Kentucky Wildcats: Return of 16 Starters Good or Bad?

Mark Zerof, USA TODAY SPORTS

For most teams, having starters returning is a good thing. But when you are the Kentucky Wildcats, and you were 2-10 last season, is it good or bad to have starting players back?

Kentucky and head coach Mark Stoops figure to have around 16 starters returning, eight on each side of the ball, from last season’s team. But that may not mean much to the 2014 Wildcats.

What Stoops has done on the recruiting trail is nothing short of amazing. He has recruited a Top 20 class (according to Rivals.com) to a school with very little football tradition and that had a miserable record in 2013.

The point is, although Kentucky has 16 starters returning from last year’s team, the guess here is that not all 16 of those players will be starting in 2014. Stoops has simply recruited over many of those players, and the new recruits, although raw, likely have enough natural talent to win starting jobs.

A couple of positions stand out as spots where new players could fill in. The most obvious spot is at quarterback, where the Wildcats struggled all of last season. Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow simply did not get the job done in 2013. And one of the more high-profile recruits in the 2014 class is quarterback Drew Barker from Conner High School in Hebron, Ky. Barker seems to be a perfect fit for Neal Brown‘s “Air Raid” offense, and rest assured that Barker will be given every chance to win the job.

Also, there are four returning starters on the offensive line. However, it would not be a surprise if at least three of those were replaced with new players. Kentucky’s offensive line struggled through most of last season, and the key to Brown’s offense is to protect the quarterback, which the Wildcats could not do in 2013.

As the talent level grows in Lexington, so will the number of new players starting. Stoops hopes to get to the point where he can have quality players on the field, along with very good backups. Then, as players come to Lexington for the first time, they can be redshirted and wait their turn to play for the Big Blue.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for RantSports.com and a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter @TimLetcher , on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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