And are those two things (death and Love) not comparable to the enduring pain forced upon the Wildcat faithful? I wonder how they collected the data for these findings? Did they make Kentucky fans watch the LSU pass from last year? Or the fourth quarter comeback by Florida this year? How about when Chase Harp fumbled away the game winning drive two years ago against Tennessee. Or… ow, ow, ow. My anterior cingulate cortex is starting to hurt.
Here we go…
Kentucky by: 17
Trenches: Said I would have to see it again to believe it… Did not see it, so I still do not believe it. Call it getting used to a new scheme, communication breakdown, not being in your happy place, I don't care, I call it lack of discipline by the offensive line and the coaching staff. Too many procedure penalties, horrible run blocking and bad pass protection, at the end of the day the trenches are about toughness and attitude. The Wildcat O-Line does not have the attitude, and as far as toughness, I will give them this, you cannot be a sissy and an offensive lineman in the SEC, but you can be satisfied playing below your potential. the saddest part about this unit, coaches included, is that they seem to be overly satisfied with their mid-year role as underachievers.
The Bobcat offensive line is an athletic group that is surprisingly big, averaging in at about 300 pounds. The stalwart of this unit is JUCO transfer junior center Ralph Bracamonte. The 290-pound Bracamonte will have his hands full with the size and quickness of Kentucky nose-tackle Lamar Mills. Left Tackle Dennis Thompson is OU's most technically sound blocker and will lead the way as the Bobcat's try to exploit the corner of the Kentucky defense running the option. The Bobcat offensive line battled injuries all last season but seem to be healed up and will use their quickness to try to control what has become a stellar defensive front for the Wildcats.
Quarterbacks: Everyone that has even glimpsed at this column in the past knows that I am a J-Lo fan, and he deserves all the accolades thrown his way. However, when Shane Boyd took the reigns against South Carolina there was a spark, glimmer, excitement, whatever it was, it has not been there with Lorenzen at quarterback. So what do you do? Do you punish a kid that has given his all for this team and University? A kid that has been subjected to more offensive philosophies than flavors at Baskin-Robbins, and he knows how many flavors they have at Baskin-Robbins. A warrior who more times than not has made something out of nothing, Kentucky's all-time pass leader, and fifth in the SEC. You would sit him? Yes I would. For whatever reason, I do not believe Lorenzen has the respect of his teammates. Could it be his conditioning? This is your starting quarterback that has promised to lead you to a bowl and he gains forty to sixty pounds between spring and summer practice. Could it be his indecisiveness in the new system? I have no ideal, and I realize benching Lorenzen would be about as popular as paying the men's basketball coach twenty-million dollars… wait a minute… Anyway, as I said last week, and a couple of writers have referenced this week as a square peg in a round hole or vice versa. Or maybe it's Anna Nicloe Smith, stay with me, Circa 1991 I would have loved to see Ann in some spandex, it was a good fit, Fast forward to 2003, Anna and spandex, not such a good fit. The current system is set up for a quarterback with the athletic skills of a Shane Boyd.
You think Kentucky has a quarterback controversy brewing? Try this one on for size… Your starting quarterback is out with an injury, just so happens his backup is injured before the next game, so you start a true freshman by the name of Austen Everson that thought he was going to red shirt this year. Making his first start in his first career appearance against the University of Central Florida, Everson tops the century rushing mark (130 yards) and adds on three touchdowns. He also reached the century mark in passing (144 yards) to become the first Bobcat since 1999 to hit 100 in both categories. Before injuring his shoulder against Northern Illinois, starting QB Fred Ray had been the Bobcat's "Mr. Everything." Running an option oriented offense Ray is the team's leading rusher with 334 yards and seven touchdowns and has 494 yards and one touchdown through the air… If only he could catch his own passes. Everson is no fluke; the kid has good size at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds and ran the OU offense like a seasoned veteran last Saturday. Still, the competition was lowly University of Central Florida and this season the story for the Wildcat's has been Mike Archer's "D", the freshman is not ready for "Sweet Pea" and company. Not sure of Ray's status heading into the game but if the Bobcat's are thinking upset, Ray will have to play this Saturday, and if he does my point spread goes down to 10.
Running Backs: So this is what you're telling me… Arliss Beach only gets four touches against South Carolina. A kid that needs game time reps if he is going to become the big time runner this team so desperately needs. I realize the most effective play out of the Kentucky backfield has been the fullback trap for Alex Bwenge, but c'mon, to be an effective rushing team in the SEC you have to get outside the tackles. If they will give him the touches, Arliss Beach will break the century mark this Saturday. With the blocks Draak Davis threw against South Carolina, I would put all 5-foot-7 of him on the offensive line, couldn't do any worse than the crew that is already there.
The injury bug has been nothing less than brutal to the OU squad this year. Missing last week's game was Slotback Stafford Owens who is the Bobcats most dangerous weapon, he can be used as a runner and was last season's leading receiver. To even think of pulling off the upset the Bobcats need both Owens and Q.B. Fred Ray healthy. Should Owens sit again this week, look for Ray Huston to start at tailback. Huston is the Bobcat's most experienced rusher and at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, is a load to bring down. Regardless of who is in at tailback, the player you need to worry about this week is whoever lines up underneath center.
Receivers: Keenan Burton could break a lot of receiving records before he leaves the University of Kentucky. Burton has all of the tangibles you need to become an All-SEC receiver, soft hands, body control and speed, all he needs is to run sharper routes. Burton is destined for big things as a Wildcat. The pass and catch from Boyd to Chris Bernard for a touchdown against South Carolina was a thing of beauty. Bernard will get his shot on the next level, but this week, look for him to hall in at least two touchdowns against the Bobcats. Derek Abney leads all Wildcat receivers with 30 receptions this year, I just wonder if his hamstring has healed to one hundred percent? Abney is still Kentucky's most lethal weapon, he seems to be missing that next gear that he could shift into on the fly last season. Has anyone seen Glenn Holt? If you do, please tell Jared Lorenzen.
With the injuries to Jeremiah Drobney and Winn Gaffron, reserve Tight End Bruce Fowler has been making quite a name for himself the past two games. Fowler will get most of the reps this Saturday and should pull down a couple of grabs, but what Kentucky needs from him the most is some solid blocking, of which he is more than capable.
Redshirt freshman Scott Mayle has become the Bobcats' go-to receiver through the first six games. He leads the team with 13 receptions (310 yards) and has three of the Bobcats' five touchdown receptions. Sophomore Anthony Hackett is the only other receiver for the Bobcat's with big play potential. Hacket has good hands and the speed to burn you deep. The problem for OU is, as far as the receivers go, that is about it. The Bobcats will rely on their ground attack against the Wildcats; I will be shocked if any of their receivers goes for over 100 yards on the day.
Tight End Derek Gandy only has one reception of the year. At 6-foot-5 and 275 ponds Gandy is used primarily as a blocker and that will not change this week as the Bobcats try to establish the run early against the Wildcats.
D-Line and Linebackers: Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns and Jeremy Caudill better play the most disciplined game of the season this Saturday. The Bobcat option attack is precise; the Kentucky ends will need to turn the option back up inside letting the Kentucky linebackers and strong safety make the plays. The past two games, Lamar Mills has taken his play to another level. Mills has been all over the field and more than anything, has been a constant presence in the opposing team's backfield. All Ellery Moore needs to do is decide that he will not be stopped, Moore is a powerful presence and once he gets his thoughts together will be a defensive standout for the Wildcats. Due to the injuries sustained by outside linebackers Durrell White and Raymond Fontaine, Kentucky will be forced to run more 4-3 alignments. Reserves Trey Milsche has been a pleasant surprise this season and should be ready to step in and contribute up front this Saturday.
Deion Holts needs to get it together, if you talk about being the greatest linebacker at UK you need to start acting that way. I stated in my Louisville pre-game report that I expected Chad Anderson to be starting at middle linebacker by mid-year. Why do I mention that, well of course to give myself a pat on the back, and to reiterate why in the next 3 to 5 years Mike Archer will be the head coach of this football team. He knows talent and more importantly understands how to get every ounce of it out of his players. Dustin Williams may have had his worst showing of the year against the Gamecocks. He only totaled five tackles and his over pursuit of the ball opened-up some beautiful cut back lanes for the South Carolina backs. It is imperative versus an option offense that everyone plays their area and does not commit up field; the Wildcat defense must stay disciplined this Saturday.
Leading the front Bobcat front is junior nose-tackle Andre Parker who is a legit pro prospect for the Bobcats. Parker has 5 TFL's on the season, like the rest of this unit he is quick for his size and will definitely cause some problems for the Wildcat O-Line this week. 267 pound tackle Eli Keiner who is extremely quick, making most of his stops behind the line of scrimmage. End Kevin Carberry has had a solid season thus far racking up 19 tackles, and 1 sack. Former walk-on Keith Adamson is more of a run stopper from his but has struggled this year from his defensive end position. Much like the offensive front, the Bobcat D-line is extremely athletic and extremely quick off the ball.
Like Kentucky, the Bobcats run a 4-3 scheme, and as we have heard all year, if done correctly the Linebackers will be your leading tacklers, and so is the case for OU. Inside Linebacker Dennis Chukwuemeka leads the team with 60 tackles and is tied for second with 6TFL's. The Bobcat media guide has Chukwuemeka listed at 5-foot-11 (which is stretching the truth a little) and a solid 239 pounds, what he lacks in size he more than makes up for with a motor that does not quit. Chukwuemeka will be around the football this Saturday, if anyone is going to make a big play for the Bobcat's it will be #2. Pete Brately mans the other ILB spot and has been a pleasant surprise for the Bobcat's this season. The Kentucky backfield had better hold on tight, Brately is a big hitter that has a knack for putting his helmet on the ball. Hugh Grant is a steady player, but has not made much of an impact this season from his outside linebacker position. Rounding out this slight of size yet solid crew is 6-foot-1 207-pound OLB Tyler Russ. Russ is the Bobcat's blitz specialist and will try to do his best to disrupt the Wildcat backfield this week. Problem is, at 6-foot-1 and 207 pounds, the last thing you want to see is a 280-pound quarterback.
Secondary: Forced into run support mode this week the Wildcat secondary can not forget that OU will pull up out of the option and let it fly downfield. That being said, I expect this talented group to continue with their stellar play, holding an already anemic Bobcat passing attack under 125 yards.
The weakness of the OU defense is the secondary, if Kentucky wants to throw the ball they will be able to all day. 6-foot- 201-pound Rob Stover was one of the Bobcat's big playmakers at outside linebacker last season and continues the trend after his move to Strong Safety in the spring. Stover is second on the team with 46 tackles and tied for the lead with six pass breakups. Sophomore Dion Byrum has two picks on the season is a rising playmaker at corner that is not afraid to come up and lay some wood for run support. With two interceptions and six pass breakups RS Freshman T.J. Wright is OU's best cover corner and Rashad Butler is a solid 6-foot 199 pounds and offers up heavy run support from his Free Safety position.
Special Teams: I still say give Clint Ruth a shot at field-goal kicking duties. It happens this week! Derek Abney ties a NCAA record, taking his eighth career kick return for a touchdown!
Dion Byrum is the Bobcats most dangerous returnee and could very easily slip through the cracks if the Wildcat coverage teams do not maintain their lanes.
In A Nut Shell: So here we are… The annual mid-season pilgrimages as Kentucky fans hark back to days gone by. As good as it felt last season, could Guy Morris have done the same job without Pinner or the amazing year turned in by Derek Abney? Hal Mumme, really??? If you won't listen too me then maybe the venerable #22 said it best, "...any offense takes a year and a half minimum to learn." We're just getting familiar with it. "I can't wait to see what Shane and Andre can do in this offense." On the other hand, maybe like Sergeant Friday, you just want the facts…
This season Kentucky is averaging 25.6 points per game and looms as one of the top first-year offenses in school history. In the modern era (post-World War II), Kentucky has had 10 head coaches. Here is how their teams ranked in offensive points per game in their first seasons:
Hal Mumme, 1997 - 31.6 points per game Rich Brooks, 2003 - 25.6 Guy Morris, 2001 - 23.5 Bear Bryant, 1946 - 23.3
Although seven starters are gone from last season, and with only one senior in the current starting lineup, the Kentucky defense is hanging tough. Despite the youth, inexperience, and the growing pains of getting adjusted to a new defensive system, Kentucky is allowing 23.5 points per game, down from 25.1 points per game from a year ago. The average of 23.5 points per game is the best showing by a Kentucky defense in 10 years, since the 1993 team allowed 17.7 points per game. The average of 23.5 points per game is the best showing by a first-year Kentucky defense in 30 years, since Fran Curci's 1973 squad gave up 17.8 points per game.
I don't know about you folks out there, but it has been a long ride on the bandwagon. I am comfortable, and plan to be here when the potholes are finally paved, and the sound of Rocky Top in Commonwealth Stadium is no more! Let's give this staff some time, because as a Kentucky football fan, what else do you have?
The world is full of people whose notion of a satisfactory future is, in fact, a return to the idealized past. Robertson Davies, "A Voice from the Attic," 1960
Comments, Questions, & Praise: UKPG2003@yahoo.com