1. Two Assistant Coaches
And one of the will probably not be Ed Reed. It would be a fantastic hire, but at this point adding Reed as UK’s tenth assistant is wishful thinking. More importantly, Mark Stoops needs to find an excellent wide receivers coach to replace Lamar Thomas. Who that might be remains a mystery, but the four receivers from the 2017 class have a ton of talent that cannot go to waste.
2. A Way to Keep Xavier Peters’ Commitment
Arguably the toughest task at hand, Vince Marrow has to find a way to prevent the All-American linebacker from falling in love on official visits. He’ll be at Florida this weekend, Florida State next weekend and Miami the following weekend. Marrow is the king of building bonds early in the recruiting process. Hopefully his bond with Peters is too strong for Florida football powerhouses to break.
3. A Running Back
Bryant Koback’s sudden departure leaves just four players in the running back room this fall — Benny Snell, Sihiem King, A.J. Rose and incoming freshman Chris Rodriguez. 2018 will likely be King and Snell’s final season at Kentucky. Stoops must add at least one player on National Signing Day. Stoops hopes that one player is on campus this weekend, Kavosiey Smoke.
Smoke is a big badass and it’s not just because of his name (well, kind of). The No. 29 running back in America is a bruiser who earned All-State honors in Alabama. UK’s toughest competition is North Carolina and Auburn. Stoops must get a running back and Smoke is his best remaining option.
The only Team Captain that will return in 2018 is Mike Edwards. The offense lost five starters and the defense lost just two starters, but two of those losses are big ones: Courtney Love and Stephen Johnson. They brought a calming presence and called plays on the field. Off the field they were an example for all of the underclassmen.
Becoming a leader is atypical; the best leaders have innate qualities that set them apart from the pack. One person I expect to set the tone as he returns to the team is C.J. Conrad. Benny Snell’s work ethic leads by example, but can he become a vocal leader on the offense? The ideal defensive leader is the middle linebacker. If Kash Daniel can speak to his teammates on the field as well as he can into a wrestling ring microphone, the defense should be in good hands.
Stoops has “knocked down doors” through consecutive seven-win seasons. The reason there wasn’t an eight or nine-win season is because of consistency. You can’t be consistent in October unless you’re consistently doing your job the right way every single day in January and February.
For the Kentucky football program to knock down another door and take the next step as a program, they must transform offseason consistency onto the field this fall.