As Kentucky endured another frustrating performance as they suffered their eighth loss already this season, this time at the hands of the previously SEC-winless Missouri Tigers, it looks like the Cats will now be going on a massive youth movement. UK has already played 14 true freshman, most of which are getting significant snaps as the team looks to build for the future, even with the uncertainty surrounding Joker Phillips and the rest of the coaching staff.
All is not lost with the present crop of seniors however. The offensive line has been led by a dynamic duo of senior lineman in guard Larry Warford and center Matt Smith. Smith came into the year one of 51 players on the preseason watch list for the Rimington Trophy, given annually to the nation’s top center, has been one of the best centers in the ultra-competitive SEC.
Warford certainly had more hype coming into 2012, as was second-team All-SEC the past two seasons, while leading UK in knockdown blocks. He graded 87.5 percent on his blocking assignments last season. Warford was also named preseason first-team All-SEC, first-team All-America by Phil Steele, and one of 71 players on the watch list for the Outland Trophy, given annually to college football’s best offensive or defensive linemen.
He’s also risen up the NFL draft boards as of late. Joker Phillips had high praise for Warford, who he’s coached for every year the fomrer Madison Central star has been at UK:
Larry is a really good football player. I think it’s rubbed off on some of those other guys up front. Larry is the first guy that everybody talks about. He’s a guy that’s projected high. He’s one of the two best guards in the country.
NFL scouts also took notice of his earlier performances against the South Carolina Gamecocks:
Larry Warford/G/Kentucky: The Wildcats lost a second-half lead to South Carolina and ultimately the game, yet Warford stood out. The dominant guard constantly opened large holes on the right side of the field, overwhelming the talented defenders who lined up against him. Warford is a powerful lineman and controls anyone he gets his hands on. He’s best suited for a power-running offense and the senior should be selected toward the end of the draft’s second day.
The highest praise for the two senior lineman came from NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com draft analyst Dan Brugler:
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 30, 2012