Boy, what a summer it has been here at KSR. With the addition of Freddie Maggard to the site, make no mistake, this is a Jamal Murray type haul for KSR football fans everywhere. However, it does make our jobs a little harder (and easier, in a way) now that we’re having to write alongside a football guru. Nonetheless, it’s nice that we’ve all been blessed with some great program intel and articles this summer from a strengthened football team here on the site, and an improved Cats team on the field. Let’s get this rolling.
As it was mentioned yesterday, the secondary returns its two senior starters to the cornerback position, Cody Quinn and Fred Tiller. These guys started every game last year as juniors in the program and were expected to produce better pass coverage in Stoops’ second year at the helm. I’m not saying they did a bad job, they didn’t have a bad season. But, they definitely could have finished with better results than they did. Namely in games against teams with dynamic receivers like Demarcus Robinson (217 yards, 2 TD’s) from Florida, and DeVante Parker (180 yards, 3 TD’s) of UL. UK got torched by big time receivers and by committee on the main stage in multiple games. In two other games, UK allowed over 50 yards and two touchdowns a piece to Georgia’s Chris Conley and Missouri’s Bud Sasser. Both of whom were drafted in last year’s NFL Draft. In the SEC, you play primetime players week in and week out, it’s no surprise. This is the year we have to be stronger on the corners because we don’t have the Z and Dupree cushion we relied on heavily for pressure from the ends last season.
Neither Tiller nor Quinn is an elite cornerback, but that doesn’t mean the veterans can’t get the job done. Tiller is the most decorated corner in the secondary and returns with two INT’s, one TFL, 9 pass break-ups, 11 passes defended, and 46 tackles from a year ago. He stands at a stout 6’0″, 180, and will be regularly placed on the best out-wide receiver on the opposing team this season.
Obviously it’s not solely the corners fault that we gave up 22 TD’s and 215.8 yards per game through the air last season, but they definitely had a large part to do with it. The statistics aren’t bad on paper, but they look a little better than they actually are because of the little guys we beat up on early in the season. Against SEC teams with proficient offenses like UGA and Tennessee, there were points where the Cats couldn’t buy a stop on defense in the pass and rush game. It wasn’t all bad last season, however. We made some significant strides from Stoop’s first year as head coach. The defense recorded 15 INT’s, almost double the amount from the previous two years combined. This ballhawk mindset led UK to a positive takeaways category, which allowed the overmatched Cats to stay in big games last season. They did a good job of containing big plays, finishing the year with the 2nd least amount of deep plays allowed on defense in the entire SEC. There were definitely bright spots and improved play, but they were hard to spot during the end of season destruction.
Besides Quinn and Tiller, who is going to step up to the plate? Special teams’ big-hit specialist, redshirt-junior J.D. Harmon looks poised to play a larger role in the secondary this season, along with sophomore Kendall Randolph. Junior Jaleel Hytchye got lost in the shuffle of things last year, but he is another talent from Stoops’ first class that could help out. I know Blake McClain is listed as a corner, but he kind of bounces around the field and Stoops loves to use him in the nickel as the fifth DB, so I left him out of this post. McClain will be a main contributor alongside Stamps and McWilson in the secondary. Will any of the freshman or redshirt freshman step up behind these guys and show something? I’m not sure, but I think we’ll get some definitive answers starting here in about 11 days when fall camp starts back up.
Corners are a major focus for improvement this year, and they have to be on their game mentally and physically if we want a shot at achieving a 7-5 record during the season. The performance UK has containing these 5 receivers below will have a direct impact on the win-loss column in the 2015 season. These are the most elite receivers that UK will face this season.
1.) Sept. 12 at South Carolina: Pharoh Cooper
2.) Sept. 19 vs Florida: Demarcus Robinson
3.) Oct. 15 vs Auburn: D’haquille Williams
4.) Oct. 24 at Mississippi St.: De’Runnya Wilson
5.) Oct 31 vs Tennessee: Pig Howard