There has been a ton of talk this preseason about how young the 2012 UK football team is. In a sense, that is true. The official depth chart will be released tomorrow, but most expect there to be somewhere between 10-12 starters that are sophomores or younger. This seems like a lot to me and I think myself and others would be more confident if there was more than only 7-9 seniors expected to start. But then again, this team is almost “artificially” young. There are not expected to be any true freshmen listed as starters on offense or defense, and only 6-8 should end up in the two-deep. That’s a very small percentage of the 44 players. The vast majority of the “young” players that Kentucky has are redshirt freshmen and redshirt sophomores.
Take Malcolm McDuffen, Tyler Brause, and Miles Simpson for example. These three are all redshirt sophomores vying for playing time at linebacker. They are all considered to be “young” players. Now take Avery Williamson. He’s a junior linebacker that has played special teams and spelled Ronnie Sneed in his time here in Lexington. Why exactly do we consider Williamson as a veteran and McDuffen, Brause, and Simpson as liabilities? They were all four in the same signing class and have been on campus for the same amount of time. You could say that Williamson has had the advantage of playing in more games, but i don’t know how strong of an argument that really is. McDuffen and Simpson saw quite a bit of action last season, and all four linebackers are big time special teams contributors. The difference is really only that one of them played as a true freshman, the others were redshirted, that’s it. Sometimes that redshirt tricks us into thinking our team is younger than it really is.
On top of that, Kentucky will have several players in the depth chart that are much older than they seem. Maxwell Smith was a grey shirt enrollee and is actually in the same graduating class as Avery Williamson. He has three years of eligibility left, but he’s older and more mature than a typical sophomore. Donte Rumph was actually a member of the 2008 signing class, but failed to qualify two years in a row. He should have already graduated or should be a redshirt senior right now, but is only a junior. E.J. Fields will Lilly be granted a sixth year of eligibility if he applies for it. That would mean his last season would be 2013 despite him being a member of the 2008 signing class. These three examples show you how a players signing class and actual age don’t always correlate.
The 2009 and 2010 recruiting classes have both turned out to be complete flops, and multiple early departures have left the Cats thin on juniors and seniors. Although you would like to see more upperclassmen on the roster, there are a ton of sophomores on the roster that have playing experience and have waited their turn to step in and contribute.