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  • UK's Spring Football Practice is Rapidly Approaching

    By: LONNY DEMAREE

    Mark Stoops is still operating under a cloud of disrespect and expressed on the one hand humble submission but on the other hand "We are coming after you," Stoops said with determination. The question is does he have enough to backup that warning?

    The 2018 and 2019 cumulative statistics are strikingly similar. The Kentucky total offense in 2018 was 4,691 as opposed to 2019's that was 5,102. Given all the hurdles of the 2019 offense the offense was better than the previous year. What does this indicate? That there's still more ways than one to get the job done. So let's break it down and see what he is working with.

    Quarterback: Some of that lack of respect comes from the lack of stability at that position. If Terry "Touchdown" Wilson is ready to go it will go a long way toward Stoops' goal. Reportedly Wilson is making good progress. There will be a lot of interest in the quarterback position in the Spring.

    Running back: Despite early season criticism A.J Rose quietly rolled up 875 yards with a 5.5 average. Each of the three running backs Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriquez gained over 500-yards rushing the football all averaging better than 5-yards a carry. The running attack should be strong again.

    Wide receiver: This is a unit that will be very reliable. Josh Ali started to blossom late in the season and is the best route-runner on the team. Isaiah epps returns to the team coming off a surgical procedure on his foot. Look for some new faces to make a significant that year. Freshman JuTahn McClain and Earnest Sanders IV. are name to look for. Newly added to the freshman class highly recruited Michael Drennen is potentially a star Athlete.

    Offensive Line: The unit has the bulk of the offensive line back for 2020. They lose only one and a half starters meaning the right guard was manned equally by graduated senior Mason Wolfe and junior Luke Fortner. Senior left tackle Landon will hold down that position. He had toyed with the idea of turning Pro. The right tackle is solid with Darian Kinnard. The linchpin at the center position is Drake Jackson who many opinions think he is the best center in the SEC. Stepping in for graduated Logan Stenberg is highly regarded Kenneth Horsey. Lots of quality depth is on the roster. Being as this is where you win football games the depth is a big plus with Naasir Watkins, Austin Dotson, Quintin Wilson, Eli Cox and new comer Jeremy Flax will be the players.

    Tight End: This is a position that is deeper than it's been in my tenure as a writer/fan. They return Justin Rigg, Keaton Upshaw. and Brenden Bates, all of which have pro-type size and quality. With a healthy quarterback this opens up the toolbox for Eddie Gran.

    Defensive line: In spring practice the defensive line and new defensive line coach Anwar Stewart will be charged with replacing two starting defensive ends T.J. Carter and Calvin Taylor. Likely replacements are 6-foot-6 295-pound sophomore Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald and 6-foot-5 310-pound Phil Hoskins. The red Shirt program will supply adequately. Only eight seniors are gone from the program.

    Linebackers: This group only lost Kash Daniel who when in his last game of his career against Virginia Tech as perhaps he best overall game of the 2019 season. Seemingly players that have extra incentive has paid dividends I.E. Josh Allen in 2018 and Lynn Bowden. Both had their young children's future to play for. In the case of outside linebacker Xavier Peters same situation, perhaps this will be a motivating factor. The linebackers are stacked with quality players in which we know that to get through an SEC schedule they are needed. They are stacked with potential all-star talent.

    Secondary: This combined unit had to replace six players in 2019 and with all new guys was one of the stingiest group in the country in giving up plays over thirty yards. They return everyone but safety Jordan Griffin. Safety Davonte Robinson will be returning off a torn quad muscle that kept him out the entire 2019 season. Also star transfer Kelvin Joseph from LSU will be added to the secondary. Joseph was a top 50 player coming out of high school. Look for even further improvement from the secondary because this is Stoops' bailiwick.

    Special teams: Ray Guy winner Max Duffy that gives Kentucky a tremendous punter. He is a tremendous weapon for flipping the field getting his team out trouble. The Kicking situation at the present is unsettling.

    Look for the Cats to pull off more than one upset and be in position to challenge for the SEC East title. They are again being disrespected which parlays into them playing with that chip on their shoulder.