Awaiting the arrival of the teams incoming recruiting class is always an anxious time for fans. After a disappointing end to the 2012 season the incoming recruiting class for Kentucky could potentially make or break the 2013 campaign. With several holes to fill on the roster, several of the new additions will be expected to play immediately, and some will even be expected to win starting rolls. Positions like quarterback and running back should be fine, but there are others that need a serious infusion of talent, and in some cases, just warm bodies. Here are the top five spots were freshmen are needed the worst.
#5 – THE DEFENSIVE LINE
Juniors Bud Dupre and Za’Darius Smith should be a formidable duo at the end positions and the senior trio of Mister Cobble, Donte Rumph, and Tristian Johnson should be a solid core of defensive tackles. Past those five though, there are just too many question marks. Christian Coleman was impressive as a freshman, but disappeared as a sophomore. Langston Newton, Thomas Chapman, and Patrick Graffree, all redshirted last season and have yet to play their first college game. Even Travaughn Paschal is still trying to find a position as the coaches try him at end and linebacker. Alvonte Bell, Jason Hatcher, Jacob Hyde, and Regie Meant should form a quality defensive line one day, but all four could be counted on to contribute as freshmen this season.
#4 – THE OFFENSIVE LINE
Similar to the defensive line, the starting group looks pretty solid on offense. Darrian Miller, Zach West, and Kevin Mitchell are all expected to return as starters in some capacity and gigantic sophomore Jordan Swindle is expected to start at right tackle after playing well as a true freshman last year. With only one spot to fill and some versatility from the starters, someone out of a group that includes Zach Myers, Jordan Watson, Teven Eatmon-Nared, Jon Toth, T.J. Jones, and even Jack Gruenschlaeger should provide a suit able starter. The real concern is that there is precious little experience along the offensive line. Four of the players expected to challenge for the last starting position and provide roles as primary backups are redshirt freshmen and one is a walk-on. With injuries occurring relatively frequently along the offensive line, reinforcements are needed soon. Incoming freshmen Justin Day, Ramsey Meyer, Nick Haynes, and Kyle Meadows will arrive this summer and should give the staff enough depth to feel comfortable.
Losing Martavius Neloms and Mikie Benton to graduation hurts some, but the problem is not quite that simple. The staff failed to sign a single linebacker in this class, so the dire need there could result in one or more of the safeties moving. The big problem with this is that the teams projected starting safeties at this point (Junior Ashely Lowery and Sophomore Daron Blaylock) are clearly the best physical fits at the linebacker position. Redshirt sophomore Glenn Faulkner has made almost no impact at this point in his career and sophomore Zach Blaylock played sparingly last season. Redshirt freshmen Sterlig Wright and Josh Harris both sat out the 2012 season redshirting and both remain unknowns now too. Marcus McWilson was the only true safety signed by Stoops and company in February and he may be counted on right away.
#2- WIDE RECEIVER
The coaching staff has made no bones about their need for receivers. The nature of the arrayed offense requires a lot of bodies due to the number of the receivers on the field, and the amount of running required from each player. The cupboard is certainly not bear with Demarco Robinson, Darryl Collins, A.J. Legree, Demarcus Sweat, Bookie Cobbins, and Rashad Cunningham all returning this season, but they’ll need help. Junior College transfer Javess Blue is expected to be an immediate contributor when he arrives, but the freshman trio of Ryan Timmons, Jeff Badet, and Alex Montgomery will all be counted on as well. If the staff is serious about needing 12-15 bodies at the position, every scholarship player will play and play a lot this fall.
#1 – CORNERBACK
I have discussed the issues at cornerback more times than I can keep track of. The worst thing is it feels like we do this every season. Once again, the roster is dangerously thin at one of the most important positions on defense. The game of football is becoming more and more about passing, and the Wildcats went to the spring game with only four scholarship cornerbacks. Sophomores Fred Tiller, Cody Quinn, and walk-on sophomore J.D. Harmon all played pretty well last year as true freshman. Shawn Blaylock was forced to sit out his freshman year after a preseason injury. It’s hard to have a lot of faith in Eric Simmons at this point. The redshirt junior has failed to make much of an impact for going on four years in Lexington. Like Javess Blue, junior-college transfer Nate Willis is expected to content for starting position as soon as she arrives on campus. Freshmen signees Jaleel Hytchye and Blake McClain will almost certainly be counted on right away as well, and they might both contend for starting jobs in their first year. Unfortunately, all of these players combined still give the Wildcats only seven scholarship corners, not even enough for a two-deep in the common ‘Dime’ personnel package. To make matters worse, four of the players on the roster have played sparingly or for less than one year (Simmons, Tiller, Quinn, and Harmon) and the other four of them (Willis, Blaylock, McClain, and Hytchye) have never played a snap in a division one game period. If the old saying is “there’s no rest for the weary,” then the cornerback position is headed for one weary season.