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Star Search; Kentucky Football Edition

ed mcmahon

Help us ghost Ed.


As a kid, long before the annual Duncan Cavanah Kentucky Football position-by-position preview became a highly-anticipated KSR rite of summer, I used to obsessively scour college football magazines in order to predict each SEC team’s fall football fortunes.  (I was a really cool kid.)  In those days, I valued the number of starters a team returned above almost every other factor as an indicator of success.  In other words, a Gerry DiNardo coached Vanderbilt squad, fresh off a 2-9 campaign, that returned 18 starters would be more likely to earn my highly-valued seal of approval than would a reigning conference champion Florida squad that returned only 12. Shockingly, it turns out my adolescent brain failed to analyse the data very accurately.  I made the common mistake of overvaluing an experienced roster. As it turns out, much more important to success in football, or any athletic endeavor for that matter, is the existence of players, or sometimes even one player, that can consistently make difference-making plays.  Of all the various obstacles facing the current Kentucky roster, the absence of such a game-changing player is the single-most glaring, and something that must be addressed before the Cats can truly compete.


The topic of what one star player can do for an otherwise middling football team occurred to me as I watched the Kentucky – Vandy game on Saturday.  To my admittedly untrained eye, I saw two football teams that appeared to be on relatively similar levels.  I understand, of course, that Vanderbilt, poised for its third straight bowl appearance, is the better team.  I simply mean that athletically, Vandy looks a lot more like Kentucky than they do Alabama.  And for the most part, the game played out as though the talent level was fairly equivalent, with the noted exception of one player.  Kentucky absolutely could not stop Commodore receiver Jordan Matthews.  Matthews’ 172 total yards accounted for over 55% of Vandy’s yardage against the Cats.  It seemed that whenever Vanderbilt needed a play, Matthews was able to deliver it for them.  Unfortunately, the Cats do not currently have a player of similar ilk on the roster.


Not since the days of Randall Cobb has Kentucky fielded a player who single-handedly elevates the team through his play.  This is particularly the case offensively, where the Cats have a serious lack of explosive offensive weapons.  Kentucky’s current roster has not one player in the top 15 in the SEC in rushing, receiving, all purpose yards or scoring. The lack of a player capable of making dynamic plays on his own creates enormous challenges for offenses.  Offensive play-callers are forced to micromanage the ball a few yards at a time down the field for scores rather than simply relying on playmakers to make something happen.  This is akin to a basketball coach having to use his offense to set up every scoring opportunity as opposed to a team who has players who can make shots on their own outside the offense.  There is far less pressure to execute perfectly when players can thrive even when the play does not go as planned. Think of Johnny Manziel or Cam Newton as recent examples.  Neal Brown and the rest of Kentucky’s coaches do not have this luxury.


With the season winding down, it seems unlikely that the lack of dynamic play-making will be remedied this season.  So who will be the player to inject life into Kentucky’s offense going forward?  The good news is that there appear to be several possibilities, both on the current roster and coming soon.  Will it be Javess Blue?  Blue has enjoyed a solid debut season at Kentucky, and currently leads the Cats in receiving with 35 catches for 451 yards and two touchdowns.  Blue might be a good bet historically as previous Kentucky receivers who have transferred from junior college tend to make big leaps in production between their first and second years.  Stevie Johnson recorded 12 catches in his first season in Lexington before “getting loose” for 61 catches and 13 touchdowns in his final year.  Aaron Boone and Chris Bernard also made major strides in year two.  Another possibility from the current roster would be freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons.  Timmons has shown flashes of being an explosive and versatile player during his freshman year despite being slowed by injury.  Running back Jojo Kemp, who has averaged over 5 yards per carry as a freshman, is another possibility among players on the current roster.


Though counting on freshmen to immediately produce dynamic plays is an uncertain proposition, it is entirely possible that the star player Kentucky needs to move the offense forward may be found in Kentucky’s historic 2014 recruiting class.  By the time fall drills roll around, Kentucky’s offense will be adding three 4 star running backs and two 4 star wide receivers to the depth chart.  In addition, 4 star and Elite Eleven quarterback Drew Barker will have the opportunity to compete for the starting job. While Kentucky’s most talented players will be very young, I think it is almost certain that there will be one or more true difference-making players on the Kentucky roster in 2014.  If so, Kentucky will be elevated far more than if they simply returned 22 anonymous starters.


Use the comments section to vote on who you believe Kentucky’s next game -changer is, whether a current player or an incoming recruit.




Article written by Duncan Cavanah

24 responses to “Star Search; Kentucky Football Edition”

  1. lonnieb

    It will be whitlow next year in the slot WR

  2. 2-10

    Playing true freshman this year, they have played worse than true freshman and their stats show it.

    One total interception for the season.

    Countless dropped passes and fumbles.

    Most of all, on big play 3rd downs, the freshman were duds!

    Hopefully the coaching staff learned a lesson for next season.

  3. 3-9

    Braylon Heard

  4. Elmer Skaggs

    3-9 next year followed by 4-8, Poops gets fired and replaced by another clown

    1. trey

      5 wins next year

  5. Delk for 3

    Other than recognizing wins and losses, some people just aren’t very good at assessing a team’s progress over time when watching football. What seems so apparent to one person, is just not so for another. I can clearly see how Stoops is building us into one tough program. Stoops took over one of the least talented football teams in the history of Kentucky football. Anybody with any clear understanding of college football would have been able to tell you that this team would win no more than 4 games, and more than likely would just get 2 or 3 wins. They have had no business competing with, and nearly winning games at Mississippi St. and Vandy. They also had no business playing a solid game against rival Louisville. THey did though, and the credit totally needs to go Stoops. So while the offense has had tremendous struggles, Stoops has established a strong defense that will allow Kentucky to compete for years to come. I fully expect Kentucky to become a very good program under Stoops and I think that they can go bowling as soon as next year.

  6. timmons


  7. StoopsEra

    Heard or Timmons. I feel like Heard is going to be someone who surpirses a lot of people next year, he seems to be someone people overlook and forget about a lot with the new class coming in but the kids a stud. Go cats

  8. Alyson

    Right on, you hit the nail on the head with your picture. Star search for sure. Very few on defense and solely Blue on offense and the kicking team. Nothing else and UK is 10 games in.

  9. PaducahCatFan

    Timmons. Until Barker gets here and produces, I’m a sceptic. I’ve seen too many hyped quarterbacks dress in the blue and underperform in the last 8 years.

    1. StoopsEra

      I have to agree with you on this one. I’m a big time Barker skeptic, don’t get me wrong I hope that he proves me wrong and can come in day one and be a difference maker but I don’t see it yet. Just take a look at his numbers against Anderson, he was 6-24 for 124 yds. 2 tds and 1 interception. Not the best of numbers against bad competition. I understand he’s still throwing to hs receivers and all but he does worry me. I feel that he may be a little overhyped but hopefully I am wrong.

  10. Pretty Bad

    This team is pretty bad, but I have hopes that Stoops will turn us around and make UK a solid program. We need to find a way to beat Tennessee. Maybe use a split end at quarterback.

  11. RICK

    The air raid offense is great. Throw the football next year and name a starting quarterback by aug 15th.and things should be better.

  12. Jason

    Drew Barker is most important.

    I believe that if we had an accurate quarterback this year our offense would be greatly improved from what we have seen. Unfortunately, we can’t even connect on wide receiver screens when the qb doesn’t have to do anything but throw to a spot.


    Blocking from the line has to get better before anybody on offense can shine. Recievers need time to
    get open and running backs need holes to run through. Also, QB’s need time to throw the ball.
    Once we have established that we have some guys (and are getting more) that can make plays
    in the open field.

  14. Catsfan

    Reese Phillips is going to surprise people next year, mark it down.

    1. Ikle 757

      I’m right there w/ you. People seem to forget about him. I believe he will win the starting job next year w/ Drew Barker redshirting. Patrick Towles will be backup and Jalen moves to slot.

  15. Bill Is

    YOOOOOOOOOOO, so that’s why receivers are dropping passes. Thanks for the clarification.

  16. Scott (2)

    On paper it is clearly Heard.

    One or all the following could become a playmaker; Timmons, Kemp, Thaddeus, Boom, Bone, or Barker

    The same thing can be said for the defense as well. Avery and Bud are the defensive leaders but we could use a breakout season from McClain, Hatcher, McWilson, D. West, TraVaughn or (potentially) Elam.

    The point of the article is well made, we need improved play at every position but that one essential play maker is the difference between 2-10 and maybe 6-6.

  17. Owen

    Everyone seems to have forgotten we still have Towles, too.

  18. Woohop

    Braylon Heard-Offense


  19. William Lewis

    Whatever passing QB we play. NO run first pass second QBs.

  20. UKfanNKY

    6 wins and a bowl next year!!!

  21. Towlesin14

    I’ll be ready!