Kentucky Wildcats Football: The Future is Now


Kentucky writers, even the most optimistic ones, have spent the past year touting the programs momentum

in the right direction but still cautioning fans about patience with a very young roster. It’s no secret that Mark Stoops walked into a mess when he took this job, but few people really knew how deep that went. It’s why none of the previous staff was retained, despite some impressive coaching acumen (see Randy Sanders and Mike Summers). It’s also why the majority of the roster has turned over in two years. Roughly seventy-five percent of this roster is comprised of players that Stoops has brought in through one channel or another. So again, with the patience. Freshmen and sophomores don’t make for a great team.

Well, maybe we were a little premature. Kentucky is much improved this season on both sides of the ball and the charge is being led by the young guys. True freshman have scored eight of Kentucky’s twelve touchdowns so far this season, with transfer Braylon Heard accounting for two and sophomore Jojo Kemp another. The only player to score this year that didn’t commit to Mark Stoops’ staff is Patrick Towles. The offense is finally starting to resemble what Neal Brown envisioned last year, even if it’s not a finished product yet.

Everyone expected there to be improvement on offense, there almost had to be after a dreadful first year. But the improvements on defense have been the most impressive. Kentucky has not allowed a touchdown in the first half in any of their three games this season. They likely would have shut out UT Martin had the starters played the whole game. They held Florida to a field goal after the Gators had dropped 63 the previous week. The strength of the defense is up front on the defensive line, an area that Stoops has focused on recruiting since his arrival and it’s paying off. A big surprise has been sophomore Melvin Lewis, a JUCO transfer, at defensive tackle. Lewis is playing at a level which Kentucky’s tackles had not reached all of last season. JUCO transfer AJ Stamps has emerged as an early-season playmaker. Jason Hatcher is showing flashes of what he can do behind Dupree and Smith.

This doesn’t mean that Kentucky will play close to every SEC opponent this season. There will be growing pains and mistakes. Look no further than Ryan Timmons dropping a pass on his numbers into the air and it becoming an interception. If Timmons makes that catch, Kentucky has a chance at a game-winning Austin MacGinnis field goal in regulation. Despite MacGinnis missing one in overtime, he also made clutch kicks throughout the game. Don’t think for a second that Stoops would have hesitated to put him on the field with a chance to win it.

The future is bright. So bright you made need shades. Because that team that came so close to ending the streak, that team that gave the Gators everything they could handle, only starts seven seniors. Two of which, Javess Blue and Demarco Robinson, are part of a rotation. Everyone has pointed to 2015 as the year that Kentucky takes a big step. It looks like the future is here early.