As Nick Roush and I start our friendly competition of predicting the 2016 opening day starting lineup, the decision was made to give my young counterpart a bit of a head start. As we dive into the offense, my role is to play the Devil’s Advocate per say. Being somewhat competitive, we’ll see who is more accurate come September 3rd. The only rule? We can only use “or” twice for each side of the line of scrimmage.
Keeping in mind that across the board upgrades are imperative. UK finished 2015 ranked 10th in the SEC by averaging 24.7 points per game, 12th in Pass Efficiency with a 108.31 rating, and allowed 30 QB Sacks along with 84 Tackles for Loss. With a new offensive coordinator, quarterback and receiver coach, positive changes are not only expected but demanded.
Kentucky’s Week One Projected Offensive Starters
- Freddie: Drew Barker
- Nick: Drew Barker
- Freddie: Boom Williams
- Nick: Boom Williams
- Freddie: C.J. Conrad
- Nick: C.J. Conrad
- Freddie: Dorian Baker
- Nick: Dorian Baker
- Freddie: Garrett “Juice” Johnson
- Nick: Garrett “Juice” Johnson
- Freddie: Tavin Richardson OR Jeff Badet
- Nick: Tavin Richardson OR Charles Walker
- Freddie: Blake Bone OR Jabari Greenwood
- Nick: Blake Bone
- Freddie: Tate Leavitt
- Nick: Tate Leavitt
- Freddie: George Asafo-Adjei
- Nick: Ramsey Meyers OR Drake Jackson
- Freddie: Drake Jackson
- Nick: Jon Toth
- Freddie: Jon Toth
- Nick: George Asafo-Adjei
- Freddie: Landon Young
- Nick: Landon Young
The offensive line is the biggest question mark for the offense. Luckily, Landon Young is the only person in the mix that won’t be there for Spring Practice. Most on the offensive line practice at a variety of positions. Jon Schlarman’s job is to see which unit has the most continuity. If they live in a perfect world, I think you’ll see the five I presented in Week One.
Even though the receiver starters can be difficult to discern, the way they rotate probably matters less than any other position. Even though C.J. Conrad will be the hands down #1, I believe he’ll be used in so many different ways that we’ll see a lot of Greg Hart or Darryl Long. Also, Boom Williams’ spot as the #1 running back isn’t as solid as you might think. Eddie Gran is no nonsense and will play whoever is putting in the work, and I believe the Senior leader — Jojo Kemp — will become an early favorite for the new OC.
Noticeable offensive line alterations are projective by nature and not based on the overplayed word, “source.” With the goal of putting the best eleven on the field, Drake Jackson and Landon Young may possibly be too good to have on the bench or wearing the standard redshirt that is normally reserved for freshman OL. Controversially, moving Jon Toth to guard could enhance his NFL Draft stock as well as provide Drake Jackson an on-the-job, field coach in his transition from high school to college football. Additionally, with the above lineup, seasoned guards would play alongside first year players at tackle. Contrariwise, Jackson could also play guard as Toth remains at center. However it shakes out, keep an eye on offensive line depth chart in the spring and through mid-fall camp.
I could have easily placed Tavin Richardson and Blake Bone in the starting receiver rotation. Expect this foursome to fluidly rotate due to production, situation, and attitude. As for Drew Barker, he gets the nod solely based on game experience and the fact that at the time of this post, Stephen Johnson’s weight or lack thereof is concerning. With three scholarship quarterbacks currently on campus, there will be a true quarterback competition. Spring practice offensive schematic installation makes it an even playing field. Regardless of Barker, Johnson, or Hoak; evident quarterback improvement and heightened consistency are mandatory.
After watching hours of 2015 film, periphery factors influenced perceived individual quarterback and collective offensive line deficiencies. In review, scheme — more so than lack of development — played major roles as Kentucky saw a 4.7 points per game decline. To simplify, offensively UK lacked identity and “buy in.” Player placement was ill-advised, putting them in precarious situations that did not fit current personnel level or suitable game management focus (Please remember 1st down lost yardage plays). Thus, I foresee a distinct improvement in most statistical categories. More importantly, a similar upward trajectory will translate to higher unit morale.
And as always, remember it’s personnel, not personal.