ESPN’s SEC Blog is rolling out previews for each team in the league, and Sam Khan Jr. is naming a “sleeper” for each program. Kentucky’s? Linebacker Ryan Flannigan.
In 2014, Flannigan’s impact wasn’t quite to the level the Kentucky coaching staff hoped for when it signed him, but toward the end of the season Flannigan came on strong. He started three of the final four games, and his last two games were his best, when he recorded 12 tackles against Tennessee and a team-high 11 tackles, plus a pass breakup, against Louisville in the season finale. Of his 57 tackles last season, 23 came in those last two games. This spring, head coach Mark Stoops remarked that Flannigan made a big improvement and the Blinn College prospect will benefit from actually participating in spring football — last year, Flannigan didn’t arrive on campus until August, just before preseason training camp. A full offseason in the program will benefit the 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior immensely. Linebackers coach D.J. Eliot said Flannigan’s progress is evidence of why there is”nothing like a live rep.” Look for Flannigan’s role to grow and for his production to increase significantly in 2015.
Meanwhile, ESPN’s Chris Low has a full breakdown of the Cats. Here’s how he thinks Kentucky can beat teams on offense:
Shannon Dawson, a disciple of Hal Mumme’s Air Raid offense, takes over as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator after four years at West Virginia. Dawson’s aim for this team? Be as physical as it is fast. That charge will be led by Kentucky’s versatile stable of running backs, particularly Stanley “Boom” Williams and Jojo Kemp, and what the Wildcats hope will be an improved line with four starters returning. Patrick Towles has to hold off redshirt freshman Drew Barker for the starting QB job, but Towles was a pleasant surprise last fall and should be able to handle a heavier load in his second full season as the starter.
Read Low’s thoughts on UK’s defense over at the Worldwide leader.