Hopes are high for the future of the Kentucky Football team, but lets not forget the reality of the situation either. Mark Stoops and his staff are taking over a 2-10 team and marching into the country’s #1 toughest schedule head on. To be successful, they’ll need some help and it may even come from the unlikeliest of players. Many of the incoming freshmen will be counted on right away, but here’s five players to really keep an eye on this fall.
Jason Hatcher – Defensive End
It would be hard for anyone not to list Hatcher very high on this list due to his sheer talent. One might assume that the presence of Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith would diminish the need for an early impact from Hatcher, but that would be very wrong. Hatcher should immediately challenge for the #3 defensive end spot and could even get a chance to line up at linebacker. All he needs to do is get on the field though, and Hatcher will be making plays left and right.
Ryan Timmons – Wide Receiver
We’ve said it 1000 times…Kentucky doesn’t have enough receivers. Fellow freshmen Jeff Badet and Alex Montgomery are viable candidates for this list as well, but Timmons brings a little extra to the table. I addition to playing receiver, Timmons is fully capable of taking snaps at running back and should also be one of the team’s leading contenders to return kicks and punts. His versatility should make him a valued asset to the offense and special teams right away and, barring injury, there is almost no way Timmons redshirts this season.
Jaleel Hytchye – Cornerback
As bad as the situation is at wide receiver, its undoubtedly worse at corner. Fred Tiller, Cody Quinn, and J.D. Harmon will all be sophomores and all three took their lumps as true freshmen and should benefit from it this year. Additionally, Eric Simmons will try to break into the depth chart this year and freshmen Jaleel Hytchye and Blake McClain will join junior college transfer Nate Willis to battle for playing time. Don’t be at all surprised if Hytchye emerges as the team’s third corner or is even named a starter. He has blazing speed and is ridiculously intelligent for a defensive back. A combination of his own skills and the opportunity at UK are just the right ingredients for him to have a special year.
Kyle Meadows – Offensive Tackle
The staff moved the incumbent starter at right tackle to guard, which has created a starting opportunity on the line. It will be nearly impossible to unseat Darrian Miller on the left side, so Meadows will likely focus on battling with sophomore Jordan Swindle for the other starting spot. I’m inclined to think it should still be tough to beat out Swindle, but regardless, Meadows should be the #3 tackle for the team this fall. With injuries occurring more frequently than you would like on the lines, this should put Meadows in line to play quite a bit this fall.
Marcus McWilson – Safety
The car wreck and subsequent legal troubles of Ashely Lowery have recently muddied the picture at safety. With Lowery’s status uncertain, Sophomores Glenn Faulkner and the Blaylock twins should be the primary contenders moving forward. With none of the three possessing ideal experience, even for true sophomores, McWilson shouldn’t be far behind this fall. All three have injury histories, although short, and McWilson should expect to play in nickel and or dime sets in the least, and should be considered a serious contender to start.
Others of note: Alex Montgomery (WR), Jeff Badet (WR), Blake McClain (CB), Jacob Hyde (DT), Jojo Kemp (RB)