Ryan Tydlacka 6-1 205 So.
Replacing one of the best punters in the country is not an easy task, however Ryan Tydlacka is doing a solid job. Last season Tydlacka punted in short field situations and also served as backup field goal kicker. The staff has been pleased with his progress and expect him to become a reliable punter this season and beyond.
Last season Tim Masthay boomed kicks all over the field, and the defense benefited greatly from that ability. There won't be as much margin for error this season, however Tydlacka will be a solid replacement who will grow into his role.
Ryan Tydlacka 6-1 205 So.
Lones Seiber 5-9 195 Sr.
Again, we look to Tydlacka to replace an outstanding player in Masthay. He has struggle with kickoffs at times during fall camp, but with more reps and practice, Tydlacka should show marked improvement.
In a pinch, Lones Seiber may have to make the move to kickoffs should a problem occur. And no matter what can be said about his field goal kicking (we'll get to that later), he does have a strong leg that would have to be put to the test should there be an injury.
Kentucky will have a difficult time replacing Masthay, but Tydlacka has the talent to be a suffcient replacement. Kentucky won't have the advantage of so many touchbacks this season, but growth in the future at this position is bright.
Randall Cobb 5-11 195 So.
Gene McCaskill 6-0 190 So.
Eric Adeyemi 6-0 175 So.
Last season Randall Cobb was the only player in the country starting at quarterback and punt returner at the same time. This year Cobb will be returning punts full-time and his ability to make people miss will be welcomed at the position. While not the fastest player on the team, Cobb has the ability to spin away from tackles and elude defenders. You can expect him to take a couple of punts back for touchdowns this season.
Eric Adeyemi is one of the fastest players in the program and kick returns were his specialty in high school. If he sees open space in front of him, not many players can catch him due to his sub 4.4 speed. Adeyemi has done a solid job in practice and even returned a punt for a touchdown in last weekend's scrimmage.
Gene McCaskill fielded a few punts last season as well, replacing an injured Randall Cobb. McCaskill, like Cobb isn't the fastest, but he has sure hands and he plays smart. He may not have to field many punts this season, but if he does, he'll put in a quality effort.
Returning punts has been a staple of UK's special teams since Brooks arrived. Players like Derek Abney and Rafael Little were outstanding punt returners and it appears Kentucky is on the right track with this group as well.
Kentucky always seems to be among the leaders in average yards per kickoff return and that's due in part to the speed that they've put back there in the past. They don't get any faster than Alfonso Smith. Smith has returned eight kicks in his career for almost 23 yards per return. Although he has no touchdowns to his credit, it's just a matter of time and touches if he continues to play the position.
Smith's backfield mate Derrick Locke is also a dangerous return man, with an average of almost 27 yards per return in his 16 career returns. Locke has taken one back for a touchdown and if his stamina is up to par, he'll get several more opportunities, especially early in the season.
Last season over the last six games, Winston Guy returned 10 kicks, with a long of 96 yards. His combination of speed and strength make him an intriguing prospect returning kicks. Should he get the opportunities, he'll likely return one this season for a touchdown.
Kentucky looks like there are many threats to return kickoffs at any opportunity. If the blocking and vision are there, this is a dangerous unit capable of swinging the momentum of a game. Look for the Wildcats to have, again, one of the top kickoff return averages nationally.