Kentucky Wildcats Hope Defense Leads Charge in 2014

By Tim Letcher

The Kentucky Wildcats suffered through a 2-10 season in 2013, as the transition from former head coach Joker Phillips to new head coach Mark Stoops took place. During the process, there was a change in philosophy on offense and defense, and the ‘Cats spent much of last season trying to adapt.

Now, it’s year two in the Stoops Era, and Kentucky is hoping to show signs of improvement this year. If Kentucky wants to improve on last year’s record, it will be the defense leading the way, especially early in the season.

Stoops has done an outstanding job recruiting better talent to the Bluegrass. And while the talent is there, it’s also very young. The offense, specifically the playmakers, are likely to be nearly all freshmen and sophomores. And while those players are more talented than the players on the roster when Stoops arrived, those playmakers are very young, and will make mistakes.

That’s why it is important for Kentucky’s defense to step up early in the season. Defensive ends Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith need to lead the way, and linebackers Josh Forrest and Khalid Henderson also need to play better.

Kentucky’s secondary will be perhaps the most experienced until on defense. Seniors Ashely Lowery and Eric Dixon occupy the safety positions, while juniors Fred Tiller and Cody Quinn figure to be in the mix at the corners.

Many other young Wildcats saw action on defense last season, which should help this year’s team. And if four-start recruit Matt Elam can play immediately on the defensive line, that would also give this unit a boost.

Stoops, along with defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, need the defense to keep Kentucky in games until the young offense can catch up. And with experienced talent returning, that should not be a problem early in the season.

Tim Letcher is a contributing writer for 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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