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Blinded by the Light

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One more week….

Since Mark Stoops’ first season ended with a 27-14 loss to Tennessee, there’s been a contract extension, an assistant coaching change, a stadium renovation reveal and another near Spring Game sellout.  None of those are exciting as the recruiting class Stoops signed.  With six four-star* commits, the Top 25 national ranking is the best in school history.

The 2014 Class is bringing playmakers, but most importantly, they’re bringing depth.  Last year it was difficult to judge them simply because they didn’t have enough experienced players at important positions.  Some will make an immediate impact (especially the JUCOs), but unfortunately the biggest names in the recruiting class will likely not see much action this Fall.  Drew Barker and Matt Elam are bringing some buzz to campus, but they aren’t John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins.  Depth and maturity play a much bigger role in football, so let me temper some high expectations for a moment on some of Stoops’ 4-star players.

Matt Elam

The craziest recruitment of a football player that Kentucky fans have ever experienced, Matt Elam’s choice to stay home over playing at Alabama cemented Stoops’ status as an elite recruiter.  As good as Elam is, it’s no secret that he needs to lose some weight and improve on his fundamentals.  In just a few short months on campus, he’s already lost 35 pounds and has stayed close to Za’Darius Smith’s side to learn the tricks off the trade.  The changes are a great first step, but there’s still a long way to go.

Elam is also in the middle of a very deep defensive line depth chart.  Defensive tackles Melvin Lewis and Regie Meant showed dramatic improvements during their redshirt season and Mike Douglas is poised to have a breakout Senior year.  Jimmy Brumbaugh runs a static two-deep substitution pattern, leaving only one vacant spot to be filled at DT.  Letting Elam redshirt this year isn’t out of the question.  If he can improve as much as Meant and Lewis did, the long-term investment would be rewarding.

Drew Barker

Drew has done all of the right steps to have a horse in the quarterback race: arriving early on campus, displaying leadership qualities in and outside of the locker room while holding his own in the Spring Game in front of a large crowd.  At the end of the day, he still has to beat out two guys that have been on a college campus for two years.  Unless he’s head and shoulders above the rest, keeping Drew on the sidelines isn’t a bad idea.

Denzil Ware

Ware is the highest ranked defensive end Stoops has convinced to come to Lexington, but there’s two GIANT obstacles in the way: Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith.  No matter how well Ware adjusts to the college game, he isn’t taking any playing time away from the two Senior studs.  Jason Hatcher will surely be in the mix a lot, leaving little room for another defensive end to get significant clock.

Stanley “Boom” Williams

Boom Williams might be the best “homerun” back on this year’s team, but the little guy (5’8, 190 lbs.) will have to bring a ton of Boom to find his way onto the field this Fall.  The running back position is the deepest position on offense with two power backs (Clemons and Horton) and two speedsters (Kemp and Heard) splitting snaps.  Boom’s best chance at seeing the field is in a Ryan Timmons-type role as a slot WR/RB (but can you take that many touches away from Timmons?).  Last week Boom’s high school coach acknowledged that he has a long way to go, but is confident he’ll leave  significant mark in Lexington before his collegiate career comes to a conclusion.

* – 247 Composite Score, of course

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

13 Comments for Blinded by the Light

  1. Blasphemy
    7:41 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

    Interesting take. I’m curious if there are any positions on the defensive side of the ball that are likely to provide some true freshmen with significant minutes.

  2. Depth
    7:53 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

    With all this supposed depth that you speak of, you would think we are talking about a team in contention for the east. If they are good enough their freshman year they will get the minutes they deserve

    • Rei
      8:24 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

      Not yet but in a year or two. Once Stoops’ first class is in their 3rd and 4th years I expect we’ll be pretty competitive.

  3. Catlogic15
    8:45 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

    Stoops is building this program the right way. If all those redshirt, UK fans should be more than excited.

  4. uk78
    8:50 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

    Being redshirted is not a bad thing

    • Luther
      5:24 pm August 2, 2014 Permalink

      Agree. Redshirt them all…

  5. Shelby
    9:56 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

    In a perfect world, MOST of this year’s freshmen, including barker and elam, will redshirt. We are still building, working for the future.

  6. GR
    10:28 pm August 1, 2014 Permalink

    Not playing Elam or Barker will send somewhat of a negative message to high ranked high school seniors who want to play early. If Elam can’t play on our defense as a freshman, who can. Also, may see Ware at linebacker. His size is much more suited for linebacker and they certainly have a need there.

  7. There is certainly a great deal to find out about this issue.
    I love all the points you’ve made.

  8. kingrex
    2:05 am August 2, 2014 Permalink

    I think it is rare that many freshmen, no matter who they are, play their first year in football. It is just a different game. I would assume this is only exaggerated in the best conference in the country. The size and speed of everyone we will face as well as the complexity of the game has to be taken into consideration. Reading this just emphasizes the difference between basketball and football. You get a Wall and Cousins and your entire outlook changes in a heartbeat. This reminds me of when my friends brewed their own beer for the first time years ago. They were reading the instructions after they were done until the last step where it mentions the need for fermentation. One friend looked down at the jug of liquid with disgust and yelled. “ferment dammit, ferment”! The good thing is, things can only get better from this point on for UK. We are finally getting talented and ranked guys to come here.

  9. Jack
    8:29 am August 2, 2014 Permalink

    Okay. Let me break it down for ya. Elam is fat, out of shape and has absolutely not lost 35 pounds. That’s just a story Matt made up so he could have something to talk about. Uk released height and weight last week and he is still at 375. So your telling me that he came in at 405? That’s isn’t a football player with any self control. Plus he is a primadonna who dragged out his recruitment. Elam was criticized for good reason at the army all American game for doing nothing and slacking off in practice. There is a reason for that. The freshman are freshman. This is not basketball and the fans need to lower expectations about freshman although I do think we will have a better season in the end.

    • El Oh El
      1:03 pm August 2, 2014 Permalink

      Elam had a knee injury during the USAA game. In fact, he had a knee injury for the entire last half of his senior season. Two things happened right about the time Elam starting falling in the Rivals rankings: A knee injury and an obvious interest in the in-state school. Rivals explanation for the fall? Lack of effort. Secondary and unspoken reason? Not going to Bama.

      Elam will play limited snaps this year in a specialized role. He will be a great interior DL for UK during his career.

  10. Tom
    2:22 pm August 3, 2014 Permalink

    I don’t and never will knock players.
    Not a one of them showed up on campus and announced he was the new starting quarterback, or weak line backer etc.
    College football is leaps and bounds ahead of high school ball. Better coaching, training facilities, better meals, etc.
    Putting any kindtfollies, can’t improve us, make your own decision about the future of the program.
    They let Joker have three years, and things did decline. But we hired this outstanding coaching staff, with experience from Florida State, Texas Tech, Troy, Euroupean Pro Foofball, etc.
    So let’s hope we see drastic improvement or in at least a couple of years we’ll get to see Barnhart work his magical skills of landing us another assistant to rebuild the program.
    Maybe Stoops’ brother can send us some of his scout team players so we can use them.
    Heck, any port in a storm.