Kentucky has their head coach and we should find out who the assistants are in the next weeks. From there, the staff will have to hit recruiting hard to build the roster to fit their new schemes. These should be the positions of highest priority.
I have to assume that Bud Dupree will be moved back to the weak side defensive end position to capitalize on his ability to rush the passer. Farrington Huguenin has drawn rave reviews from the past season’s staff, but is also only a redshirt freshman and has played sparingly at this point in his career. Langston Newton is a prototypical strong side defensive end, but will only be a redshirt freshman himself when next season kicks off. Alvonte Bell being in the fold certainly helps, but the new staff needs to add at least another end to the recruiting class to change to a four man front, and probably needs 2-3 more to fill out the depth chart and develop.
There are a lot of linebackers on the roster, but most are suspect fits for the 4-3 defense. The staff has three promising freshmen to develop in Khalid Henderson, Pancho Thomas and Demarius Rancifer, but needs to add 2-3 more depending on what they plan to do with Josh Harris and Daron Blaylock. If both are moved to linebacker, this position is a lower priority.
The team graduates both Martavius Neloms and Mikie Benton, and the futures of Ashely Lowery, Daron Blaylock, and Josh Harris may be at linebacker. Former Army All-American Glen Faulkner should finally be ready to contribute and the Blaylock twins were baptized by fire as freshmen, but there are a lot of question marks past these guys. As we saw this season, you can never have enough safeties as they are typically big special teams contributors too.
Kentucky is set to graduate a whopping four receivers as Gene McCaskill, Aaron Boyd, LaRod King, and E.J. Fields are all seniors. Freshmen A.J. Legree, Daryl Collins, and Demarcus Sweat all looked good this past season and sophomore Demarco Robinson has plenty of talent, but if Kentucky is going to move to a more wide-open offense, more reinforcements will be needed. More importantly, Kentucky will lose both of its “big” targets in King and Boyd. Adding a 6’3+ red zone target should be a priority.
It seems like we’ve been waiting for a big-time tight end ever since Jacob Tamme graduated only to be disappointed each year. After promising freshmen campaigns, Tyler Robinson and Jordan Aumiller never really materialized and will be entering their senior season along with Anthony Kendrick, who never got off the ground in the first place. Ronnie Shields will be a junior and he has yet to really make an impact and Patrick Ligon has been little more than an extra tackle since his move over from defensive end. Securing a solid tight end in this class is needed in the worst way after largely striking out over the past several recruiting classes.
Look, whether we like it or not, Kentucky fans have to realize that having three sophomore quarterbacks next season is just not going to work. Jalen Whitlow has a chance to make it at another position if he’s moved, but finding an heir to either Patrick Towles or Maxwell Smith needs to be a priority and will only be magnified if one of the two transfers to another school. It is imperative that this staff recruits a good quarterback in each class and avoids the mistakes of the last staff. Reese Phillips may be the guy they want, but if he isn’t, they need to decide right away and get the next guy.
Is it a position of dire need? No. But we all know you can never have enough good ones and a change to the 4-3 defense will just put more of them on the field. We really need 2-3 of these guys in every recruiting class, so getting another one to pair up with Jacob Hyde is imperative. Also, Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble, and Tristian Johnson will all be seniors in 2013.
I feel confident with the roster at running back, along the offensive line, and at corner. The previous staff did a good job of recruiting these positions and with several of these guys already committed in the current class (assuming their offers stand), Stoops and company should be able to cherry pick the best options available.