One reason Kentucky fans have to reserve judgment regarding Rick Minter’s new defensive scheme is because of how atrocious Kentucky’s offense was last year. It’s safe to say it was one of the worst offenses in the school’s history and because of that, Minter’s guys were on the field more than they should have been. The problem with going forward offensively is having to determine if it’s a lack of good personnel or bad playcalling. It could be a little of both, but the following stats suggest it could be playcalling. In the 2011 season, Kentucky only converted 28.98% of their third downs (last in SEC, 115th nationally) and only had 105 plays of 10 yards or more (last in SEC, 118th nationally). Thinking back to a few games last year, the offense constantly faced a ton of 3rd down and long situations. Even for the best offenses in the nation it’s tough to convert those on a regular basis. If the team hopes to take a step forward and ultimately make a bowl game, the offense has to have better offensive playcalls.
Before everyone throws the blame on Coach Phillips, offensive coordinator Randy Sanders is the main playcaller for the Wildcats’ offense. This season, Sanders will have a more experienced Maxwell Smith under center and a deeper corps of wide receivers at his disposal so personnel shouldn’t be an excuse. Sanders needs to find a way to put Smith in a better position to succeed throughout his time on the field. That means avoiding third-and-eights and third-and-nines by choosing “go to” plays on second down to get the team in more attainable situations.
Another problem that Kentucky’s offense faced was receivers running routes short of the first down marker. If the pass was completed the team would still be short of the marker and ultimately have to punt. An overall better tight end group this year, along with better play-makers, should help stretch defenses in Kentucky’s favor.
The Wildcats only had a better third-down efficiency rate than two of their 12 opponents last year and didn’t convert a single one against Vanderbilt. With the best offenses in college football often being associated with their ability to convert on the “money down” its no secret that if Sanders and Co. want to be mentioned among those teams they have to be better in the upcoming year.