Even though we want to move forward into 2016 and “Finish,” it’s interesting to see how Kentucky’s 2015 performance looked through the lens of an outsider. The guys at ESPN’s SEC Blog spent the last few weeks ranking each position group in the SEC.
It’s no surprise that none of them are ranked that high, but some of the rankings might surprise you.
Quarterback – #11
The quarterback position was supposed to be a strength for the Wildcats, but returning starter Patrick Towles struggled with turnovers, throwing an SEC-worst 14 interceptions, and eventually gave way to redshirt freshman Drew Barker. The former ESPN 300 recruit showed flashes, but he too was inconsistent.
Running Back – #7
The Wildcats’ passing game might have been inconsistent, but they were typically effective on the ground. Leading rusher Stanley “Boom” Williams (855 yards) averaged 7.1 yards per carry and Jojo Kemp (555 yards) nearly averaged 6 yards per attempt. Mikel Horton complemented those two shiftier backs, adding a between-the-tackles element to a rushing attack that averaged 162.7 ypg.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends – #8
Even with consistency issues on offense, the Wildcats still had two receivers — Garrett Johnson and Dorian Baker — who ranked inside the top 20 of the SEC in receiving. Johnson led Kentucky with 694 yards, while Baker had 608. They combined for five touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Jeff Badet caught another 29 passes for 430 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman tight end C.J. Conrad could blossom into a solid player.
Offensive Line – #10
The Wildcats were right around the middle of the pack statistically running the ball in conference play: 151.5 rushing yards per game (eighth in the SEC), 4.4 yards per rush (seventh) and 2.3 yards per rush before contact (seventh). Quarterbacks were pressured 25.7 percent of the time (seventh) in SEC games, and Kentucky was seventh in total sacks allowed in SEC games (18).
Defensive Backs – #12
Despite starting a pair of true freshmen at cornerback (Chris Westry and Derrick Baity), the Wildcats got better against the pass. They surrendered 14 passing touchdowns (14th nationally) and 198.1 ypg (28th) although opponents generally passed the ball effectively against Kentucky.
Front Seven – #13
The loss of Bud Dupree and ZaDarius Smith was greater than most people expected as the Wildcats struggled to generate any pressure on the quarterback, ranking lasts in the SEC in sacks (17).