All eyes will be fixed upon Kentucky's three quarterbacks Saturday as fans and media alike get their first extended look at Drew Barker, Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips in action during the Blue-White Spring Game at Commonwealth Stadium.
Mark Stoops & Co. have promised a good show with the quarterbacks airing it out early and often, but there are several other intriguing players that fans may want to follow closely.
• No. 45 JOSH FORREST, MIDDLE LINEBACKER: The biggest shoes the team has to fill this season is those vacated by Avery Williamson in the middle of the UK defense. The Cats have given a long look to several players this spring, but it sounds like Forrest has the inside track at this point. The former Paducah Tilghman standout came to UK as a receiver and got looks at safety early in his career. Now physically matured as a 6-foot-3, 229-pound junior, he appears to be settling in as a linebacker. The staff loves the athleticism he brings to the position and ability to cover slot receivers or targets out of the backfield.
• No. 72 JON TOTH, CENTER: Often overlooked, the center position is crucial to the cohesiveness and overall execution of the O-Line. He's got to call out defensive alignments, potential blitzes, and be able to snap the ball consistently in the shotgun formation. By all accounts, Toth has been the most improved player on the unit and may be the strongest player on the team. Beefing up to 300 pounds in the off-season program will help him match up better with the elite defensive tackles he sees on a weekly basis in the SEC. He's had an excellent spring, and no doubt that has played a key role in helping UK's quarterbacks look better than they did at any point last season, according to offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
• No. 1 A.J. STAMPS, SAFETY: Kentucky's struggles against the pass were well-documented in 2013. The Wildcats surrendered the third-highest number of touchdown passes (22) in the SEC and finished tied with four other programs dead last in the entire NCAA with just three interceptions. Only one of those came from a defensive back, the other two by linebackers. By contrast, SEC East champ Missouri picked off 20 passes and defending national champion Florida State tallied 26. That was one of the big reasons why Stoops dipped into the junior college ranks to sign Stamps in December. Many thought he might come in as a cornerback, but the 6-foot, 190-pound athlete has thrived as a free safety this spring. His versatility should show up in both the running game and passing game. Look for him to be around the ball early and often on Saturday.