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Grading the Football Cats: Offense

We’re well aware in the Bluegrass that basketball is in full-swing and the Cats are taking it on the chin in SEC play, but I didn’t realize until I popped over to Chris Low’s SEC blog that we are actually through half of this wonderful time of year.  Low gave the Cats a mid-season report card and he named Hartline the offensive MVP (kinda, I think?) and Myron Pryor and Corey Peters the defensive MVP, making me wonder how I would rate this year’s team – a team that I still find strangely mysterious.

Here is what I think:

Quarterback: C

This position hasn’t been very spectacular, but what were we really all expecting heading into the season? Mike Hartline has been serviceable for the most part, with his showing against South Carolina the only absolutely terrible performance. He even earned SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors early in the season. But, his performance has hit a wall in SEC play and Hartline is barely completing 50% of his passes and has more interceptions than touchdowns. He’s trending downward lateley, which is not what you want to see from a young player. We want improvement and Hartline is not showing it.

Randall Cobb looked great against Norfolk State before being hurt while blocking against MTSU and missing most of that game, as well as the Alabama game. In his only other outing, against South Carolina, he saw limited action and only attempted one pass, but picked up a first down with a very good run. Cobb seems to have the athleticism to beat teams with inferior athletes, but how many will the Cats see? And, with only 12 career passes, you’d have to say that the jury is still out on how successful he could be as a full-time quarterback. He seems to have a high ceiling, but he’s also the second-leading pass-catcher left no the team so we might be bumping him down to another section the next time this rolls around.

Right now, I’d say (and so would Dennis Green) that this position is what we thought it was. Inexperienced and rough around the edges. Had Cobb not been injured, things would probably be more clear, but as of now, it seems like splitting time between Hartline and Cobb seems to be the only bet for production from this position. Let the clamoring for Mossakowski and Newton begin.

Running Back: C-

This was the strength of the team at the beginning of the year. Mike Hartline might not light it up through the air, but Derrick Locke, Alfonso Smith, Tony Dixon and Moncell Allen were going to tear people up on the ground and keep the defense resting on the sideline.

So, umm…what happened?

A lot of blame can be placed on the offensive line (we’ll get there) and some blame can be placed on uncreative play-calling and depth chart management. But, we’re here to evaluate performances of the postions as a whole so let’s kick those theories right on out of here. The running game was terrible out of the gate. At one point, Tony Dixon had the most carries on the team and the fourth most yards and averaging 2.4 yards per carry. He’s since picked it up and now has the second most carries for the third most yards for a whopping 2.4 ypc. The other running backs have looked good when they’ve had the chance to run the ball and they all have carries over 35 yards (Dixon’s long is 12 yards). Locke has emerged as the new go-to back and the running game seems to be getting in sync a bit, which is great news for the entire offense. However, we’re grading for the whole year and it was pretty awful for the majority.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: D+

Let’s all take a moment and remember the career of Richard Lyons, Jr.

Ok, thanks. The one they call Dicky was essentially the only player able to catch the ball for the majority of the season and was the SEC leader in catches before his injury. Now, a group of misfit wideouts have to step up in his place and the only one who seemed to want to take the opportunity was the backup quarterback. T.C. Drake has looked nice catching the ball at times and so has Maurice Grinter, so the TE’s might unfairly be graded low here. But, the drops of EJ Adams and DeMoreo Ford and the mental mistakes of Kyrus Lanxter put a lot of blame on the quarterback early (see how I didn’t refer to him by name? Bill Parcells would be proud). With Aaron “Flyguy” Boyd coming back from mono recovery (?) and the passing of time in a position that requires lots of work to get timing and routes down, we might see a better group as the year progresses. For now, not so much.

We didn’t expect a whole lot out of a group of unknowns and youngsters, but we did expect for them to cover the basics of running the right route and catching the ball. They seem to be behind their somewhat low expectations at this point.

Offensive Line: D-

Terrible. Awful. Disappointing. Take your pick. The offensive line has been a consistent point of recruiting and development for Rich Brooks and Co. and this unit was expected to be a strength of the team and allow the offense to bloom. It has been the opposite. Sure, they’ve battled some injuries, but the cohesion has never been there for a single drive – let alone a game. This is where it all starts for the UK offense. This unit absolutely must improve or the offense has no hope for the rest of the season.

Overall Offensive Ranking: u> D

The Kentucky offense has been bad, no doubt. But, I’m not giving them the D based on not being what last year’s version was. We expected to have some growing pains with a young offense and a 4-2 record wasn’t predicted by very man people (I predicted it though). But, what really disappoints me is how the Cats got their four wins. Outside of the Western Game, name a game where the offense made winning plays. It didn’t happen. This defense is almost completely responsible for the 4-2 record and that is worse than what we expected. I have high hopes for improvement but, for now, color me disappointed.

 Don’t worry, we’ll get to the defense later so we can make sure we have some “manic” to go with your “depressive” Kentucky football report.  Discuss below.

Article written by Thomas Beisner