The previous Kentucky Staff has moved on and the majority of the new staff is in place. Of the many obstacles Joker Phillips left for Stoops and company, there may be none bigger than trying to manage the current roster. Here are some examples of the hurdles in place:
The quarterback situation at Kentucky is simply a mess. With Maxwell Smith likely to receive a medical redshirt for this past season, it’s looking like the Wildcats will have three sophomore quarterbacks heading into the off-season. There’s obviously the chance that Jalen Whitlow sees a position change, but the situation would still leave Kentucky with only two scholarship quarterbacks on the current roster and an incoming freshman from Tennessee and Reese Phillips. The disaster that was signing Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski has left the new staff in a bind and short on both bodies and expirience.
Kentucky has four senior wide receivers on its roster right now that will not be back next season (assuming EJ Fields does not pursue a sixth year of eligibility). Next season, the team will have Junior DeMarco Robinson, sophomores Daryl Collins, AJ LeGree, Bookie Cobbins and Demarcus sweat, and redshirt freshman Rashad Cunningham. Anyone who knows much about the air raid knows that six receivers just won’t get it done. Possibly more concerning is that Cunningham and Cobbins have never taken a college snap before. Kentucky needs receivers and needs them in the worst way. Expect several junior college players to be targeted during the off-season.
A combination of position moves has given Kentucky a ridiculously top-heavy depth chart at target. Senior Jordan Aumiller was moved to tight end from linebacker early in his career and fellow senior Patrick Ligon was moved from defensive end this past season. Add those 22 seniors Tyler Robinson and Anthony Kendrick, and you have a absurd for seniors at the tight end position, which is not even heavily utilized in Brown’s offense. Past that, you have Junior Ronnie Shields… And that’s it. There are no tight ends in the sophomore or freshman class at this time. Incoming freshman Darren Dowdell better be ready to play early on his career.
The offense of line wasn’t hit as hard as some other positions. The Pastath had some issues early on but in the last two recruiting classes are really solidified the spot. There are several young tackles, guards and centers that have experience and should be ready to go next season.
This is where things start to get complicated. The previous staff recruited the defense to fit a different scheme, and obviously the change in the base defense will affect all the defensive positions to some extent. I believe the most of the current roster will end up at defense of tackle, with the exceptions of Alvin Dupree, Travaughn Paschal, Farrington Huguenin, and possibly Michael Douglas and Langston Newton. If Newton is kept at end, that would give Kentucky only one player at the position that is younger than a junior. Needless to say, pass rushers are a desperate need.
The change in scheme complicates things here as well. The hybrid players don’t necessarily fit the 4-3 and the staff will try to move them to positions where their skills are best utilized. The simple move from for linebackers to three should leave the defense okay here, but I’m not sure if there is a solid strong side linebacker on the roster for this game.
The defensive backfield is simply a disaster. Too many past defections have left the team very young and lacking playing experience. Dakota Tyler will be the teams only senior in the entire defensive backfield, and he’s had some issues of his own missing an entire season two years ago. Eric Simmons and Eric Dixon were seldom used last season and along with the oft-injured Ashely Lowery, will be the team’s only other upperclassmen. The Blaylock twins, Fred Tiller, Cody Quinn, and JD Harmon will join Glen Faulkner and Marcus Caffey (who both sat out 2012) as sophomores next season and got decent playing time as true freshman. Jonathan Reed, Sterling Wright and Sean Blaylock will both be coming off redshirt years and are all unproven at this point. Stoops and his staff will reap the benefits of so many young players this position in the years to come, but my funny hard to recruit quality defense of backs with so many youngsters on the roster.
With so many issues on the current roster, Coach Stoops will certainly have his work cut out for him.