After finishing last season as one of the least-explosive offenses in the country, the Kentucky Wildcats enter 2013 seeking to return to the postseason for the first time in three years. Thanks to a much-improved offense, the ‘Cats will contend for a bowl this season.
Despite last year’s horrible record, there are plenty of reasons for UK fans to be excited this fall. After all, new offensive coordinator Neal Brown is one of the best in the business. He’s been extremely successful at the collegiate level, averaging 465.4 yards per game as the OC of the Troy Trojans and Texas Tech Red Raiders. His high-octane offense was especially impressive in Lubbock last year, as his squad finished third nationally with 257 plays of ten yards or more.
By comparison, that total is 76% more than the 146 that the Kentucky offense managed last season.
Brown will have plenty of talent to work with this fall. The Wildcats return three starters on the offensive line, including Kevin Mitchell, Darrian Miller and Zach West. These three started all 12 games last season, helping the ground game run for a respectable 4.1 yards per carry in 2012. With top rushers Raymond Sanders, Jonathan George and Dyshawn Mobley — who led all runners in the spring with 79 yards — returning, the running game will be a much bigger weapon than it was last year.
The passing game is also in much better shape than it was a year ago. Sure, spring practice concluded without a clear-cut starter under center, as the three-way duel in Jalen Whitlow, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles will continue into fall camp. However, the passing attack stole the show in the spring game, with the top three contenders completing 34 of 60 passes for 366 yards and four touchdowns. More impressively, the trio accounted for six plays of 20 yards or more, giving the UK offense the type of explosiveness that it sorely lacked last season.
In other words, it doesn’t matter who takes over as the starting QB for the ‘Cats this fall. As long as Brown is coaching the quarterbacks, the Kentucky offense will have no trouble moving the chains.
Will this dramatic improvement be enough to lead the team to a bowl game this year?
Probably not. The schedule contains eight opponents that played in the postseason, including five that finished in the top 15.
However, with an improved offense this fall, don’t rule the ‘Cats out just yet. After all, the 2006 UK squad went to a bowl after finishing 3-8 the year before.