Goal: Figure out if this team has a workhorse runner, or will take a “by committee” approach.
The running back position suffered more injuries last year than any other spot on the roster. The staff will need to use the spring to find out if they have a player to build the running game around, or if they will need to use the different skill-sets of each individual to give the team its best chance to win. Senior CoShik Williams filled in admirably off the bench when the top two backs went down, but he has not proven he can carry the work load alone yet. Freshman Josh Clemons and junior Ray Sanders have spent more time in the training room than on the field in the last three seasons and their ability to stay healthy will be a deciding factor in the carries each receives in 2012. Regardless of the approach taken, the staff needs to figure out what the plan is ahead of the season.
Goal: Find out if this team has a playmaker that can compliment Larod King.
While he would probably liked to have had a better season in 2011, King has really been the only receiver on the team that has proven he has SEC ability. The spring will allow the staff to find another receiver (or two) that can pull coverage off of him and threaten defenses with their big play abilities. If Daryl Collins is as good as advertised, the seniors better bring their a-games because he and some of the other players have the skills to overtake their experience.
Goal: Find a freaking starter
Kentucky fans love them some Jacob Tamme and I’m starting to think that it has more to do with the lack of production since his departure than it does with Tamme himself. Every year sees one tight end after another rotate in and out of the starting lineup game after game and the lack of continuity has kept any one player from standing out. Junior Tyler Robinson has been placed in the driver’s seat this spring, but he has fellow juniors Anthony Kendrick and Jordan Aumiller tight on his heels. Whoever it is, someone needs to separate themselves from the pack. If one thing has become abundantly clear, it’s that Jon Davis and Alex Smith both missed a huge opportunity by backing out on the Wildcats.
Goal: See if there is adequate depth on the roster before the incoming freshmen arrive.
It’s every team’s goal to redshirt as many true freshmen linemen as possible and Kentucky is no different. An added year in the strength and conditioning program can do wonders for the development of a young player, and especially those on the lines. Darrian Miller played well as a true freshman last season and junior Kevin Mitchell certainly has the size to play tackle in this league. However, outside of senior Trevino Woods, there is not another scholarship tackle on the roster. If the walk-ons can step in and provide quality depth, most of the incoming class of linemen will be able to redshirt. If not, some of these rookies will be thrown right into the mix.
Goal: Find a starter opposite Larry Warford.
Warford might be the best player on the entire roster, but he can only man one of the two guard positions. Redshirt freshman Zach West has the size, strength, athleticism, and smarts to play at any of the five offensive line positions. That said, he’s still a redshirt freshman. It appears that he and the behemoth that is Teven Eatmon-Nared will battle it out for the starting job.
Goal: Figure out who will back up Matt Smith.
If Larry Warford is the best player on the team, Smith is a close second. The only problem is, that Warford is going to be cross-training to back up Smith this spring. Obviously the staff needs to find someone to take over the position once Smith’s eligibility is exhausted, and Junior Sam Simpson’s future is in question with chronic injuries. If the heir to Smith is on the roster, he’ll need to step up soon.