When Kentucky hired Mark Stoops he said he wanted an offensive coordinator who would throw the ball. He backed that up by hiring Kentucky alum Neal Brown, who had captaining one of the top passing attacks in the country for the last few years at both Texas Tech and Troy. Wildcat fans rejoiced that the beloved Air Raid, born in Lexington, was returning. When it hit the field, however, Kentucky fielded one of the worst passing attacks in the country. The Wildcats were much more effective running the ball with former quarterback Jalen Whitlow. Even that slowed down as the year wore and teams realized that UK couldn’t throw it.
So with Fall camp starting tomorrow, many of the questions on fans minds revolve around Brown’s unit. Everyone knows that quarterback is unsettled going into camp and everyone has their opinion how that will shake out. All indications are that Patrick Towles has the lead but it isn’t an insurmountable one. Look no further than former star Andre Woodson as an example of what a strong Summer can do for a player. One has to think that the offense will be much improved at the quarterback spot no matter who wins the job. If only because they really can’t be worse than what Whitlow and an injured Max Smith put together.
The new QB also figures to be aided by improvements around him. The offensive line returners four starters from a unit that was better than many give credit for last year. The likely new face will be redshirt freshman Ramsey Meyers, who has drawn rave reviews from the coaches. Alas, he’s still a freshman so there will be bumps in the road. Overall the line should be solid though.
They should be opening holes for the best stable of running backs Kentucky has ever had on paper. Braylon Heard lit up practice daily during his redshirt year. We’ve all seen what JoJo Kemp can do, and he wasn’t even healthy last year. A healthy Josh Clemons is still impressive. Add in a pair of four star freshmen that should contribute immediately in Boom Williams and Mikel Horton and that’s more talent than I’ve ever seen in a UK backfield. At least in theory. Clemons will have to prove healthy and three of them have not played in Lexington.
The talent at wide receiver is also better but unproven. All of last season’ starters return and each should be improved. Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons each seem poised for a big year. Alex Montgomery Is expected back after his torn ACL. The newcomers all come with accolades from high school. Most will play this season, allowing Brown to run the uptempo style that he wants. Last year UK didn’t have the bodies at wideout to rotate.
Tight end might be the only area that isn’t improved from last season. From a talent perspective Darryl Long is a great addition, but it’s such a tough transition for a freshman. Steve Borden and Ronnie Shields return but need to prove that they can block in the trenches. UK will miss Jordan Aumiller and Tyler Robinson in that aspect. On the other hand, the three tight ends that Kentucky does have are all dangerous in the passing game. So we may see them catches more balls than the 23 the unit totaled last year.
Overall fans should see the improvement on offense in year two, not only passing the ball but on third down. Last year’s offensive struggles directly corresponded with Kentucky only notching two wins. This year the defense might struggle with youth and inexperience, so the offense needs to pick up the slack.