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1. And now we wait
We rank things in college football. We rank teams, coaches, position players, units, the temperature of coaches' seats ...
It serves a purpose during the season, even if it gets tedious over the course of three to four months. But when the season ends and we enter our eight-month waiting period, we just keep ranking things. Teams before spring football. Heisman candidates before they've played a game.
It's silly. It's mostly harmless -- especially now that preseason polls don't have a direct impact on the national championship, since the Playoff committee doesn't do preseason polls -- and it keeps us talking about the sport for a full 12 months of the year. But it's still silly.
The silliest practice of all: ranking recruiting classes in June. It's eight months before Signing Day, some of your commits are quite possibly going to decommit, and a lot of the national recruiting powers have only begun to circle the wagons. A string of commitments and a high ranking can give your program some perceived momentum, but will that create a perceived backslide when the power schools reel you in and overtake you?
Take Kentucky, for instance. In mid-June 2013, Mark Stoops' Wildcats incredibly had the No. 1 class in the country according to Rivals.com. With 19 commitments, they also had more slots filled than most teams did. They made national headlines, then quietly slid back to 17th by Signing Day (and 22nd at 247 Sports). When you make a big deal of a team's recruiting rankings -- stars matter! this is the way to the top! -- then finish ninth in your own conference, how much of a perceptions win is that?
All that said ... Kentucky has gone 4-20 in the last two seasons and just inked, at worst, a top-25 recruiting class. Take perceived momentum and temporary No. 1 classes off of the table, and that's still awfully impressive. Stoops inherited a rather bare cupboard and has stocked it as well as he can in barely 18 months on the job. If he and his staff turn into impressive developers of talent, there's quite a bit of well-established talent to work with in his 2014 recruiting class.
And now comes the wait. Even if every four-star signee plays like a four-star signee, that probably isn't going to make much of a difference in 2014. Kentucky has ranked 112th and 97th in the F/+ rankings over the last two years; there's no quick rebound from that, at least not unless you're named Auburn.
Thus far, Stoops has remained publicly patient and understanding of the task at hand. He's already earned a raise because of his stellar recruiting, but the timeline is still a relatively long one. All he can hope is that Kentucky improves on the field enough in 2014 to give some "See? We're moving up!" ammunition for the 2015 class, and that probably isn't too much to ask.
At first glance, it's easy to assume that the Wildcats will be better at quarterback, running back, receiver, offensive line, defensive end, linebacker, and defensive back in 2014 -- basically everywhere but defensive tackle. The weaknesses will still be relatively weak, but Kentucky will be better in 2014 than it was in 2013. And barring some epic defections list, the Wildcats will probably be better in 2015, too. After a rapid three-year slide, that's reason to celebrate in and of itself.
2013 Schedule & Results
|Record: 2-10 | Adj. Record: 3-9 | Final F/+ Rk: 97|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L||5-gm Adj. Avg.|
|31-Aug||vs. Western Kentucky||77||26-35||L||38.1 - 34.0||W|
|7-Sep||Miami (Ohio)||123||41-7||W||41.4 - 9.6||W|
|14-Sep||Louisville||12||13-27||L||41.0 - 29.2||W|
|28-Sep||Florida||48||7-24||L||22.9 - 46.5||L|
|5-Oct||at South Carolina||10||28-35||L||32.3 - 35.1||L||4.3|
|12-Oct||Alabama||2||7-48||L||17.5 - 37.3||L||-0.5|
|24-Oct||at Mississippi State||33||22-28||L||20.9 - 26.8||L||-8.1|
|2-Nov||Alabama State||N/A||48-14||W||19.3 - 36.6||L||-13.9|
|9-Nov||Missouri||14||17-48||L||24.2 - 29.6||L||-10.2|
|16-Nov||at Vanderbilt||50||6-22||L||17.1 - 21.1||L||-10.5|
|23-Nov||at Georgia||22||17-59||L||17.2 - 39.2||L||-10.9|
|30-Nov||Tennessee||72||14-27||L||24.1 - 33.4||L||-11.6|
|Points Per Game||20.5||109||31.2||90|
|Adj. Points Per Game||26.3||80||31.5||97|
2. Three weeks of potential
For a brief time in September, it looked like the on-field rebuild was well on its way. Granted, in round-robin play, Kentucky finished last in the state of Kentucky. The Wildcats couldn't close drives as well as WKU and lost to Bobby Petrino's Hilltoppers, and while they were competitive against an excellent Louisville team, they still fell by 14 points. But the above adjusted scores show us that Kentucky was well above average overall in the first three games of the season.
And then came the next nine games.
- Adj. Points Per Game (first 3 games): Kentucky 40.2, Opponent 24.3 (plus-15.9)
- Adj. Points Per Game (last 9 games): Opponent 34.0, Kentucky 21.7 (minus-12.3)
After September 14, on-field progress was measured by a couple of good quarters or drives here and there. After an awful start, UK went on a 21-8 run in the fourth quarter to make the South Carolina game competitive. The Wildcats drove for a score and forced two punts to start the Missouri game. After falling behind Mississippi State by 14 points, they scored 12 straight to make it 21-19 late in the third quarter. They trailed Vandy by just three heading into the fourth quarter.
These are things most bad teams point to when looking for progress, but UK was just too young and banged up to do any more damage than that. In 2014, we'll find out if the experience that so many young players got was a good, developmental thing, or whether it was more akin to a triple-A pitcher getting promoted too early and stunting growth.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||39.1%||95||Succ. Rt. +||95.0||79|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||29.7||61||Def. FP+||101.4||41|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.0||82||Redzone S&P+||110.9||25|
|Q1 Rk||34||1st Down Rk||61|
|Q2 Rk||88||2nd Down Rk||40|
|Q3 Rk||80||3rd Down Rk||90|
Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Maxwell Smith||6'4, 238||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||105||183||1276||9||1||57.4%||18||9.0%||5.9|
|Patrick Towles (2012)||6'5, 238||So.||4 stars (5.8)||19||40||233||1||1||47.5%||4||9.1%||4.5|
|Reese Phillips||6'2, 218||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Drew Barker||6'3, 216||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)|
3. Lots of candidates, no standouts ... again
Last year, I used my only "Spinal Tap drummers" reference of the preview series -- it's too dated a reference to make more than once per year -- on Kentucky quarterbacks. The 2013 season didn't dissuade me from doing the same this year.
Indeed, through a toxic combination of poor performance and injury, Kentucky has gone through a Spinal Tappian number of quarterbacks in recent years. In 2011, Maxwell Smith (then a freshman) threw 153 passes in eight games while Morgan Newton threw 174 in 10. In 2012, Smith threw 150 in four, Jalen Whitlow (then a freshman) threw 161 in 10, Patrick Towles (freshman) threw 40 in five, and Newton threw 32 in seven. In 2013, with Towles out all season, Smith threw 183 in nine while Whitlow threw 159 in 12. Bouncing between the dual-threat Whitlow and the pass-first Smith, Kentucky managed to rank 79th in Passing S&P+ -- not good, but a drastic improvement over the 111th-place finish of 2012. Whitlow added a nice dimension on the ground but went nowhere with his passes, while Smith was more likely to get the ball downfield and less likely to throw picks. They both took far too many sacks.
So naturally, spring ended with Smith fourth on the depth chart, Whitlow gone (via transfer to Eastern Illinois), and Towles tied with a freshman (blue-chipper Drew Barker) and redshirt freshman (Reese Phillips) for the starting job. Smith missed spring with shoulder surgery and might or might not be a serious candidate at this point.
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown wants to throw the ball. He was a wide receiver for Hal Mumme and Mike Leach at Kentucky; he learned under Tony Franklin (Mumme's offensive coordinator at Kentucky after Leach left for Oklahoma) for a couple of years at Troy before taking over the Troy offense himself, then moving on to post-Leach Texas Tech. Mark Stoops hiring Brown was a nice nod (intentional or not) to both Kentucky's recent history and the successful hiring practices of Mark's brother Bob, who famously hired Leach as his first Oklahoma O.C.
UK's run-pass ratios were a bit confused in 2013, thanks mostly to the mix of Smith (201 pass attempts including sacks, 12 rush attempts) and Whitlow (175 pass attempts, 91 rushes), but Brown wants to spread the ball around. He'll want to even more in 2014, considering he returns a lot more proven depth at receiver than running back.
|Raymond Sanders III||RB||107||464||3||4.3||3.2||42.1%|
|Jojo Kemp||RB||5'10, 192||So.||3 stars (5.7)||100||482||3||4.8||4.2||41.0%|
|Ryan Timmons||WR||5'10, 195||So.||3 stars (5.7)||12||91||0||7.6||8.6||50.0%|
|Maxwell Smith||QB||6'4, 238||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||12||5||0||0.4||5.6||8.3%|
|Javess Blue||WR||6'0, 191||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||4||19||0||4.8||14.3||25.0%|
|RB||5'11, 189||Jr.||4 stars (5.9)||52||348||3||6.7||4.4||N/A|
|Josh Clemons||RB||5'10, 223||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Stanley "Boom" Williams||RB||5'9, 200||Fr.||4 stars (5.9)|
|Mikel Horton||RB||6'1, 230||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Javess Blue||WR||6'0, 191||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||67||43||586||64.2%||20.1%||70.0%||8.7||64||8.4||80.9|
|Ryan Timmons||WR||5'10, 195||So.||3 stars (5.7)||49||32||338||65.3%||14.7%||75.0%||6.9||-47||6.9||46.7|
|Demarco Robinson||WR||5'10, 158||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||33||20||213||60.6%||9.9%||44.0%||6.5||-37||7.2||29.4|
|Jeff Badet||WR||6'0, 169||So.||3 stars (5.5)||32||21||262||65.6%||9.6%||65.4%||8.2||10||6.9||36.2|
|Raymond Sanders III||RB||28||19||137||67.9%||8.4%||52.4%||4.9||-87||4.1||18.9|
|Alexander Montgomery||WR||6'2, 210||So.||3 stars (5.7)||25||16||137||64.0%||7.5%||57.9%||5.5||-57||5.4||18.9|
|Jojo Kemp||RB||5'10, 192||So.||3 stars (5.7)||16||10||79||62.5%||4.8%||77.8%||4.9||-44||4.6||10.9|
|Steven Borden||TE||6'3, 246||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||5||3||63||60.0%||1.5%||N/A||12.6||25||0.0||8.7|
|Ronnie Shields||TE||6'6, 254||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||4||1||7||25.0%||1.2%||N/A||1.8||-15||0.0||1.0|
|Joey Herrick||WR||6'1, 197||Jr.||NR||3||2||15||66.7%||0.9%||N/A||5.0||-9||0.0||2.1|
|Rashad Cunningham||WR||6'4, 225||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Cameron Fogle||WR||5'11, 203||RSFr.||NR|
|Dorian Baker||WR||6'3, 197||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Blake Bone||WR||6'5, 198||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Thaddeus Snodgrass||WR||6'1, 178||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
4. A hell of a skill position unit (in 2015 or 2016)
There's reason to believe that UK's backs and wideouts will be better in 2014 than they were last year.
Raymond Sanders III and Jojo Kemp were efficient runners but lacked in explosiveness; Kemp returns and is joined by a variety of interesting newcomers -- Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard (also more efficient than explosive at NU), junior Josh Clemons (technically not a newcomer, but he hasn't played since 2011 after a series of injuries), explosive blue-chip freshman Boom Williams, and big freshman Mikel Horton. You've got plenty of big, plenty of small, and plenty of options.
The wideout position should benefit from 2013's crash course. Of last year's top five receivers, four were newcomers. JUCO transfer Javess Blue and freshmen Ryan Timmons, Jeff Badet, and Alexander Montgomery combined for 112 catches and 1,323 yards, and while only Blue and Badet really showed any serious per-target acuity, they all had moments. Blue caught six passes for 114 yards against Miami (Ohio) and five for 93 against Georgia. Timmons had three for 72 against Louisville and five for 69 against Mississippi State. Badet caught seven passes in the first seven games, then caught 15 in the last five. Returnee Demarco Robinson caught five for 69 in the season opener. Montgomery caught 10 passes in September.
None of these are mind-blowing moments, but all proved they could be decent AQ-conference receivers. They'll all get opportunities again this fall, though they could be pushed by a trio of exciting freshmen: Dorian Baker, Blake Bone, and Thad Snodgrass.
If the backs can average 5.0 yards per carry, and the top five wideouts (whoever they are) can average 7.8 to 8.0 yards per target, that won't make for a world-beating skill position unit, but it would represent clear improvement that, considering the youth of the unit as a whole, would mean very good things for 2015 and beyond.
|Darrian Miller||LT||6'5, 292||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||26|
|Zach West||LG||6'4, 318||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||21|
|Jordan Swindle||RT||6'7, 306||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||12|
|Jon Toth||C||6'5, 301||So.||2 stars (5.4)||11|
|Max Godby||LG||6'4, 298||Sr.||NR||2|
|Teven Eatmon-Nared||LT||6'7, 339||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||1|
|Zach Myers||C||6'3, 287||So.||3 stars (5.6)||1|
|Jack Gruenschlaeger||RG||6'11, 363||Jr.||NR||0|
|Shaquille Love||RT||6'4, 323||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0|
|Kyle Meadows||RT||6'5, 294||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Nick Haynes||LG||6'3, 319||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Ramsey Meyers||RG||6'4, 300||RSFr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Cole Mosier||RG||6'6, 348||RSFr.||NR|
|Nick Richardson||OL||6'4, 272||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Jarrett LaRubbio||OL||6'8, 282||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
5. The line stats should come around
Last year, UK was not only changing systems but replacing two three-year starters up front: all-conference guard Larry Warford and center Matt Smith. An unseasoned line took its lumps last fall, especially with two indecisive (in different ways) quarterbacks making reads in (or out of) the pocket. The Wildcats' line stats fell from 24th in Adj. Line Yards and 67th in Adj. Sack Rate to 82nd and 103rd, respectively.
Kentucky has almost double the returning career starts (39 heading into 2013, 74 heading into 2014), a year in Brown's system, and almost all of last year's two-deep returning. The running backs should be pretty efficient, and the QBs won't be any worse at taking sacks. Only three of the seven players with starting experience are seniors, too, so good continuity in 2014 could lead to more good continuity in 2015.
(Now if you'll pardon me, I'm going to daydream about a line of tackles Jordan Swindle and Teven Eatmon-Nared, guards Jack Gruenschlaeger and Cole Mosier, and center Jon Toth -- an average size of 6'7, 331. Fun.)
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||48.4%||113||Succ. Rt. +||91.1||98|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||27.6||106||Off. FP+||97.5||88|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.6||99||Redzone S&P+||85.9||98|
|Q1 Rk||112||1st Down Rk||61|
|Q2 Rk||37||2nd Down Rk||113|
|Q3 Rk||96||3rd Down Rk||86|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Alvin Dupree||DE||6'4, 264||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||11||47.5||7.0%||9.5||7.0||0||1||2||0|
|Za'Darius Smith||DE||6'6, 263||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||12||41.5||6.1%||6.5||6.0||0||1||0||0|
|Mike Douglas||DT||6'4, 288||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||18.5||2.7%||1.5||1.0||0||2||0||0|
|Jason Hatcher||DE||6'3, 242||So.||4 stars (5.8)||9||17.0||2.5%||3.0||2.0||0||0||0||0|
|Farrington Huguenin||DE||6'4, 275||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||12||12.0||1.8%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Alvin Davis Jr.||DE||11||7.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Christian Coleman||DT||6'3, 288||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Jabari Johnson||DE||6'1, 276||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Melvin Lewis||DT||6'4, 320||Jr.||NR|
|Jacob Hyde||DT||6'2, 333||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Regie Meant||DT||6'4, 286||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)|
|Cory Johnson||DT||6'3, 299||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)|
6. A pass rush can only take you so far
The Kentucky offense showed marked improvement, from bad to below average, in 2013. The defense, not so much. The Wildcats moved from 113th in Def. F/+ to just 109th and provided basically one distinct strength: the pass rush.
Now, a pass rush is important, and if Kentucky was able to leverage you into passing downs (a rarity), Wildcat ends were often able to tee off. Ends Alvin Dupree and Za'Darius Smith combined for 13 sacks and served as one of the league's better duos in that regard; in D.J. Eliot's 4-2-5 system, it's key to be able to generate pressure without blitzing too much. You can check that box.
Of course, a pass rush only matters if you have other strengths, too. Not only couldn't Kentucky actually force passing downs, but on the 90 percent of passing downs pass attempts that didn't result in sacks, chances are the opponent's quarterback was finding a wide open receiver. Even with a strong pass rush, Kentucky ranked 80th in Standard Downs S&P+ and a woeful 113th in Passing Downs S&P+. The Wildcats couldn't stop the run, and the only way they stopped the pass was by bringing down the QB.
In 2014, the end position should be as strong, or even stronger: Dupree and Smith are both back, as is four-star sophomore Jason Hatcher. The problem is that the tackle position has been severely depleted -- three of last year's top four are gone, including leader Donte Rumph -- and it doesn't yet appear that the linebacker position is ready to start making plays. UK probably won't be much better against the run this fall, so even if the pass defense improves overall, that will only matter so much.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Khalid Henderson||WLB||6'1, 228||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||12||37.5||5.6%||3.0||1.0||1||1||2||0|
|TraVaughn Paschal||MLB||6'4, 257||Sr.||NR||9||27.5||4.1%||4.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Josh Forrest||MLB||6'3, 236||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||12.5||1.9%||0.5||0.0||1||0||0||0|
|Daron Blaylock||WLB||6'1, 214||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||12||12.0||1.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Tre' Dunn||WLB||6'2, 225||Sr.||NR||12||3.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Dorian Hendrix||LB||6'0, 230||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Kobie Walker||LB||6'3, 201||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
7. Wanted: play-makers under 260 pounds
So yeah, Dupree and Smith are keepers. What else might Kentucky bring to the table defensively? Hard to say. The top five returning linebackers combined for 7.5 tackles for loss and three passes defensed.
No, play-making stats are not the end-all, be-all for measuring player proficiency, especially when we're talking about linebackers in a 4-2-5 system. But Kentucky fell well short of the play-making bar overall in 2013, and while stellar recruiting could help the offense and the secondary (and perhaps the defensive tackle position), it's not immediately clear that it's going to help at linebacker, at least not without some developmental time. Big TraVaughn Paschal is intriguing at middle linebacker, and Khalid Henderson has two solid years of experience now, but this isn't a unit that will strike fear in opponents' hearts.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Blake McClain||NB||5'11, 194||So.||3 stars (5.6)||12||48.0||7.1%||1||1||0||5||1||0|
|Eric Dixon||NB||5'11, 193||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||44.0||6.5%||0.5||0.5||0||0||1||0|
|Fred Tiller||CB||6'0, 170||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||43.0||6.4%||4||0||0||4||1||0|
|Ashely Lowery||S||6'1, 220||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||35.5||5.3%||0.5||0||1||3||1||1|
|Nate Willis||CB||6'0, 168||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||9||29.0||4.3%||2||0||0||5||0||0|
|Cody Quinn||CB||5'10, 172||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||10||21.5||3.2%||1.5||0||0||3||0||0|
|J.D. Harmon (2012)||CB||6'2, 201||So.||NR||12||20.5||3.0%||0||0||2||4||0||0|
|Jaleel Hytchye||CB||5'10, 167||So.||3 stars (5.7)||8||8.5||1.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Marcus McWilson||S||6'0, 210||So.||4 stars (5.8)||8||6.0||0.9%||2||0.5||0||0||0||1|
|Glenn Faulkner||S||6'2, 195||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||12||5.0||0.7%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Keron Wakefield||CB||5'10, 161||RSFr.||NR|
|A.J. Stamps||S||6'0, 199||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Zack Blaylock||S||6'0, 191||So.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Darius West||S||6'0, 193||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Kendall Randolph||CB||6'0, 168||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Jared Tucker||CB||5'11, 159||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
8. A passing-downs horror show
Good news: Kentucky returns its top nine defensive backs from 2013.
Bad news: These nine are returning from one of the nation's worst secondaries.
Despite a top-40 pass rush, UK ranked 85th in Passing S&P+ and 113th on passing downs. It is perhaps exciting that the four most intriguing returnees from a pure play-maker perspective -- nickel back Blake McClain, corner Fred Tiller, corner J.D. Harmon, and safety Marcus McWilson -- were all either freshmen or sophomores last year. (Harmon redshirted in 2013.) Only McClain and Tiller project as starters this year, but maybe there's hope there. And maybe the addition of a pair of JUCO transfers (A.J. Stamps, Zack Blaylock) and two four-star freshmen (Darius West, Kendall Randolph) can plump up the overall quality a bit.
They better, at least, because the secondary is the cornerstone of the 4-2-5, and Kentucky's just wasn't good enough last year.
|Landon Foster||6'1, 198||Jr.||68||41.3||6||16||15||45.6%|
|Javess Blue||KR||6'0, 191||Sr.||25||20.4||0|
|Demarco Robinson||KR||5'10, 158||Sr.||5||25.6||0|
|Demarco Robinson||PR||5'10, 158||Sr.||11||10.4||0|
|Javess Blue||PR||6'0, 191||Sr.||7||2.9||0|
|Special Teams F/+||86|
|Field Goal Efficiency||30|
|Punt Return Efficiency||124|
|Kick Return Efficiency||62|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||22|
9. Punts were not Kentucky's friend
Joe Mansour was quite solid in 2013, both in booting high, unreturnable kickoffs and in making 10 of 10 field goals under 40 yards. And in Javess Blue and Demarco Robinson, the Wildcats had a couple of reasonably consistent return men. But punting and punt returns did not go well from a consistency persepctive; the per-punt and per-return numbers were decent, but both units were quite all-or-nothing and created field position disadvantages that Kentucky really did not need.
Mansour is gone, but punter Landon Foster and all return men return. We'll see if that's a particularly good thing.
2014 Schedule & Projection Factors
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-8.8% (84)|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||19|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||0 / -3.2|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||16 (8, 8)|
10. A good September is key
When you've won four games in two years, you "improved" to 97th overall last year (in what is either the best or second-best conference in the country), and you're probably going to be leaning on quite a few freshmen and sophomores, you probably shouldn't set the bar too high.
I do see Kentucky improving on paper in 2014, but what that means for expectations will depend on how September goes. If UK avoids upset against Ohio and beats Vanderbilt at home, they could start the season 3-1 (4-2 by mid-October), and if you're looking for "They've got momentum!" storylines, that's a good way to generate some.
A backloaded schedule should prevent UK from getting too far beyond four wins, of course, but 2014 is all about confidence and momentum -- real momentum, not recruiting-rankings-in-June momentum -- and the Wildcats could absolutely generate some this fall.