Last week we received news that Marcus Caffey had been ruled academically ineligible for..."/> Last week we received news that Marcus Caffey had been ruled academically ineligible for..."/>

Kentucky Wildcats Football: Picking up the pieces at CB


Last week we received news that Marcus Caffey had been ruled academically ineligible for the 2012 season, and it came as quite a shock to most of us. The cornerback position was already looking weak, but sustained a major blow when Caffey was lost.

Going back a year and a half ago, cornerback was one of the most promising groups of players on the roster. The depth there was so strong, that the team was able to move both Martavius Neloms and Mike Benton to Safety. Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley were rising seniors with Cartier Rice, Jerrel Priester, Dale Trimble, and Eric Simmons all behind them as promising underclassmen and Eric Dixon and Daylen Hall coming in as true freshmen. The team had depth, experience, youth, athleticism, and swagger.

Now, Burden and Mosley have graduated, Priester, Trimble, and Hall have all left the team, for various reasons, and Simmons has failed to move up the depth chart (to this point). Further complicating matters, Dixon is really more of a safety/corner “tweener” and Rice is relatively undersized for SEC play. A flurry of unexpected circumstances took the cornerback position from one of the true strengths of the team, to it’s weakest link.

Concern over depth prompted the staff to stockpile defensive backs in the 2012 signing class as well as facilitating the move of redshirt freshman running back Marcus Caffey to corner. Somewhat unexpectedly, Caffey hit the ground running on defense and ascended to the top of the depth chart almost immediately after his position change. Caffey’s speed, athleticism, and size made him an ideal corner for the SEC and he wasted no time in asserting himself. On top of moving Caffey, the staff added recruits Fred Tiller, Shawn Blaylock, Cody Quinn, and Jonathan Reed to the roster this summer to fortify the depth chart and challenge the upperclassmen for playing time.

Caffey was ruled academically ineligible last week and it was also discovered that incoming freshman Shawn Blaylock will undergo season ending knee surgery. While the news of losing Blaylock hurt, losing Caffey was borderline devastating. Now the team was back down to only six scholarship corners in a league that uses five receiver sets regularly. Worse yet, three of the corners are just coming off the heels of their senior prom.

In a move that many saw coming, senior Martavius Neloms was converted back to corner from safety to provide some veteran leadership to the young group of players. While this inevitably hurts depth at safety, sophomores Glen Faulkner and Ashely Lowery are more than capable of filling in for him.

There is no way around the fact that Kentucky does not have ideal depth at the cornerback position. Neloms was solid there as a freshman and sophomore, but he will likely have some rust to shake off after having played safety for over a year. Rice has been solid as a nickel or dime corner, but has never had to carry the burden of being the starter. Dixon is a capable player (as he showed in his freshman season), but may not be a true cornerback, and Simmons has all the talent in the world, but has yet to put it all together. In reality, at least two of the three healthy freshmen are going to be forced to play this season, and there’s a decent chance all three will. If anyone can stand out though, it should be Fred Tiller. I’ve gone on and on about his talent and potential all summer and wouldn’t even e surprised if we see him eventually supplant Rice in one of the starting spots. That being said, it will be important to keep an  eye on  Jonathan Reed and Cody Quinn as well. Both were big pickups for Kentucky and chose the Wildcats over other BCS schools. Overall, while this is by no means the most experienced the team has been at the cornerback position, it might be the most athletically talented group Kentucky has ever had. Losing Caffey hurts and there will be some adjusting to be done, but the team could be worse off.