Kentucky Wildcats Football: The impact of UK’s scheme changes

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As the coaching carousel continues to turn, Kentucky staff will continue to fill out. At this point, official announcements have been made for head coach Mark Stoops, Defensive Coordinator DJ Elliot, and Offensive Coordinator Neil Brown. While the position coaches will have some say in things, the schemes themselves look very clear. Kentucky removing from a 3-4 hybrid mess of a defense back to a traditional 4-3 formation will be switching from the prostyle offense to an aggressive spread formation. Anytime a team switches schemes, some players on the roster will benefit and some will not. Based on what the defense at Florida State and the offense of Texas Tech look like, these are the five players that have the most potential and the new schemes and the five that might struggle to find their role in the upcoming season. (Note: player eligibility based on 2013 playing season)

Looking Up
1. Patrick Towles – QB – So
The big knock on Towles coming out of high school was that he was a spread quarterback that had no experience taking snaps from under center. In Brown’s scheme, the deceptively mobile Towles will find himself in a highflying environment that will allow him to utilize his big arm and quick wits. Maybe more importantly, the change in scheme means that all three Kentucky sophomore quarterbacks will be starting over from page one to give Towles the edge needed to make up for Maxwell Smith’s experience and Jalen Whitlow’s advantage in playing time.

2. Bud Dupree – LB/DE – Jr
Watching the previous staff misuse Dupree was painful at times. Despite being the team’s best option as a pass rusher, inadequacies at linebacker forced the staff to move into to an inside linebacker role that largely prevented him from doing what he does best. The new 4-3 defense will require a more agile player to man the weak side linebacker position and will need a player like Dupree at weak side defensive end spot to come in and get after the opposition’s quarterback from his blindside. Dupree could see his sack totals grow exponentially.

3. Khalid Henderson – LB – So
The importance of a great week side linebacker in the 4-3 cannot be underestimated. Henderson at the perfect blend of’speed and athleticism required to play the position and can support the run as well as drop into zone coverage. Most successful 4-3 defenses have a stud at the “will” position and Henderson could be the guy to emerge in that spot for Kentucky. He’s much more likely to see the field than he was playing as an undersized inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense.

4. Daryl Collins – WR – So
The one thing that is entirely apparent about the Kentucky roster is that we are going to need some reinforcements at wide receiver in the new scheme. A guy like Collins has the ability to play on the outside on the slot and has shown glimpses of the ability made him such a hot commodity is a prep player. The spread offense gets athletes the ball in space and Collins maybe one of the best overall athletes on the team. The simple lack of depth at the receiver position on Kentucky’s roster should be enough to get Collins a significant increase in playing time.

5. Ray Sanders – RB – Sr
Spread offenses throw the ball a lot and typically need a solid all-purpose back to support their scheme. Sanders has never been the best runner on the team but is a good receiver out of the backfield and an above average blocker as well. These abilities will get him on the field frequently and may make him one of the leading candidates to start next season despite a plethora of talent at the running back position. The same abilities that hinder his ability to be productive in the prostyle set will be the ones that make it more valuable in the spread.

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