We have already taken a pre-season look at the Kentucky Wildcats football team and identified specific things that are positive and negative about the team going into the season. But one question we did not answer is what will be the strength of this Kentucky team.
Charlie Strong says that Louisville's defense should be their strength this year, and looking at their depth chart, you'd have to say that is so, comparatively speaking. The Cardinals return an experienced group that was 18th in scoring defense last year nationally, 9th against the pass but only 52nd against the run.
For Kentucky, there is little doubt that the defense was the weakness of the team last year. UK was 72nd in scoring defense last year, a loathsome 85th against the run, and a decent 14th against the pass.
The good news is that Kentucky is returning many of their best defensive players, 8 starters in all. The question is whether or not Kentucky will be significantly better against the run with a year more of experience. History suggests that they will, and the addition of some quality depth to the defensive front in the form of redshirt sophomores Patrick Ligon, Mister Cobble and Tristian Johnson, plus a new aggressive defensive scheme courtesy of DC Rick Minter argue for some kind of positive change.
The defensive backfield returns many of last year's starters, a year older and hopefully better. The linebacking corps look solid. So the only real remaining question is the defensive line -- can they step up to the plate and stop the run?
My feeling is yes, and if so, the defense is likely to be the strength of this Kentucky team, along with the offensive line. That will be a very nice change from last year, and if the run defense can move up into the forties without the defensive backfield losing its top-20 status, you have to think that Kentucky's defense will give the offense a chance this year.
The real question mark are the offensive skill positions. Can they put up numbers like 2010, or will they be more like the scoring-challenged 2009 team?