This has been a long season for Kentucky football. It’s been painful to watch at times especially given that the Wildcats can never put together a full game. Either the offense or defense is off on any given day. Having both playing at the same level would have led to at least 2 additional wins. The reality is that this is what playing freshmen looks like.
There is a lot of talent on this Kentucky team, perhaps as much raw talent as we’ve seen in years. But the truth is that that talent should be redshirting, practicing and learning. Redshirts should be on the sidelines, perhaps getting some quality reps on special teams and in blowouts. They should be studying film and taking pointers from upperclassmen.
At Kentucky they are playing, starting even, in SEC football games. Kids who were sitting in home room and making prom plans last year are now being relied upon to win SEC football games. The results are exactly what should be expected. Obviously injuries have played a part in the decision to play some of these guys but it’s not the only issue. The coaches have chosen to play the most talented athletes at numerous positions, regardless of experience or game-readiness. Look no further than the all-freshman secondary getting relentlessly toasted at Arkansas.
I think that the coaching staff has also played some young guys to appease the fans at times. Until injuries forced it, Jalen Whitlow should not have played. Ditto Patrick Towles. Dy’shawn Mobley will have lost an entire season for approximately 50 carries. I can think of no reason for Jordan Swindle to have played limited snaps in a blowout. AJ Legree has hardly played enough snaps to warrant wasting a year of eligibility.
Each and every one of these players would be several times more valuable to Kentucky as redshirt seniors than the limited production that most are providing as true freshmen. While gaining tons of experience the hard way, this will come back to bite the program down the road, if the next 2 recruiting classes are not strong. It also leads to attrition and/or a loss of confidence among the upperclassmen that seem to have been passed over. Fans have already written off redshirt freshmen and sophomores because they aren’t starting, which is ridiculous.
Next year is also worrisome, assuming that there will be a new coaching staff. It is likely that some of the players who are on the field this year would be asked to redshirt, possibly leading to more attrition. Hopefully the new staff will take a more sensible approach to handling young players and do what is best for their careers. Until then we will continue to see a defense that can’t get lined up but shows flashes of brilliance. Hopefully the fans remember this before calling for the new guys in the future.