The Robertson Report

[Premium article] Will Kentucky show improvement this season after feeling the hammer of the NCAA last season? Check out what Steve Robertson writes in his pre-season preview.

The "Air Raid" at UK took a huge blow last year when the much anticipated hammer of the NCAA swung down. It could have been and probably should have been a lot worse. The sanctions hovered like a storm cloud most of the season, but I'll give UK a lot of credit, despite going 2-9 they never packed it in and even scared a few teams by playing well against them deep into the 4th quarter. Perhaps if Jared Lorenzen had taken his off-season conditioning program a little more seriously he would have taken every snap. His absence, whether by choice or by non-compliance, was a huge factor. On a team with few stars, Lorenzen must shine brighter than ever if the 'Cats have any shot at a winning campaign.

To say Coach Guy Moriss had a rough start would be putting it politely. Moriss played against some long odds most of the season, but was always classy in defeat or victory. You can bet that Moriss will certainly expect more than two victory parades this year. If Lorenzen has the ball, that should put a few more W's in the career coaching record of Morris.

The focal point of the offense, both literally and philosophically, is Lorenzen. Tipping the scales at a nimble 275 pounds, Jared is tough to miss. He has unquestionable talent, but his heart and dedication have been questioned by many. Despite a porous defense and a running game that is virtually non-existent, Lorenzen legitimizes the UK offensive threat. He can and will beat you deep. If you don't get to him he'll get to you.

The offensive line returns three starters from a year ago and the reserves have some seasoning. They are young, but one if not the only benefit to a losing season is spreading the playing time around. Most on the depth chart saw action in 2001, which hopefully will help the 'Cats get into game shape quicker. The best lineman of the bunch will probably be center Nick Seitze. Seitze a junior makes good calls on blocking assignments, but just needs a little help. The bluegrass boys got to inspect a lot of sod throughout the conference due to some weaknesses up the middle. With a little more experience as a unit, that problem should improve.

The Wildcats usually run a one back set and Artose Pinner appears ready to step in as the full time man after splitting time a season ago. Pinner packs a load at 225 but lacks break away speed. The running game was supposed to be under development a year ago, but it appears old habits die hard as the ball control offense was abandoned about week 4.

Derek Abney returns as the target of choice, but will see more double teams than last season. Tommy Cook needs a break out year after a decent freshman campaign. The Cats aren't as deep as they once were, but there is still adequate talent to stretch the field.

Dennis "DJ" Johnson defected to the NFL and was arguably the best player on defense despite having a down year in 2001. Johnson had the size and ability, but never became the dominant player he was rumored to become as a freshman. Looking to replace Johnson is Otis Grisby. Otis at 244 may be a bit heavy in the program than his true playing weight. Look for a committee of potential DEs if Grisby stumbles. Dewayne Robertson should help the push up front as he returns to a very green D-line.

The linebackers are new, but familiar. Ronnie Riley and Morris Lane have been around the program for a few years now and will be counted on heavily. The 'Cats have two DBs that double as DOG safeties. David Johnson is a good one and should have a break out campaign. He makes big tackles in run support and has some cover skills if needed. Both corners return which is good and bad. Both struggled at times a year ago, but should be improved if reports from the spring are correct. Look for Leonard Burress to be the man tied up with the conference's best.

SCHEDULE
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@ Louisville
UTEP
Indiana
Middle Tennessee
@ Florida
South Carolina
@ Arkansas
Georgia
@ MSU
LSU
Vanderbilt
@ Tennessee

UK should be good enough to earn a split in non-conference and may steal a 3rd win if they can out wrangle Gerry Dinardo's Indiana Hoosiers. The Louisville game with Heisman hopeful Ragone should be a fun one to watch. It's a rivalry game, so who knows, but I got UK losing this one. If they can win 3 of the 1st 4, which are all non-conference, they have a shot at breaking even. The slate is pretty tough, but after these kids get a few wins and some confidence, who knows. They're not going to challenge for the Eastern crown, but they could make a difference along the way in someone's season. Look for UK to be up and down as they scare the tar out of somebody ranked then come back and get beat by 4 TDs the next week. Lorenzen is a junior and he displaced fan favorite Dusty Bonner, so he needs to get it together if he wants to be remembered for anything more than his offensive tackle type physique.

The 'Cats as always will be entertaining. They'll throw it and throw it and throw it. I wish they played Ole Miss this year. That would be a track meet, but it's not to be. I like Moriss and I think if the administration will leave him alone he'll make them be competitive again and Guy won't cheat to do it. I admired the way his team showed character and almost beat eventual SEC champ LSU. It took a last minute comeback for the Tigers to pull that one out and UK gets them at home this season. The LSU secondary will be just as suspect. Many folks around the league felt that if Lorenzen had played the full game then Auburn would have played in Atlanta instead of LSU. UK will have trouble with teams that can run it between the tackles which will keep Lorenzen on the sidelines. This team just doesn't have the horses to compete week in and week out and with scholarship limitations sending the best talent away from Lexington, it may be several years before they escape being picked 5th or 6th in the SEC East. We could have a much worse permanent SEC East opponent, but they always scare me. They always play ball against us. Here's hoping we keep the streak alive again this year.

For the record, Kentucky voted in favor of the "artificial" noisemakers rule!

Until next week,

Steve Robertson
I John 4:7-8


Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is therobertsonreport@hotmail.com.

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