Opposition Danger Men: Kentucky

The ‘Dores first road game of 2014 comes in the fifth week of the season and takes the team to Lexington, Ky., to face the Wildcats. We are going to continue our countdown to the season by taking a closer look at a couple of difference makers who Vandy will come up against in this SEC clash.


Offense: RB – JoJo Kemp

Kentucky may have talent deficiencies in a number of areas, but the Wildcats enter 2014 completely stacked at running back. The talent pool, which was decent enough to begin with, has been added to with a couple of transfers from BCS Programs and two true freshmen who have blazed into campus as four star recruits. Even with all that being said though the clear number one back is Jojo Kemp, one of the holdovers from last year's 2-10 squad.

Kemp rolled for 482 yards on 100 carries last fall as a true freshman, good for an obvious 4.8 yards per carry, but that is just scratching the surface of his potential. Standing at a compact 5-feet-10 and 196 pounds, Kemp has a frightening blend of speed and power to go along with a frame which looks purpose built to carry the ball 20 times per game.

Last season his production was limited by painful bone spurs in both feet, a condition which really took its toll on his ability to cut and change directions in small spaces. Now, though, Kemp is fully healthy and in the Wildcat spring game he looked to have an additional change of gear and a sharper change in direction. If he can carry both those traits through into the fall then he has the potential to be a top five back in the SEC. That is something that the ‘Dores, and all the other conference teams for that matter, should certainly be on notice about.

Defense: DE – Za'Darious Smith, Bud, Dupree, and Jason Hatcher

Taking three players from one group might be cheating here, but if any group in the SEC demands this kind of attention it is the top three defensive ends at Kentucky. This is the best group of returning ends in the entire SEC as Smith (59 tackles, 6 sacks) and Dupree (61 tackles, 7 sacks) made meeting at the quarterback their calling card in 2013.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this group is their work ethic. Obviously their athletic talent and range of pass rush moves are in the upper echelon, but each of the three has a habit of playing every down like it is their last on the field. The fact that the Wildcats can pull in a guy like Hatcher, who as a sophomore has nearly unlimited potential, means that the three ends can go all out every play and be rotated to stay fresh. If the trio is held under 20 sacks this fall it would be a surprise, if they reach 25 the Wildcats may well break out of the SEC basement and become relevant for the first time in a good while.

VandyMania.com Top Stories