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UK’s Schedule Heats Up With Threatening Quarterbacks

Kentucky’s loss to Florida left a resounding ripple throughout the 2017 schedule. Against the Gators, Kentucky misshaped itself into the lesser likelihood of blazing out of the gate with a 6-0 start prior to its bye week. I’ve argued that this fall’s schedule is more difficult than the slate that Mark Stoops and his team faced in 2016. Several disagreed and still do; which is perfectly ok. But, my hypothesis wasn’t a baseless guess. It mainly pertains to the season’s post-Bye week gauntlet.

The major factor that influenced this premise is based on the high number of unique signal callers that could present a clear and present danger to the Wildcat defense. As of today’s SEC rankings, UK will face 6 of the league’s top 10 statistically rated quarterbacks. This includes numbers one through four.

It started with a Week 3 matchup with South Carolina’s Jake Bentley. While I didn’t agree with certain talking head’s preseason conjecture that he is the best quarterback in the conference, I do feel that the sophomore has a tremendous upside. However, the situation begins to seriously heat up this weekend with Eastern Michigan’s veteran QB Brogan Roback. (Who is that, you ask? You should read my Eastern Michigan scouting report to find out.)

We must first study UK’s effectiveness vs. the pass prior to analyzing the onslaught of upcoming, talented QB’s that Kentucky has yet to face.


2017 Kentucky vs. The Pass

Pass Yards Allowed

1078, 269.5 per game

Team Pass Defense

SEC-12th

Opponent Completion Percentage

63.9%, SEC-13th

Interceptions

4, SEC-5th

QB Sacks

6, SEC-11th

Pass Breakups

14, Passes Defended SEC-5th

Quarterback Hurries

5


UPCOMING OPPOSING QUARTERBACKS


Brogan Roback, Eastern Michigan

2017: 69/114, 798-yards, 2 TD’s, 2 INT’s, 60.5%, QB rating-121.61.

Career: 569/989, 6561-yards, 40 TD’s, 25 INT’s, 58%, 1,132 offensive plays.

Summary: Most threatening QB the Cats have faced through five games in 2017. Most will disagree with that assessment. I’m just calling it as I see it on film while taking in consideration the following factors: Experience, conversations with trusted talent evaluators, quick release, football IQ, system familiarity, skill player continuity, surrounding cast, schedule faced, and film based gut instinct. Roback is a crafty veteran who is in complete control of a highly accustomed offense.

— The 5th year senior is considered a 2018 NFL Draft sleeper and is a skillful playmaker. He has elevated arguably the worst FBS program into a two-season bowl contender.

— Specializes in back-shoulder fades and is extremely accurate in the short/intermediate passing game. The veteran will audible (change plays), shift blocking schemes, and improvise on Saturday. Defensively, EMU is successfully conservative by nature. But, expect its offense to play with a “nothing-to-lose” brashness which could lead to a high risk/high reward game plan. Remember, EMU averages 38 pass attempts per game.


Drew Lock, Missouri

2017: 2nd rated QB in the conference. 70/133, 52.6%, 1115-yards, 10 TD’s, 6 INT’s, QB rating-138.84, 278 yards per game.

Summary: Lock lights up the scoreboard and stat sheet against inferior opponents. But, he has not enjoyed the same success against formidable defenses; especially those that call the Southeastern Conference home. Regardless, he finished 2016 with 3399-yards and ranked as the league’s 2nd rated passer.

— Missouri will throw the football all over the field. Lock is surrounded by a 1000-yard rusher (Demarea Crockett), an on-paper top 5 offensive line, and the SEC’s top receiver from a year ago in J’Mon Moore. Moore currently ranks 6th in the league. Mizzou’s defense and in-game management are a mess; but Lock’s arm talent is undisputable.


Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

2017: 57/99, 57.6%, 626-yards, 7 TD’s, 3 INT’s, QB rating-127.96, 156 passing yards per game.

2017 Rushing Statistics: 41 carries, 287-yards, 5 TD’s.

Summary: Was entering the Heisman race until his team was beat down 30-3 at Georgia. Fitzgerald is big, strong, mobile, and gave the Cats fits a year ago: Passing-13/21, 81, 1 TD, 1 INT. Rushing: 16 carries, 107-yards, 2 TD’s. He’s also extremely well coached by Dan Mullen.


Quinten Dormady, Tennessee

2017: Quietly rated 4th in the SEC. 71/121, 58.7%, 861-yards, 6 TD’s, 4 INT’s, QB rating-128.20, 215 yards per game.

Summary: Dormady is not as threatening as the other quarterbacks mentioned in this post and may actually be replaced by freshman Jarrett Guarantano by the time the Volunteers travel to Kroger Field. Guarantano relieved Dormady in the 3rd quarter during UT’s clunker vs. UMass last Saturday. However, he is rated 4th in the league and has played well at times.

— Tennessee has allowed only 2 sacks through four games, which is tied for the sixth-lowest in the nation


Shea Patterson, Ole Miss

2017: SEC’s top rated quarterback. 86/122, 70.5%, 1281-yards, 11 TD’s, 4 INT’s, QB rating-181.88, 427 yards per game.

Summary: Improvisation driven, athletic quarterback that is surrounded by the best receiving corps in the Southeastern Conference.  Averaging 427 passing yards per game should be all you need to know about the super-sophomore. Regardless of the Rebels/Black Bear’s state of mind come November 4th; Patterson and those pass catchers are a menace to opposing defenses and creates matchup nightmares for rival coordinators.


Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

2017: Ranked 8th in SEC but was much higher prior to facing the Crimson Tide. 53/84, 63.1%, 721-yards, 8 TD, 1 INT, QB rating-164.25, 180.3 yards per game.

Summary: Was the conference’s leader in QBR, QB rating, completion percentage, and TD-INT ration prior to facing Alabama. He finished 2016 on an extremely high note and has RB Ralph Webb to balance the Commodore offense. Plus, the game is in Nashville.


Jake Fromm/Jacob Eason, Georgia

2017: True freshman Jake Fromm took over for the injured starter Jacob Eason. The rookie has led the 7th ranked Dawgs to wins at Notre Dame as well as a dominating home victory over Mississippi State.

2017 Stats: 43/69, 62.3%, 650-yards, 7 TD’s, 1 INT, QB rating-172.03, 167.3 yards per game.

Summary: These are impressive numbers for a true freshman especially considering the fact that UGA doesn’t have a pass catcher ranked in the top 14 of the SEC. Plus; Fromm benefits from having running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel in the same backfield.

— Original starter Jacob Eason suffered an injury in the first quarter of Georgia’s 31-10 win over Appalachian State. However, Eason was one of the nation’s top QB prospects a couple years ago and played well as a true freshman in 2016. Most likely to be healed from a knee sprain, Georgia will have two quarterbacks to choose from by the time the Cats travel to Athens.


Lamar Jackson, Louisville

— Reigning Heisman Trophy Winner

2017 Statistics: 94/149, 63.1%, 1387-yards, 10 TD’s, 3 INT’s, QB rating-159.41, 346.8 yards per game.

Rushing: 65 carries, 337-yards, 4 TD’s, 84.25 yards per game.

Summary: Won the Heisman but lost to Houston, Kentucky, and LSU to close out 2016. Posted inflated numbers (4th quarter stats padded vs. Tiger reserves) vs. Clemson a few weeks back in a home loss. But, Jackson is still the most dynamic football player in America. With Bobby Petrino’s obstinate insistence on statistics, my concern for Jackson is a senseless injury well after the game has been decided.


What does all this mean?

Saturday’s game vs. Eastern Michigan is a precursor to how the Cats could fare against upper-level quarterbacks that remain on its schedule. This especially applies to EMU and Missouri.  Roback and Lock share multiple, similar traits. Thus, this weekend’s contest possesses an invaluable evaluation factor for potential outcomes down the line.   

Two defensive categories must increase: QB sacks and tackles for loss. Plus, Kentucky’s offense must sustain a higher number of drives by converting on 3rd down. It cannot afford to leave its defensive counterparts on the field for ten plus minutes in the fourth quarter as it did against Florida.

Starting with Brogan Roback and going all the way through Lamar Jackson; Kentucky’s schedule is littered with quarterbacks that are dangerous enough to expose minute flaws against most pass defenses. The aforementioned list of signal callers is daunting. The challenge has been presented. Let’s see how the Cat’s respond. 

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

2 Comments for UK’s Schedule Heats Up With Threatening Quarterbacks

  1. A defensive category that must decrease: the number of receivers left ALL ALONE on the sideline.



  2. terwilliger
    5:46 am September 29, 2017 Permalink

    I don’t want to hear about crap ole miss. We should win out at home no excuses.