With all SEC spring games now complete, it’s now time to analyze the conference based on glorified scrimmages with incomplete rosters. At least I’m honest enough to say that at this time I cannot accurately and with good conscious project the eventual East or West champion. Lots of time and opportunity for attrition between today and the first weekend in September.
So what’s been happening since last Saturday? Players are taking some well-deserved time off. The waning weeks of the spring semester present an unrestrictive time for college football players. Student-athletes are actually allowed to be, well students. Once finals are complete, summer workouts kick into full gear.
As we head into the summer doldrums, let’s take a look at each position group and rate them by levels of concern going into fall camp. This will be a two-part post, first up is the offense. Categories will be broken down into three classifications: Low (concern), medium, and high.
Drew Barker was named the starter coming out of spring practice. Does that mean he will be taking snaps when the Wildcats square off against a dangerous Southern Miss team? Not sure; but for now and throughout summer workouts, he’s the man. Barker’s spring game performance was steady with two exceptional courage throws for touchdowns. Mechanically he is improved and executed upgraded pocket mechanics. Stephen Johnson is more than a capable backup as displayed by his spring game elusiveness and practice performance. The junior college sensation will continue to push for the starting nod and provides Eddie Gran with a unique change of pace. True freshman Gunnar Hoak will redshirt while Davis Mattingly is an adept third team quarterback.
Why medium? Although the spring game was played in front of a crowd and in Commonwealth Stadium, I’ll continue to be somewhat anxious about this position until I see it operate in a true game environment.
Senior JoJo Kemp and junior Boom Williams have combined for 2,701 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. Mikel Horton is steady and Sihiem King showcased his speed while making a case to be in the rotation. With the additions of incoming freshmen AJ Rose and Benny Snell, Kentucky has an explosive as well as deep stable of running backs. Combine current as well as incoming personnel with Eddie Gran’s intent on a physical run game and you have the potential for a ground game extravaganza.
Much like in the spring game review, we could have broken this group into two categories. Guard-Center-Guard, concern level low. Jon Toth is the best center in the conference with two backups that are capable of playing now in Bunchie Stallings and Drake Jackson. Guards Ramsey Meyers and Nick Haynes will have to hold off redshirt freshman Logan Stenberg and sophomore George Asafo-Adjei. Both reserves excelled in the spring finale. Within the middle of the line of scrimmage, the Cats are in good shape. Offensive tackle is another subject. While Cole Mosier will play somewhere, right tackle may be the most suitable spot for his body type. Kyle Meadows is better and ten pounds heavier. But for UK to have an SEC caliber offensive line, an additional OT must surface. Landon Young enrolls in June and Tate Leavitt will have the summer to further adapt to the Southeastern Conference. Overall, Coach Schlarman’s big fellas are improved.
Why medium? See above offensive tackle dialogue.
A legitimate three deep position group, Kentucky TE’s are led by Freshman All American CJ Conrad. Behind Conrad, Greg Hart and Darryl Long will play key offensive roles in 2016. Unsure of schematic capability, Eddie Gran has the personnel to utilize multiple tight ends sets.
Of all the position groups on the football team, TE and cornerback are two of the most obvious talent upgrades of the Mark Stoops era.
Deep, talented, fast, and skilled. Quite the description for a position group that somewhat underachieved in 2015. Enter Coach Lamar Thomas. But, with expectation comes responsibility. With all the tools necessary to achieve, Thomas’ crew has to produce results on the football field. No more talk, no more speculation or expectation. Production is the only category that matters. It’s time.
Dorian Baker, Blake Bone, Ryan Timmons, Garrett Johnson, Jeff Badet, Charles Walker, Jabari Greenwood, and Tavin Richardson construct the unit that will be under the microscope in 2016.
Why medium? Talent wise, I have no concern whatsoever. But the four inches between the ears leave me unsettled. Drops and at-times uninspired effort are too fresh in memory to favorably project. However, I do expect the receivers to be one of the most improved position groups this fall.
Stay tuned for the defensive levels of concern.