Strong-armed quarterback Andre Woodson wasn't the Big Blue's entire offense the past few years but he was pretty darned close. He threw for 3,515 yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior in 2006, then for 3,709 yards and 40 TDs as a senior in 2007. Now he's literally wingin' his way to the NFL.
Can Kentucky win without him? Sure ... just not as often.
The 2007 Wildcats ranked dead last among the 12 SEC teams in scoring defense, allowing 29.8 points per game. They went 8-5, however, because Woodson gave them the SEC's top passing offense at 282 yards per game.
His departure is complicated by the fact he took most of his favorite toys with him. Also gone are leading receiver Keenan Burton (66 catches, 9 TDs), second-leading receiver Steve Johnson (60 catches, 17.4 yards per catch, 13 TDs) and standout tight end Jacob Tamme (56 catches). All were selected in the recent NFL Draft. So was center Eric Scott. Kentucky also must replace 1,000-yard rusher Rafael Little and linebacker Wesley Woodyard, whose 139 stops in '07 more than doubled the total of UK's second-leading tackler.
Moreover, the talent that's arriving in Lexington is no match for the talent that's departing. The Wildcats' incoming recruiting class is ranked No. 51 by Scout.com.
Just in case head coach Rich Brooks was mulling early retirement to avoid the rebuilding job that lies ahead, UK's administration gave him a raise to $1.6 million per year and an extension through 2011.
Kentucky's football program won't fall off the face of the Earth this fall but the Big Blue does not project to be nearly as good in '08 as it was in '07. The defense looks to be mediocre and the offense won't be nearly as explosive.
Still, there is some reason for hope. Redshirt senior Curtis Pulley, the heir-apparent at quarterback, completed just 12 of 26 passes for 134 yards in the spring game but contributed 82 rushing yards on 15 carries. Alfonso Smith led all rushers with 170 yards on 20 carries and Dicky Lyons paced the receivers with 148 yards.
Given Kentucky's massive graduation losses on offense, place-kicker Lones Seiber could be the team's chief weapon in 2008. He ended the spring game on a sour note, however, missing a potential game-winning 46-yard field goal on the final play, enabling the White to hold off the Blue 23-22.