Kentucky Wildcats Football: Five Questions That Need to Be Answered This Season

2 of 2

Can Max Smith be the team leader?

Since Max Smith will be the starting quarterback, that means that he should be the unquestioned leader on the team. Last season we saw Morgan Newton’s confidence wilt before our very eyes. His body language became increasingly negative as he season progressed and he could be seen sulking alone on the sidelines.

Enter Maxwell Smith. The Wildcat offense showed more positive signs. Smith was on the sidelines meeting with his offensive line and receivers, patting players on the back and giving words of encouragement. His body language was also more positive and it seemed as if the team reacted well to the change.

Smith’s play will have a lot to do with his leadership. If he performs at a high level, then he will become the commanding voice that the huddle needs. But it’s not entirely on him. His team needs to have his back. His receivers need to catch and his line needs to block. He cannot do everything on his own.

Signs point to Smith being a good leader. But his offense will not follow if he does not perform.

Morgan Newton will be ready on the sideline to step in a reclaim his position. Not to mention there are two very talented freshmen that would jump at the chance to start at quarterback. Patrick Toweles is a four star player and ranked as one of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation and Jalen Whitlow has been wowing the staff in practice with his athleticism. Smith doesn’t have a lot of room for error.

What can we expect from the defense?

There are new faces all over the field with the losses of Danny Trevethan and Winston Guy to the NFL as well as the loss of Ridge Wilson due to an arrest. Throw in that defensive back Marcus Caffey has been ruled academically ineligible for the season and safety Gelnn Faulkner is out with a high ankle sprain, then it looks as if we have a bit of a problem.

The only position on the defense that has not suffered any turmoil is the defensive line. Rick Minter has said that this group is an SEC caliber unit. Donte Rumph is a 6’3 308 pound defensive lineman that had a bit of a break out season last year. Mister Cobble has finally seemed to have gotten his off the field issues straightened out and is looking to show everyone why he has been hyped up so much by the coaching staff. Cobble clocks in at an imposing 6’1, 328 pounds.

Collins Ukwu and Taylor Windham will be the defensive ends and both have been starters in the past. Ukwu showed great passing rushing ability before he missed some games due to injury.

The linebacker core and the defensive back field are the big question marks. Both positions are full of youth and inexperience. Alvin Dupree looks to be the leader ow that Wilson is no lover on the team. Martavious Neloms was going to be the starting safety until the Caffey announcement. Now, Neloms will move over to cornerback, a position he is familiar with but wasn’t expected to play.

Cartier Rice saw some time at corner last season, but look for the linebackers and the defensive backs to be full of youth. The first game against Louisville will be an interesting test as the Cards boast quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and speed at the receiver position.

With the running game from opposing teams looked to be stopped up by the D-Line, expect opposing teams to take to the air early and often to test the inexperienced secondary. It’s going to be imperative that the line, the ends and the linebackers get penetration and put pressure on the quarterback in order to force him into making bad throws and decisions.

Out of all of the questions, this one worries me the most.

Can the Wildcats get more than two wins in the SEC?

The last time that Kentucky won more than two games in the SEC was in 2009. That season the Wildcats defeated Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt on their way to a loss to Clemson in the Music City Bowl. The last time the ‘Cats won more than three games in the SEC was way back in 2006 when Andre Woodson was at the helm. That year Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt, Georgia, Arkansas and Mississippi State.

Last season, the Wildcats defeated Ole Miss and Tennessee to win two SEC games. Can the Wildcats do better than that? History does not favor them winning more than two, but the schedule this season might. Besides the usual SEC East foes, the ‘Cats will face Mississippi State, Arkansas and new comers Missouri from the West. No LSU, no Auburn and no Alabama. The Western part of the schedule is fairly favorable this season.

Florida is not the Florida of the Tim Tebow era as Will Muschamp struggled to a 7-6 (3-5 in the SEC) record in his first year at the helm. Tennessee is ripe for another beating in Knoxville as Derrick Dooley may not survive and Vanderbilt never fares well in Commonwealth Stadium, no matter who is coaching the Commodores.

I could see the ‘Cats going 3-5 in the SEC with wins over Tennessee, Vandy and Mississippi State. It’s possible that upsets can be pulled at Floirda, at Arkansas and at Missouri, but I’m not counting that as likely.

If the team stays healthy and if Rick Minter can put together a competitive defense, then three wins are quite possible. This SEC is down, but the major powers are going to be great. Luckily the ‘Cats will avoid them this season.

There are many more questions but I think I’ve taken up enough space. What questions do you have? Ask in the comments section and we will answer them as best as we can.