New and improved Commonwealth Stadium will host eight home games this fall. This benefits the young Cats for many reasons, but as a season ticket holder and college football fanatic, I’m more interested in what’s in it for me. New bathrooms will be nice just as club seating and field turf. What am I most excited about? The ability to evaluate personnel in person.
I won’t go full scout mode and bring stop watches and tape measures, but I will tell you about some of the players I’m excited to see. Below you’ll find one opposing player from each visiting team I look most forward to watching:
September 5th: Louisiana Lafayette, Elijah McGuire, RB
2014 Sunbelt Player of the Year. Rushed for 2127 yards and 22 touchdowns in two seasons. Also proficient in passing game, McGuire has amassed 67 catches and 5 touchdowns. During UK’s annual slug-fest through the SEC portion of the schedule, facing NFL caliber RB’s is a weekly occurrence. 2015 will feature a top running back game one.
September 19th: Florida, Vernon Hargreaves III, CB
All American will press cover and has the ability to shut-down one side of the field. Certain 1st round draft pick will be a development gauge for UK’s young receiving corps. That group struggled against quality corners especially in release from line of scrimmage to route emergence. Hargreaves III is the nation’s best at his position.
September 26th: Missouri, Harold Brantley, DT
64 tackles, 5 sacks, and 7 tackles for loss as a sophomore was Brantley’s rite of passage for Mizzou’s DL pipeline to the NFL. Brantley’s an interior DL that will be moved around line of scrimmage. His diversity will test the Cat’s OL communication and manhood along with testing QB’s pre-snap read to audible process.
October 3rd: EKU, Noah Spence, DE
Much maligned Ohio State transfer went to Columbus with 5 star ability. The non-numbered player on EKU official roster will be one of the best DE’s to play in Commonwealth Stadium this season. Question marks remain such as conditioning and sustainment on roster. But if ready, then be ready. Plus, there are two that are not currently on the roster that will supplant Spence if back in full grace with the Colonels. No explanation necessary.
October 15th: Auburn, Jeremy Johnson, QB
Some on the Plains felt Johnson was the best QB on the team last year. The 6’5 240 pound former Mr. Alabama Football played in seven games last season before taking the reins in 2015. Perfect fit for Guz Malzahn’s spread offense with virtually infinite surrounding talent. Hint, if you’re not a fan of the new field turf, this potential track meet could change your mind. Another note of interest, Auburn is the one SEC that UK emulates in recruiting and selecting offensive and defensive, perimeter speed
October 31st: Tennessee, Smokey (Kidding.) Derek Barnett, DE
True freshman set UT records with 10 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss. Young Vols will be older and better. Tennessee may never return to the Phil Fulmer era, but are building to annually compete in the East. This was a difficult selection with several young players that were worth noting.
Nov 21st: Charlotte, Austin Duke, WR
Had 9 catches vs. UNC Pembroke. First team to play in Commonwealth Stadium nicknamed 49’ers? At this juncture of the season and vs. this opponent, self-scouting outweighs opponent threats.
November 28th: Louisville, Josh Harvey-Clemons, S
Served as team captain against Kentucky while playing at Georgia. Effective as a true freshmen, Harvey-Clemons talent was never in question. After starting every game as a sophomore, he was named Dawg’s spring practice MVP before issues led to his transfer to Louisville. Projected as a one year player prior to NFL entry. Long, rangy, physical Safety that has ability to control the middle of the field.