Nov 12, 2011; Nashville, TN, USA; Members of the Kentucky Wildcats offensive line await play to resume during a time out in a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. The Commodores beat the Wildcats 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky Wildcats Football Position Preview: Offensive Line

THE ROSTER

OFFENSIVE LINE

Returning

#55 – Jordan Watson – RFR – 6’4 / 303 – Fayetteville, GA

#57 – Zach Myers – RFR – 6’3 / 277 – Miamisburg, OH

#58 – Shaquille Love – SO – 6’4 / 313 – Harriman, TN

#70 – Jordan Swindle – SO – 6’7 / 290 – St. John’s, FL

#72 – Jon Toth – RFR – 6’5 / 283 – Indianapolis, IN

#75 – Zach West – SO – 6’4 / 308 – Lexington, KY

#76 – Teven Eatmon-Nared – JR – 6’7 / 330 – Bucyrus, OH

#77 – Darrian Miller – JR – 6’ / 284 – Lexington, KY

#79 – Kevin Mitchell – SR – 6’6 / 289 – Winston, GA

Walk-ons

#62 – Tyler Davenport – JR – 6’5 / 296 – Hodgenville, KY

#63 – Bill Davis – SO – 6’2 / 320 – Lexington, KY

#64 – Max Godby – JR – 6’4 / 280 – Louisville, KY

#71 – John Gruenschlaeger – SO – 6’11 / 350 – Ft. Thomas, KY

#74 – Cole Mosier – FR – 6’6 / 330 – Walton, KY

Newcomers

#68 – Nick Haynes – FR – 6’3 / 305 – Niceville, FL

#69 – Ramsey Meyers– FR – 6’4 / 290 – Orange Park, FL

#73 – Kyle Meadows – FR – 6’5 / 270 – West Chester, OH

 

 

WHO TO WATCH FOR

Darrian Miller

The offensive line never gets their due. While most fans are drooling over Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith (understandably), Left Tackle Darrian Miller might actually be the best professional prospect on the entire roster.  It’s easy to forget that Miller was a top-20 offensive tackle as a high school player and picked Kentucky over Alabama and Tennessee because he was right under our nose the whole time.  Had Miller been from Florida or Georgia, he would have been the marquee name on the 2011 signing class.  After performing well as the team’s top reserve during his true freshman season, Miller laid an early claim to the starting job at left tackle prior to the 2012 season and no one else came close to taking it away from him.  At 6’5, he has ideal height and length for a lineman protecting the QB’s blindside, and at 284 pounds, he’s lean and athletic enough to stay with the SEC’s top pass rushers.  He’ll need to add a little more muscle to his frame, but with tight-end athleticism, raw strength will probably never be Miller’s forte.  The transition to a pass-happy offense should highlight Miller’s abilities and allow him to emerge as one of the nation’s premier pass blockers.  Don’t be surprised if 2013 is his last season in Lexington.

 

September 22, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Larry Warford (67) and guard Zach West (75) block against the Florida Gators in the second quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Zach West

It’s funny how similar the situations are for Zach West and Darrian Miller.  Also a member of the 2011 signing class, West was a top-20 lineman nationally and is also from Lexington.  That’s about where it ends though.  West is no where near the natural athlete that Miller is, but he more than makes up for it in superior size, strength, and a brilliant understanding of the game.  As physically imposing as West is, what truly sets him apart is his ability to think.  He can anticipate the moves of more athletic players and uses great technique for his position.  In fact, West is so versatile and intelligent that the staff is cross-training him to play guard (where he started as a redshirt-freshman last season) and center.  It is very possible that West will eventually be a four-year starter for Kentucky, but he’ll have to hold off the competition to start again this season.  While Eatmon-Nared has clearly stepped up his game and I challenging West for his position at Left Guard, don’t be surprised if West is simply slid over to start at Center in the event he eventually loses the job to Eatmon-Nared. There’s even an outside chance West could get a try at the right tackle position.  West is simply too talented and dependable to put on the sideline, so you can bet that the staff will find a way to get him on the field.

 

 

September 22, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Morgan Newton (12) gets tackles by Florida Gators defensive lineman Earl Okine (91) in the second half at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Kentucky Wildcats 38-0. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Swindle 

While he wasn’t the most highly rated player in Kentucky’s 2012 signing class, Swindle came in and impressed enough during camp to become the team’s top reserve tackle as a true freshman last year.  A combination of his size and abilities mixed with a lack of depth at tackle provided and opportunity for him and Swindle was able to capitalize and actually played well in the 11 games he participated in.  Swindle is currently atop the depth chart at Right Tackle, allowing incumbent starter Kevin Mitchell to move back inside to guard.  Swindle was being developed as a left tackle (behind Miller) by the previous staff and moving him to the right side serves several purposes.  First, it facilitated Mitchell’s move inside.  Second, it puts another pass-blocking specialist on the line in a pass-heavy offense.  Third, it gives Swindle additional experience now in the event that Miller does turn pro at the conclusion of the season.  And don’t let Swindle’s size fool you either.  He’s exceptionally athletic for a man standing at 6’7 and weighing in at nearly 300 pounds.  This athleticism and a brilliant mind for the game would normally be much more befitting to the left side though… and this is where the change in scheme comes in.  Kentucky’s offense really needs two tackles that would traditionally be blind-side blockers because of the number of passes thrown.  Having Swindle’s size and length to balance Miller’s should help buy the passer a little more time in the pocket.

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