Breaking Down the Depth Chart Pt 2

Kentucky is looking for more production all around on their offense. Both the quarterback and running back spots appear to be improved over last year.

Kentucky is looking for more production all around on their offense. Both the quarterback and running back spots appear to be improved over last year.

Running Backs
The Candidates
Alfonso Smith 6-1 210 Sr.
Derrick Locke 5-9 190 Jr.
Moncel Allen 5-7 225 Jr.
Coshik Williams 5-9 180 R-Fr.
Jon George 5-10 196 Fr.
Donald Russell 5-11 205 Fr.
Dakotah Tyler 5-11 205 Fr.

Kentucky has many capable running backs on the roster, but only one back with experience currently appears to be an every-down-type running back. That back in Alfonso Smith, still Smith isn't the top returning rusher. Derrick Locke holds that distinction. But with Locke coming off major knee reconstruction, the postion is up for grabs.

Alfonso Smith was expected to get the majority of the carries early on in camp, but a recurring foot problem has cut back some of Smith's practice time. Still, Kentucky's fastest player, sporting sub 4.3 speed, has to be on the field and able to make plays for the Wildcats to be successful. Smith has shown flashes of the ability to be one of the most dangerous players in the SEC. But consistency is the key.

After backing up Rafael Little and Tony Dixon as a freshman, and showing so much promise, it appeared the sky was the limit for the unheralded back from Oklahoma. However a knee injury put Derrick Locke on the shelf after seven games. Locke has speed only matched by one other player on the roster, his backfield mate Alfonso Smith. Locke has shown toughness running between the tackles and the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. If he's fully recovered from injury, Locke could wind up as Kentucky's leading rusher this season.

Moncel Allen is one of the fan favorites on the roster. Allen is one of the few backs on teh roster who can fall forward on virtually every carry. Allen also doubles as a fullback because of his blocking abilities. While as talented as any back on the roster, he's been in and out of the coaches' dog house in his career. Now as an upperclassman this is his opportunity to step up and carve a niche. If Allen can stay on the field this season, expect very good production.

One of the pleasant surprises in spring practice was freshman running back Coshik Williams. Williams got a lot of carries that would have gone to Derrick Locke or Moncell Allen, however both players sat out out spring practice. Williams showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and showed break away speed. He does need work on his blocking, however. That lone aspect could cut back his playing time significantly.

With the uncertainty at the top of the running back position, Kentucky has called on it's three freshman recruits to take carries in practice. Jonathan George, Donald Russell and Dakotah Tyler have all had opportunities in fall camp to show their worth. Brooks has hinted that possibly two of the three backs will get an oppotunity to play this season. At this point in camp, it appears that Russell and George are a little ahead of Tyler. That could be in part due to Tyler playing other positions in high school, while Russell and George have always been running backs.

Final Analysis
If healthy, expect Alfonso Smith to be the starter with a healthy dose of Derrick Locke coming in behind him. Locke will also need more time to get into playing shape as he needs to shake of the rust of missing roughly half a season. If Locke can't shake the rust, Moncel Allen or one of the freshman could be counted on to help lighten the load.

The Candidates
Michael Hartline 6-6 215 Jr.
Will Fidler 6-4 230 Jr.
Ryan Mossakowski 6-4 210 Fr.
Morgan Newton 6-4 220 Fr.

Replacing possibly the all-time best quarterback in school history can't be an easy task. Michael Hartline was charged with just that last season after Andre Woodson graduated. Now more experienced and a year older, Hartline appears more up to the task.

Last season, Michael Hartline started nine games for the Wildcats, throwing for 1666 yards and nine touchdowns. While his numbers weren't overly impressive, he still gained experience and helped win seven games. After spring practice and work this past summer, Hartline appears to be on course to become the undisputed leader at quarterback. Practice reports say that he's been sharper and more vocal than ever and that he's gained the respect of his teammates. Brooks has already named Hartline the starter for the Miami (OH) game, but the second string position may be up for grabs.

Will Fidler had an impressive spring, showing that he was capable of being a solid number two man behind Hartline and even pushed the incumbant for his job to a degree. Fidler has still managed a solid fall camp and has given the staff the confidence that he is capable of running the team sufficiently should Hartline go down.

Both freshmen quarterbacks are having a difficult time grasping the offense and adjusting to the speed of an SEC defense. Physically Morgan Newton is a little ahead of Ryan Mossakowski. That is mostly due to a shoulder injury that Mossakowski suffered last season in high school. That injury has Mossakowksi as a probable redshirt and Newton likely battling Fidler for the number two spot.

Final Analysis
Rich Brooks has already named Hartline the starter, so there's not much discussion there. But the back up remains an interesting story to follow. Should Hartline struggle like he did last season, Fidler or Newton could see significant time. The question is how they would handle that opportunity in SEC play.

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