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Almost Midseason Grades and Miscellaneous Rankings

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Mark Zerof | USA Today

Five games in, UK is 4-1. Be truthful, raise your hand if you projected that record. In this week’s ESPN SEC Power Rankings, Kentucky is listed at No. 8. I get it: polls and rankings are subjective, but 4-1 is concrete.

Below are UK Football position grades and various rankings:


Quarterback: B

For the season, Patrick Towles is 96-of-156 good for 61.5 percent, eight passing touchdowns, three rushing touchdowns, and six interceptions.

At times, Towles’ inconsistency has limited UK’s offensive production. 33 percent completion rate against Florida skews season totals, but the Gator defense has proven to be dominant. Other SEC quarterbacks aren’t faring well either.

Overall, the junior has been an offensive catalyst. Kentucky has scored 16 touchdowns. Patrick Towles has directly contributed for 11 of those. For some, this grade will be too high. But his 68 percent total touchdown contribution rate is too high for a C, and his sporadic play doesn’t warrant an A. Strip the name, read above stats and assign a grade. That may help.

Running Back: B-

Through three games, Boom Williams was a top-five SEC running back. His numbers have fallen due to missing the second half against Missouri and not playing against EKU; still, 47 rushes for 351 yards, one touchdown and a 7.3 yards per rush are credible.

JoJo Kemp’s 5.3 yards per rush and two touchdowns have provided situational spark. The power back, Mikel Horton has been effective in screen passes and moving the chains. UK averages 135 yards rushing per game. Take away the 155 lost yards due to sacks, and numbers would be better.

A stat that is not published is blocking efficiency. Blitz pick-up has been improved at times, but lacking at others.

Wide Receiver: A-

Dorian Baker separated himself at the go-to receiver. Other than his 24 catches for an 11.5 average yards per reception and three touchdowns, Baker has punished in downfield blocking.

Garrett Johnson, Blake Bone, and Jeff Badet have also had their flashes of grandeur. Explosion plays are now expected. Combined, the wide receiver corps is deep, fast, and talented. It did have one game (Florida) that it dropped passes at an alarming rate; however, this position’s productivity has only scratched the surface.

Given Mark Stoops’ first-year receiving corps status, talent upgrade alone warrants a passing grade.

Tight End/Fullback: B+ (Blocking); Incomplete (Receiving)

Taco Meat Collins has moved into my upper echelon of UK football player fandom. CJ Conrad has blocked at an SEC senior level and finally had a breakout game against Missouri. Collectively, blocking has been consistent and physical.

But three catches for 55 yards is not what was expected. Simply, tight ends have not been targeted enough to receive a grade.

Offensive Line: C-

Offensive line rotation has been a revolving door of youth. Injuries have also reared their ugly heads. Steady center Jon Toth has anchored and is playing at an All-SEC level. But, the EKU game is too fresh in my mind to grade John Schlarman’s group high.

The Cats are averaging 365 total yards per game. An understandable struggle versus Florida seems more reasonable as the Gators continue to defensively control the conference. Red zone productivity has been excellent. UK is 15-15 inside the 20 and have scored 11 touchdowns in those 15 trips for 73 percent. Allowing 16 sacks for negative 116 yards is a hard statistic to overlook. This group will get better once it settles in on a rotation and heals up during the bye week.




Defensive Line: B

The insertion of CJ Johnson has proven to benefit. Even after missing the Louisiana game due to suspension, Johnson is the team’s second-leading tackler, totaling 37 stops, 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks.

Farrington Huguennin has been solid with 22 tackles. Expected strength of the defensive line was nose tackle. Melvin Lewis has racked up 17 tackles, two tackles for loss, and one sack. Regie Meant was improving by the snap, but an early injury versus Missouri has hampered the group’s overall power. At times, UK has gone with only two down defensive linemen which has diminished Melvin Lewis and Matt Elam’s game snaps. Given its level of talent, other than the EKU game, Coach Jimmy Brumbaugh’s unit has overachieved.

Linebackers: A-

Easily the best 2015 surprise. Josh Forrest is playing at an All-SEC level with 49 tackles, three tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and one interception. His weekly improvement is scary and profitable for his NFL future.

Khalid Henderson effectively filled in for the injured Ryan Flannigan and provided consistency along with 30 tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack.

In only two games, Ryan Flannigan’s speed and ability to close on opposing ball carriers have enhanced defensive diversity. Denzil Ware’s development is a weekly highlight. Ware’s two-point conversion against South Carolina was a game-saver. This position has endured suspension and injury but remained reliable. Collectively, the linebacker corps has played above fan and media expectation.

Secondary: B+

Another expected liability, UK’s secondary is limiting opposing offenses to 197 passing yards per game. That number won’t lead conferences statistical categories, but it’s been good enough and much better than expected.

Headline story is the emergence of true freshman Chris Westry. The rookie has excelled. Senior Cody Quinn held onto his starting position after being pushed by several freshmen cornerbacks. JD Harmon has been the group’s playmaker with two interceptions and game-altering tackles.

Safeties have not intercepted a pass, but are leading the secondary in tackles: McWilson with 28, Stamps with 25. The safety pair is stable, which allows DJ Eliot the freedom to dial up creative blitz packages. Nickel backs Blake McClain and Kendall Randolph add an edge. Both are pound for pound two of the better football players on the team.

Special Teams: C

An improvement from 2014’s F.  Prior to EKU, Wildcat kickoff coverage team ranked second in the SEC.

Landon Foster’s punting has not been as effective as expected. Mark Stoops inserted his backup against the Colonels.

All-SEC Austin MacGinnis uncharacteristically missed a field goal and PAT in the opener, but has rebounded before an injury kept him out against Eastern Kentucky.

Kick returner Sihiem King has been a spark, and been close to breaking a kickoff return for six. Overall, the Wildcat special teams have been okau, but could be better. MacGinnis’ return will help. In coverage teams, better players running down the field to make tackles increases the group’s status. Punt and punt return teams have not met expectation.


Inconsistency has haunted the Cats throughout its first five football games. However, in four out of five contests, Kentucky has resiliently found a way to win.  For the first time in program history, UK’s first five games have been decided by eight points or less. More telling, total points scored for the year: Kentucky 130, opponents 109.

In SEC play, margin of winning is 18.6 to 16.3. In non-conference, 37 to 30. This post could have actually been divided into two segments: Grades vs. SEC opponents and Grades vs. Non-Conference Foes. In conference, much higher. Non-conference, could have seen some Ds and Fs. Ebb and Flow.

Top Five Opposing Player Performances

1. DE Noah Spence, EKU
2. DE Alex MaCalister, Florida
3. DE Charles Harris, Missouri
4. ATH Pharoh Cooper, South Carolina
5. S Brian Poole, Florida

Five Most Difficult Games Remaining

1. @ Georgia
2. @ Mississippi State
3. Tennessee
4. Auburn
5. Louisville

SEC Top Five

1. LSU
2. Texas A&M
3. Alabama
4. Florida
5. Ole Miss

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

34 Comments for Almost Midseason Grades and Miscellaneous Rankings

  1. ...
    2:19 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    Hey there is some room on the right of my screen you haven’t filled with advertisement or pop ups yet!
    What the hey? My computer is still barely able to process the article due to all the crap…Just fill that up too and make it completely unreadable…

    Maybe to you can provide advertisement space for Tampons or Douchebags too..

    • Bourbon Breath
      2:53 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Maybe you have a piece of $hit computer. Mine has no problems on this site.

    • Dude
      2:57 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Agree, Bourbon Breath. I’ve viewed this site on several different devices, from phones to tablets to laptops and PCs. Never had a single problem. Ever.

    • jwall
      3:18 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Site constantly reloads on my iPad, only on that

  2. Dwayne
    2:20 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    You can’t give QB better grade than RB’s. IMO they had 1 bad game, Towles has struggled more times than he’s played well. (No I’m not saying play Barker) OL grade was maybe a little low (Matt even suggested they might be player of the game a few times). They did struggle against Florida but you even said Towles and others have struggled against them because they seem great, think OL deserves same excuse. Also OL getting credit for all those sacks however Patrick is responsible for a good # of them. Everything else seen legit just don’t see how QB gets better grade than RB and OL…. Love your work!

  3. Are you Freaking Serious
    2:26 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    Your giving Pat a B, man what you smoking Freddie

    • ChicagoCat
      2:38 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Towles is the primary reason we’ve won 2 SEC games, one a road win and the other a top 25 defending champ. I’d say that deserves a B.

    • theWilkman
      3:26 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      It’s all the daggum quarterbacks fault!

    • The Professor
      3:32 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      I agree that there is no way you can grade Towles higher than the RBs. He has been wildly inconsistant with his throws and decision making. Point #1 being that the backs have not turned the ball over this year. Towles has 6 interceptions. Point #2 is that about half the sacks are because he holds onto the ball too long. The EKU QB was under as much pressure as Towles but kept getting rid of the ball when under duress. Point #3 is that he has been inaccurate too often. The RBs and WR have bailed us out more times than not. Case in point, the TD throw to Baker on 4th down was a good throw but better catch. When Towles is hot we look like a top 20 team. When he is off we look anemic. We have had trouble during long periods in every game this year because the offense is out of sync. Not all of that is on him but a fair portion is.

    • J-Dub421
      4:14 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Professor, you made some good points, but…. The RB have missed picking up blitzes in the back field which have led to some sacks (see Boom and his hissy fit). I’d also like to point out that Towles best game was aginst Missouri, the game when the offensive line played best. Coincidence? I think not. The EKU game also bears this out, when the line held at the end we were able to score. It’s hard for Towles to be consistent or have any rhythm if the offensive line constantly puts him in a hole with stupid penalties and doesn’t give him time to throw or make a decision. I’ll completely agree that Towles does hold on to the ball too long at times and has taken unnecessary sacks for loss of yards.

  4. ArnoldthePig
    2:27 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    what does Vegas think about the Auburn game?

  5. Guy the guy
    2:40 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    All grades seem pretty fair/accurate. I might drop the O l grade to D+, but that’s hard to do for a team that’s 4-1. And to be fair, they’ve not had the same top 5-7 guys rep enough to gel as a unit yet. EKU spanked dat ass up front, though. Gotta improve.

  6. WeareBBN
    3:23 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    C+ is right for Pat. Completion % is low for the high number of short passes we throw. 6 interceptions vs the schedule we have played is also horrible. Really hope Pat finds that “IT” factor that can make him consistent. I don’t care or expect him to always be the Mizzou game Pat, but we can’t have the bad Pat we see too often and win 9 games which this team is capable of with a consistent Pat.

    • theWilkman
      3:28 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      You’re right, Florida’s defense was so bad they could only hold the #3 team in the country to 10 points. Horrible!

  7. RICK
    3:29 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    I think Pat throws down the field more than any quarterback we have had in years. The short passes are just fine with me and he doesn’t throw enough of them. He is doing just fine and an A – would be fine grade for him. 4 and 1.

  8. DACats86
    3:43 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    I wish Freddie had been my instructor in some classes. I would be much more harsh on OL and RB, and perhaps QB. Also, sometimes the performance of a student is a reflection of the teacher, and I’m not talking about Stoops.

  9. Freddie
    3:47 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    Thanks for reading. 16 sacks for -116 yards is reason QB is graded higher than OL/RB. Blitz pick-up improved but stat was final determination in grade.

    • Yes
      4:49 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Agree with this, totally. Most uninformed fans prefer to bypass actually learning anything about the game and simply yell at the guy with the ball.

      Towles has been far from perfect, but with solid protection from his teammates, he is a B or a B-minus thus far. Better than most UK signal-callers (but admittedly, a pretty low hurdle).

    • The Professor
      7:06 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Freddie, my issue is that about half those sacks are on Towles for holding onto the ball too long. The point in my other post was that the EKU QB was no great shakes. However, when we pressured him he found a way to dump the ball off. Towles does not do a good job of that. I think Patrick shows leadership and is a tremendous competitor but it is that comptetitive spirit that leads him into bad decisions too often. Sometimes you just need to throw it away and move on to the next play.

    • Dwayne
      8:26 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Wasn’t the bad sack Patrick took against Florida like a 22 yd loss? That sack alone accounts for 20% of those yds.

  10. kybigblue
    3:48 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    3 of top 5 opposing players are DE’s. It looks like we need to make some adjustments.

  11. The Rest of the story
    4:10 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    When Ryan Timmons is back to receive a kick we have no returns at all. Stoops needs to let King do all the kick returns and put Timmons ( I am afraid to get hit ) ass on the bench. Only guy I ever seen make a fair catch on the one yard line, not what the Cats need back there.

  12. Pharmboy
    4:12 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    I love UK football and this is by no means a negative comment, but Boom Williams was never a top five SEC running back.

    • Easy, Big Hitter
      4:45 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Don’t say that out loud, brother . . . Boom might get wind of it and decide to pout for another week or two.

      Boom don’t like criticism, even from his coaches.

    • Ha!
      7:27 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

      Awww, you two…. Shouldn’t you be searching for your next basketball coach? I’m sure…lol… Larry Eustachy…lol……. is still available.


  13. Freddie
    4:24 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    1st 3 weeks prior to missing 1.5 games Boom was top 5 SEC rushing yards

  14. Mountain Due
    6:03 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    Freddie, when will Taco Meat get his well deserved scholarship? Any precedent for a walk-on being used as a key starter in UK football history?

  15. Paul the Zoup guy
    6:51 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    Well written. Glad you are part of the KSR team. You guys do a good job.

  16. Stuckinohio
    7:39 pm October 8, 2015 Permalink

    I’ll admit it. I had us at 4-1. But I was pretty sure we’d beat Florida and lose to mizzou. As bad as I wanna see us kick Florida’s ass I guess I don’t mind being wrong about that. I think you guys need to lay off boom because there ain’t any damn one of you that knows what the situation was with him. Everyone just likes to think they know when they dont.

  17. BNClay
    12:01 am October 9, 2015 Permalink

    QB. C. Some great play some horrors play. Washes out to average.
    RB. B. Have been good as a group. Save the EKU game. But not the A performance many expected.
    WR B+. Several great catches. If not for some bad drops would be an A.
    TE/FB. Agree with the incomplete not enough usages to make a judgement here.
    OL. D+. Even in the Wins they have just been ok. Total domination by EKU brings its down to D
    DL. B-. Could be an A with consistent effort.
    LB. C They have exceeded expectations but expectations weren’t high. The best you can say is that this group is not a weakness. Just average for SEC.
    DB. B+. Could be A if not for multiple dropped INTs. SEC WR have had hard time getting open and had to make really tough catches to keep chains moving. Most impressive unit on the team thus far.
    SP. D+. Bad. Would be failure except they were doing a nice job covering kickoffs on the corner kicks, and Haven’t had any devastating turnovers. We loose 10-15 yards field position on every punts exchange, missed kicks, fair catch fail, etc. Also no return TDs. Couple of blocked kicks get them the D+ instead of D-.

  18. RetiredCat
    12:43 am October 9, 2015 Permalink

    Tthe CATS are 4-1 at this point. Go Cats!

  19. Bull
    4:05 am October 9, 2015 Permalink

    Stats are like fine points to argue with, but can be misleading. All coaches say on a weekly basis ( we just want to put ourselves in a position to win in the 4th quarter ) So after 5 games we have done what we needed to do to win in 4 out of 5 tries, my math says that’s 80% =. B- Next Question?

  20. mark83hamblows
    2:07 pm October 9, 2015 Permalink

    I’ve given Schlarman the benefit of doubt as long as I could, simply because he’s a UK guy. However, his units have continued to be underwhelming to a point I think he’s clearly the low point of this staff. Mike Summers and Jimmy Heggins were both more adapt. To me Schlarman should join Brown at Troy, because he’s definitely more suited for the level.

  21. Steve Berry
    12:46 am October 10, 2015 Permalink

    Sorry, Freddie. I just disagree with your take on the play of Josh Forrest. He does make tackles, as he should based upon scheme, but they are rarely at or behind the L.O.S. If you watch closely, as I do during my slow motion replay of each game, he is not a gap filler. The zone read plays have given our defense fits and Josh is consistently nowhere to be found. Sure, he may make the tackle but it always appears to be after the back has broken the line and gained too many yards for any DC to be happy. His habit of running around blocks and using his speed to make a tackle will not translate and is not coveted by NFL defensive coordinators. It is my belief, after meticulously watching each game this year, Khalid Henderson has been our best LB….which was a big surprise. He comes “downhill” and has made numerous HUGE tackles at key times in the first four games. If I were Josh’s coach, I would be all over him about his lateral play. Linebackers, in any defensive front, must attack the line of scrimmage. Josh Forrest does not and will not make it as a middle LB at the next level. Josh is good in coverage and certainly a great athlete but nowhere near physical enough to play in the NFL.