LSU (5-2, 1-2) looks to make it two straight wins in SEC play when Kentucky (5-1, 2-1) comes to town Saturday night for a cross-division meeting in Tiger Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. and the SEC Network will carry the ballgame.
But before the Tigers and Wildcats square off, TSD is providing scouting reports on both sides of the ball for an improved team in year two under head coach Mark Stoops.
This isn’t Big Blue of a year ago that went 0-for-8 in the conference, and nowhere is that clearer than with the UK offense, averaging 36.5 points a game behind quarterback Patrick Towles. Here’s a look at the projected starting offense for Kentucky followed by the most important notes to know on the pass-happy Wildcats.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
RB: Braylon Heard (Jr., 5-11, 189)
WR: Demarco Robinson (Sr., 5-10, 158)
WR: Ryan Timmons (So., 5-10, 195)
WR: Javess Blue (Sr., 6-0, 191)
TE: Steven Borden (Sr., 6-3, 246)
LT: Darrian Miller (Sr., 6-5, 292)
LG: Zach West (Jr., 6-4, 318)
C: Jon Toth (So., 6-5, 301)
RG: Ramsey Meyers (R-Fr., 6-5, 300)
RT: Jordan Swindle (Jr., 6-7, 306)
Key Backups: RB JoJo Kemp (So., 5-10, 194), WR Dorian Baker (Fr., 6-3, 197), WR Garrett Johnson (Fr., 5-11, 176), TE Ronnie Shields (Sr., 6-5, 254), FB D.J. Warren (Sr., 6-0, 251)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Towles, Part One: The tall sophomore signal caller is a passer first, without question. Towles is completing 62.5% of his passes and averaging 256.8 yards a game through the air. He’s tossed 10 touchdowns against four interceptions and knows how to connect deep, too. Already this season Kentucky has completed passes of 83, 79, 60 and 56 yards. While he is athletic and can move outside of the pocket, this is one quarterback LSU can’t allow to stay comfortable with the confines of the pocket. Towles is proving to be very efficient in such settings.
- Towles, Part Two: As I mentioned he can tuck it and run when pressed, but it’s not exactly a major part of the offensive design for Mark Stoops and offensive coordinator Neal Brown. Through six games Towles has compiled 60 rushes (tops on the team) for 233 yards gained but only 121 yards total when subtracting the lost yardage on sacks and the like. Kentucky QBs have been sacked 11 times on the season, so that obviously factors into his total rushing stats. But Towles has scored twice on the ground and averages about 18.7 yards per contest rushing. He’s nothing close to what LSU’s faced in Dak Prescott or certainly Nick Marshall, but Towles can scoot in a crunch.
- Smaller, quicker WRs: This will definitely be a change of pace for LSU’s defense after going up against some of the taller wide-outs that Mississippi State and Auburn trot onto the field. Of Kentucky’s five leading receivers, only Dorian Baker is taller than 6-foot. But the speedy Wildcat wide receivers have been very productive in the early going. Ryan Timmons leads the way with 27 grabs for 315 yards and two touchdowns, but three others have hauled in multiple touchdowns and four total targets have accounted for 210-plus yards receiving. Towles spreads the wealth (although not to his backs or tight ends really) and lets a lot of these shorter, faster receivers do their thing in space after quick throws.
- Kemp then Heart at RB: Braylon Heard is listed as the starter, but the stats and film show Jojo Kemp is the primary back in this Kentucky offense. Heard has been very impressive with less carries, averaging a robust 7.4 yards a carry, similar to Terrence Magee in the 2014 LSU offense. But, like Magee had Jeremy Hill, Heard has Kemp, who has carried 56 times for 297 yards and a team-high four touchdowns. Kemp blew up in the Wildcats’ win versus South Carolina, toting the rock 17 times for 131 yards and three scores. He’ll be the one John Chavis & Co. must focus on first and foremost.