Kentucky doesn’t take the stage at SEC Media Days until Thursday, but the Cats are already a hot topic in Hoover. Earlier today, SEC Network analysts Greg McElroy, Jordan Rodgers, and Gene Chizik spent some time discussing how Kentucky will follow up on its ten-win season, and contrary to some media members, they believe the foundation Mark Stoops has built is strong enough to keep the Cats from backsliding to the SEC cellar.
“What’s amazing is there’s this misconception that, ‘Well, they built up that this whole bevy of recruits over the last handful of years to put out this team,'” McElroy said. “No, they built this thing up to be a program. It was not about just one year. They’re not going anywhere. Now, are they going to get to ten wins? We’ll find out.”
McElroy argued that even though Kentucky lost big name players like Benny Snell and Josh Allen, their replacements are almost as good, if not better.
“At running back, more specifically, I really like their personnel. I think AJ Rose is a more interesting version of what Benny Snell was. I think just because they don’t have household names doesn’t mean there aren’t elite players just waiting for an opportunity, and they’ve done such a good job with the development, I think there can be some guys that could become household names just a few months from now.”
Rodgers’ number one concern with Kentucky this season? Terry Wilson’s development.
“He is uber talented — uber talented. I mean, he’s got a rocket for an arm, he’s athletic, he’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Rodgers said. “He was efficient, but he wasn’t a game changer at that position, nor did he need to be with Benny Snell behind him; I think he’s going to have to be this year.”
After watching the Cats in spring practice, Chizik, who coached at Auburn from 2009-12, said he feels the team now passes the “eye test,” in large part because of how well Stoops and his staff develop players.
“There’s nobody in this league that has done a better job of developing young guys with a true plan, an individual plan to develop every guy, than Mark Stoops. He’s been phenomenal. No, it’s not going to be Alabama and Georgia where, we lost seven and we have five stars behind them that are going to step in, add water, and instant player. That’s not how it works. These guys are continuing to be developed.”
Chizik said the only team he thinks Kentucky can’t beat this season is Georgia, but people predicting them to win only four, five, or six games are mistaken; McElroy agreed.
“I think that anyone suggesting it’s just going to be a free fall, they’re not watching,” McElroy said. “They’re going to be good, man.”