With the college football season less than two months away from mercifully rescuing us from the long and sportsless summer, ESPN has started rolling out its annual Blue Ribbon Preview series, with the SEC East coming out today. As far as Kentucky’s preview goes, it’s a fair assessment of the outlook heading into the season, and it’s also pretty long, so here are a few of the highlights…
On who will step up to be the go-to receiver:
Junior La’Rod King (6-4, 204) is the player the coaching staff hoped would emerge as the No. 1 receiver. He has shown the toughness to go over the middle to catch balls as well as the athletic ability to make spectacular catches.
“Everybody wants to be the go-to guy, but I am not a selfish guy. I am not big-headed and say throw me the ball, but if we need a play I am going to try my hardest and do my best to make that play for you,” King, who has 46 career catches for 620 yards and six scores, said. “I want to be the go-to guy, but I am not going to appoint myself to be in that position. That is something you earn, not something you just get.”
On the strength of the offensive line:
Going into the season, this figures to be the strength of UK’s offense with four starters — junior center Matt Smith (6-4, 297), junior guard Larry Warford (6-3, 340), senior Stuart Hines (6-4, 296) and senior tackle Chandler Burden (6-4, 300) — returning. The fifth starter is expected to be senior tackle Billy Joe Murphy (6-6, 306) who filled in at various positions last season and has played in 33 games, with nine starts.
Summers expects major improvement from Smith in his second year as a starter.
“Now, rather than having an uncertainty about the fronts he’s looking at or the protections he’s setting or the blocking schemes he is calling for the line, he has real command of that,” Summers said. “I think that confidence has spread throughout the whole group.”
On the linebacking core:
With UK’s switch to the 3-4 front, the Cats will depend on linebackers to make even more plays, and that’s why assistant coach Chuck Smith welcomed the move of senior Winston Guy (6-1, 210), one of UK’s best athletes, from safety to linebacker to give him four returning starters.
“He is just so talented and so instinctive,” Smith said. “He is just a good football player. He flies around. When he is blitzing, he is like a bullet. He has such natural football instincts. He gets a fast break on the football. He is good in space and can make plays in space. I am really excited about him.”
The team’s star remains senior linebacker Danny Trevathan (6-1, 230), who led the SEC in tackles with 144 last year and decided to stay at UK after debating putting his name in the NFL draft.
“He will be the key to our defense like he was last year,” Smith said. “He is just really a great football player. He could be an All-American. He’s that outstanding.”
There’s a lot more to the preview, including an overall analysis, and considering it’s several thousand degrees outside I recommend you take some time to read it instead of going out there. Besides, it’s a free peek behind the wall of what would normally be an Insider article, and that’s a gift that’s priceless. Seriously. It has no price.