shot of confidence he may be able to carry into spring practice with a new coach looking to make an important decision at his position. Whitlow completed 67 percent of his passes (39 of 58) over the final two weeks of the season and, somewhat quietly, has a streak of 134 pass attempts without being intercepted going back to the South Carolina game on Sept. 29. Can he push Maxwell Smith and/or Patrick Towles this spring? What kind of system will the new staff implement, and will it fit Whitlow's dual-threat abilities? Those will be huge questions that will impact his future with the Cats.
Budding Star: Sophomore linebacker Alvin "Bud" Dupree closed his season with perhaps his best game as a Wildcat, recording 10 tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack against Tennessee. He finished the season second on the team with 91 total tackles and led UK with 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. The new defensive coordinator needs about five or six more just like him.
Foster's Leg: We saw way too much of it this season, but you can't fault the freshman punter for that. It could be argued that he did his job more consistently than any other UK player this season. On Saturday, he had five punts. Four of them were for 50-plus yards. Foster finished the season with a 42.9 average on 61 punts. Twenty-two of those went for 50 yards or more and 13 were inside the 20. That's getting it done..
Fourth-Down Play Calls: Twice the Cats opted to go for it on fourth down and inches deep inside of Tennessee territory, and twice the Volunteers denied them. The UK coaching staff didn't help matters, calling two slow-to-develop plays well behind the line of scrimmage that saw running backs thrown for losses. The decisions were all that more puzzling with a physical 250-pound quarterback like Towles available to run the quarterback sneak. At the very least, one would expect a quick-hitting handoff behind All-SEC guard Larry Warford and senior center Matt Smith on the interior.
Fundamentals: Daryl Collins attempting to catch a kickoff sailing out of bounds near his own 5-yard line was something that detractors of the current staff could point to as yet another example of their frustration. Collins was bailed out by a replay review of the play that showed he was out-of-bounds before securing the ball, but it's the type of mistake that shouldn't be made during the 12th game of the season. Kickoff returns were inconsistent at best for UK this season, providing several gaffes along the way.
Kicking Game: Another major point of emphasis in the spring will be UK's placekicking game. Senior Craig McIntosh made only one of two attempts against the Vols, dropping his season numbers to eight of 15 (53 percent). The misses really didn't cost UK a game, but were often morale-killers for a Wildcat offense that struggled so much to move the football into scoring position.
By The Numbers:
1 – Kentucky's longest win streak versus Tennessee since 1977.
3 – Times since the SEC expanded the league schedule to eight games that UK posted an 0-8 record in conference play. The other two were in 1994 and 2000. The Wildcats now have five winless SEC seasons in the last 30 years. Guy Morriss and Rich Brooks are the only UK coaches dating back to Blanton Collier (1954-61) to avoid having a winless SEC season.
5 – UK pass break-ups on 34 pass attempts by the Vols. Corner and safety will both be points of emphasis for the new coaching staff on the recruiting trail.
14.6 – Average yards per completion for Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray against a suspect UK secondary. That included touchdown strikes of 21, 42, 29 and 21 yards. Only Arkansas, with another Tyler (Wilson) at quarterback, averaged more per completion (16.1) against the Cats this season.
17 – UK players made their first career start during the 2012 season, the latest being freshman defensive end Farrington Huguenin against the Vols. Not a winning recipe in the SEC.
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