The perfect illustration about the UK-UL rivalry
Nothing has gone on this weekend. Kudos to Drew and Beisner for trying to keep the site ticking during the drought, but there really has been no news. It is the calm before the proverbial storm as we move towards the 12 days for Cats and Cards. Because we have little in the way of news, we are left with talking points. Here are the five big questions that must be answered before the battle in the Papa Johns Stadium, which will without question be 105 degrees.
(1): What Will the Joker Phillips Era Really Look Like on the Field?
Early on there is a lot to like with what we have seen from Joker Phillips since taking over for Rich Brooks. Recruiting, which was already on a severe upswing during the latter years of the Rich Brooks era, has taken another step forward and UK has gotten commitments from players that are on the path to have careers in the NFL. Off the field has also been successful, with UK players generally staying out of the headlines and doing positive work within the campus community. But now comes the most important part, what happens on Saturdays in the fall. The biggest question I have is what will a Joker Phillips offense without Joker Phillips calling the plays actually look like? Those of us who had visions of bubble screens dancing in our heads during Joker’s reign always wanted him to open up the playbook and look more creative, especially when the offense was stagnant. And then there were the frustrations at the end of the South Carolina and Tennessee games when Randall Cobb rode UK to the brink of victory and then was forgotten. There is a school of thought that Joker may be in his best role as program manager, recruiter and overall general, while leaving the actual calling of plays to Randy Sanders. The Louisville game will give us the first chance to see if that is correct and if a Sanders-called offense is somehow different than a Joker-themed one.
(2): How Will the Quarterback Situation Be Managed?
We can debate all day about who will be quarterback and the various strengths and weaknesses of the players have all been dissected ad nauseum around the internet. But the reality is that once one of the players takes the field, how he is managed will have a huge impact on the team in the season. Will the first QB be given a long or a short leash? If the Cats find themselves down 14-3 at halftime and the starting QB has 3 INTs, will Joker Phillips go to the backup or stay with the original starter. Joker has been adamant that he is going with one QB and that is it….which is easy to say in August. But if the Cats offense is going nowhere and the Cards fans are yelling at the top of their collective lungs, will Joker stick with that and let his first choice play through mistakes? How Joker handles that situation could have long-term effects far beyond the first game.
(3): Will another playmaker step up at Wide Receiver?
Randall Cobb is a force. Few players that I can remember are more surprisingly unstoppable than the man from Alcoa. But if he is to ever truly develop as a consistent All-American caliber WR, he needs enough help from his fellow position players to make it to where he is doing the Wildcat only occasionally, not as a primary means of ball movement. The most obvious candidate to have a breakout year is Chris Matthews and if you talk to any of the players on the team, they believe that is his destiny. He has the physical tools, has dedicated himself to the game and could be uncoverable if he puts it all together. Similarly, we saw good things from LaRod King last year and after a second year in the system, he could be on the verge of a breakout. There are also hopes for guys like Matt Roark, and that class of Jrs who were so heralded (I am looking at you Aaron Boyd) at some point simply has to produce. No matter who it is, it needs to be SOMEONE. For Randall Cobb to be Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke to have space and Mike Hartline/Morgan Newton to have options, someone must take the leap.
(4): Can Dequin Evans Be the All-SEC Player the Cats need?
Mike Lombardi of the NFL Network says there are four positions that are required to be great in order to have a great football team. He believes you must have a great head coach, Quarterback, Left Tackle and pass rushing Defensive End in order to be a team who can contend. The best chance UK has for dominance in one of those positions is at DE, where Dequin Evans has to have a monster year. The lines on both sides of the football for UK are relatively young. Stars and solid players will come through this year and there are a lot of battles for playing time at those positions. But there is only one guy that everyone considers a sure thing and that is Evans. He has the potential to be an All-SEC guy destined for the league. For UK to have any kind of pass rush, he has to be the main ingredient for its success. There is a lot of hype with the young man, and the season of Evans must start in Louisville in 12 days.
(5): Can the Secondary Carry the UK Defense?
There are questions all over the UK defense. Who joins with Evans to build a solid pass rush and run defense? Will the LBs besides Danny Trevathan be able to step in for Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell and succeed? But the one spot where there seems to be some real strength is in the secondary. Randall Burden has developed into a very solid CB and the loss of Paul Warford gives some younger guys a chance to compete at the second CB spot. And there may be no team in America who has two better headhunters at the Safety positions than Winston Guy and Mychal Bailey. Those two guys define aggression and Bailey’s hits from high school have become legendary. UK has had an anchor in the Secondary for years in Trevard Lindley. Now there is a bit more depth and the potential for the defensive leaders to play at the back. UK needs big years from all those guys and their play against the abysmal Louisville passing attack will give some indication of what the future holds.
We will have more all day. The first radio show debuts at 10 AM on WKJK. It is now past midnight and the dreaded “technical difficulties” have already hit the show as the new studio being built is not yet finished…but we will soldier on and are getting up EARLYYY to record it in advance. We may not be able to take calls on Day One, but hey…what is a KSR production without technical glitches? Check us out in the morning and stay tuned all day….