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Monday Six Pack- Stepping Up


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The dog days of summer are officially creeping up, or have arrived, considering who you’re asking, but that means thousands of young men across the country strap on hot, sweaty pads and crash into each other for the amusement of others; but not before crashing into each other to determine who gets to crash into guys from other schools first. You’ve heard all about how Newton needs to step up, La’Rod King needs to step up, yada yada yada….you’ve heard it. Here is a six pack of refreshing insight to cool your burning brow and look at other parts of the field for who is really going to need to show up on the first game day to ensure that this season does not end like the last.

Matt Roark- If we’re talking receivers we’ve already talked about La’rod King, ad nauseum. You’ve read the articles saying he needs to step up, the ones where he says he needs to step up, and the ones where Joker says he needs to step up. But the one thing they’re forgetting is: if everyone is focusing on La’Rod, then where do you think most of the coverage is going to go? The redwood-tall Roark is now a senior and had only 12 catches last year. That. Must. Change. Remember how people started doubling Randall Cobb (may his blessing be upon you) when we had no other options? Wide receiver tandems need to be a tandem and having two massive ballcatchers would certainly make Newton’s job easier in the red zone.

Luke McDermott- The breakout player from last year, he is returning as a senior with starting experience on a defensive line that seems to be in flux weekly. 17 tackles and three sacks may not seem like an All-American stat line but he provided any production at a position that had seemed to disappear at times last year. With academic issues, attrition, and anything else that could possibly happen to someone playing on our line, he will be a great player of the bench who will provide some experience on the field.

Taiedo Smith- Our deep secondary is getting sorted out, but with new look Winston Guy flying all over the field (hopefully making a tackle or two during his flight), he is bound to see some time while Guy catches his breath (’cause we know he ain’t catching the ball. HEEEYOOOOO). only recording 5 tackles last year was more a product of playing time and poor game planning than his inability to make plays, but he still needs to improve, hopefully surpassing his 20 tackles season in 2009. He has already surpassed Guy in pass coverage, but Guy is still the man at the position and if he doesn’t step up like coach Minter is expecting him to, don’t be surprised to see Smith hit the field.

Ryan Tydlacka- Think back to the successful football teams Kentucky has had in the last few years, what do they all share? Successful punters. Glenn Pakulak, Tim Masthay… both created game changing plays on special teams by changing the field. Tydlacka has to assume the throne of cannon leg in order to ensure that when (not if) the offense starts sputtering we can still maintain hope because the other team will be looking at a long field. He has steadily been bringing his distance numbers up (averaging 37 yds in 2008, 40 yds in 2009, and 43 yds in 2010) but that will need to make a solid five or six yard jump across the board in order for his name to garner “great punter” status.

Cartier Rice- While the top of the secondary is solidifying, the corner situation is gaining momentum and players are now beginning to mature. Cartier’s 10 tackles compared to super backup Anthony Mosely (34 tackles in 2010) may not be much but not much was asked of him last year, and both Martavius Neloms and Randall Burden are back and should have great seasons, but if the injury bug bites UK early (and it always seems to) Rice will be asked to step up and implement Rick Minter’s D to the fullest.

Rick Minter- Didn’t expect to find a coach on here? He might be the biggest factor. Being brought on at a strange time shows just how much Joker wanted him there, and his hybrid defense is what will determine UK’s position in the SEC East. High-powered offense abound this year and having a defense that can keep up the the firepower seen every Saturday will turn around a squad that ranked near the bottom statistically in almost every category.

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