2011 Record: 5-7
Returning Starters: 13
Key Losses: Danny Trevathan, Winston Guy, Mychal Bailey, Chandler Burden, Matt Roark
It was a rough year for Joker Phillips and the Kentucky Wildcats in 2011; however, the Cats were able to end their 27-year drought against the University of Tennessee. In 2012, the Wildcats are hoping to climb out of the cellar in the SEC East and get back to bowl eligibility.
Offensively, Kentucky was downright anemic at times and they only averaged 15.8 points per game for the season. That number dropped to less than 12 points a game during SEC play, and a lot of that lack of production had to do with a lack of talent at the skill positions.
The offense was more efficient with Maxwell Smith at the helm, and with Morgan Newton recovering from a shoulder injury, this spring will be a great opportunity for Smith to separate himself at the quarterback position. Smith will rely heavily in a guy like La’Rod King to give them production at the wide receiver position.
Defensively, losing Winston Guy and Danny Trevathan, who were far and away the team’s two leading tacklers, will be a major obstacle in 2012. Defensive line production will have to be greatly improved to mask their losses in the back seven, and that could be a tough task for a unit that only produced 20 sacks in 2011.
What to watch for:
Maxwell Smith is going to have a chance to cement himself as the starter at quarterback this spring in the absence of Morgan Newton, and he had better capitalize. Newton and freshman Patrick Towles will be chomping at the bit to fight for playing time in the fall.
On the offensive line, Kentucky has to replace three starters, including both offensive tackles. Freshman Darrian Miller will be relied upon to man one of the vacated tackle positions, but the rest of the other two openings should be heavily contested.
Defensively, the Wildcats have the unenviable task of replacing the production and leadership of guys like Trevathan and Guy, and they’ll have to do so with only two returning starters in the back seven. The defensive line is returning all four starters, but linebacker Ridge Wilson will be tasked with leading this defense.
Spring Game: 4-21