Tennessee beat the Cats because Kentucky couldn’t do what they had to do. The blocking was poor and inconsistent except for a couple of drives. We didn’t eliminate the stupid penalties and our defense could not stop the Tennessee ground attack.
We all had it in the back of our minds that Kentucky could very well repeat last year’s 2-10 season. We didn’t know we would feel like this at the end of the season. The season can be wrapped in comedic tragedy, but hey, we are not Alabama whose loss to Auburn was catastrophic and shook the NCAA football world. In honor of the Alabama Elephant, I give you the best elephant story ever. The point being, we have to learn to laugh at our situations that life presents us.
There are, however, consequences that come from a losing season. Rivals (5.5) 3* OT Derrick Kelly has de-committed, but he still plans to take his official visit. Stoops & Co. has been out on the road trying to solidify the 2014 class.
While we hoped for more, we knew the talent cupboard was bare. We just didn’t realize how bare. How bare? Consider the fact that most of our playmakers were first year players. So, how do we compare to 2012? I’m here to show you.
Improvements are in bold.
Rushing Offense: 147.9 (83) - 2012 Rank 138.75 (87)
Passing Offense: 193.4 (96) - 2012 Rank 176.25 (102)
Passing Efficiency: 126.29 (74) - 2012 Rank 108.62 (111)
Red Zone Offense: 80.0% (t-78) - 83.3% (t-61) 2012 Rank N/A
Scoring Offense: 20.5 (106) - 2012 Rank 17.92 (116)
Total Offense: 341.3 (107) - 2012 Rank 315.00 (113)
Tackles for Loss Allowed: 89 (t-113) - 2012 Rank N/A
Sacks Allowed: 3.08 (114) - 2012 Rank 2.17 (75)
Time of possession: 28 (104) - 28 (103) 2012 Rank N/A
3rd Down Conv. %: 30.9% (115) - 2012 Rank N/A
4th Down Conv. %: 60.7% (26) - (21) 2012 Rank N/A
First Downs: 212 (107) - 2012 Rank N/A
When thinking about this offense, an old saying comes to mind: It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you work with so many turkeys. Kentucky was not blessed with a wealth of talent.
I’m not sure how anyone could say our offense was anything but a turkey, just like the two previous years. Missed blocking assignments, dropped passes and poorly thrown passes were the rule, rather than the exception.
A perfect example is the Tunnel Screen. If it is run right, it can give first down yardage. Here’s how this team seems to run it. (Hat Tip to Adolph Rolling Over @ Cat’s Illustrated).
The play calling only works if the players execute. Here, you can see another failure followed by good execution.
Rushing Defense: 197.3 (94) - 2012 Rank 161.25 (62)
Passing Defense: 229.8 (62) - 2012 Rank 229.75 (57)
Scoring Defense: 31.2 (t-87) - 2012 Rank 39.46 (18)
Passing Efficiency: 154.55 (111) - 2012 Rank 146.56 (100)
Passes Intercepted: 3 (t-119 dead last) - 2012 Rank N/A
Tackles for Loss: 4.5 (114) - 2012 Rank 4.42 (105)
Sacks: 1.92 (t-67) - 2012 Rank 2.17 (49)
Total Defense: 427.2 (91) - 2012 Rank 391.00 (59)
3rd Down Conv. %: 44.7% (99) - 2012 Rank: N/A
4th Down Conversion %: 68.8% (112) - 2012 Rank: N/A
First Downs: 256 (t-74) - 2012 Rank: N/A
Turnover Margin: 0.0 (t-63) - 2012 Rank N/A
Net Punting: 36.70 (69) - 2012 Rank 39.46 (18)
Punt Returns: 6.18 (t-88) - 2012 Rank N/A
Punt Return Defense: 6.20 (38) - 2012 Rank N/A
Kickoff Returns: 21.19 (66) - 2012 Rank N/A
Kickoff Return Defense: 19.80 (34) - 2012 Rank N/A
It’s hard to believe that Rick (Nuclear) Minter’s defense was better than this year’s under Eliot. The stats say it’s true, though. Our defensive line couldn’t plug a hole and teams ran through us like water. Our defense gave up one big play after another all year long. While the DL was experienced, they just couldn’t give our linebackers and young DBs a lot of help with a pass rush.
Let me take a stab and grade the coaches.
Head Coach: Mark Stoops - C
He’s trying to change a culture here. Defeat is somewhat expected and accepted by the players. It may take three years for him to change this attitude. Our stars, with only a few exceptions, were first year players – red shirt freshmen, true freshmen and JUCOs. This was particularly true at the skill positions. Stoops has recruited beyond the typical fan’s expectations. Plus, I like the fact that he red shirted some who might have contributed this season. His sideline passion is something we’ve not seen a lot of at Kentucky and he’s promised more changes in the off-season.
Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach: T.J. Eliot – D+
If you watched the games, you saw just how much Stoops was invested in Eliot’s defense. From what I saw, Stoops was constantly talking with Eliot on the sideline. Eliot had to deal from switching from a three down lineman set to a four man front. I give him a D because our big guys could not get off their blocks all season. I think he did a decent job, though, with the linebackers. After all the above, I still have confidence that Stoops and Eliot will bring us a defense. It will time more time than I had hopes for.
Cornerbacks Coach: Derrick Ansley – C
This is just my opinion, but I don’t think he had much to work with, yet probably did the best job at developing his players, aside from Vince Marrow. Our star DBs were mostly first year players which is indicative of the talent this staff inherited.
Defensive Line Coach: Jimmy Brumbaugh - D
Recognizing the fact that UK played a 3-4 alignment the last two years, changing back to the 4-3 alignment wasn’t as easy as we fans expected. My disappointment was missed assignments and missed tackles. Is that Eliot’s fault or Braunbaugh’s? Probably both. I don’t want to sound harsh here, but I expected better.
Safeties and Special Teams Coach: Bradley Dale Paveto – D-
Special Teams became a serious issue as the season wore on. While I thought Paveto did some nice work with the safeties, I don’t know how anyone could be happy with the special teams play. The punting and kicking just didn’t seem to get any better and most likely got worse, particularly the punting.
Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach: Neil Brown – C-
I only complained about called plays three or four times this year which is a huge improvement. His play calling is sound, but the execution was terrible, especially on the line. There were times, however, when the O-Line actually played as a unit and the end result were scores. It just didn’t happened often enough. Brown was hampered all season with quarterback injuries. Max Smith should have had shoulder surgery, but didn’t. Jalen Whitlow’s inexperience and his injuries did nothing to help secure the position. The two red shirts could, I repeat could, be factors next year.
Wide Receivers Coach: Tommy Mainord – C-
Our wide receivers competed, but there were still drop issues. Ryan Timmons was exciting until he got hurt. Javess Blue was a play maker and Jeff Badet showed promise. The "old man" of the group became a go to guy even if he wasn’t the best on the field. I believe we will see improvement from all after another spring practice.
Tight Ends Coach: Vince Marrow - B
Vince Marrow took an old and worn out tight end who the previous staff had written off and turned him into a good blocker and a decent receiver. Our tight end play was one of our bright spots with Aumiller and "Sting" junior (Steven Borden) making some plays. He got production from Anthony Kendrick, Patrick Ligon in addition to Borden and Aumiller. Superior recruiter.
Offensive Line Coach: John Schlarman – D-
I love the fact that he’s a UK grad and a young coach, but I just don’t think he did a very good job. His line was not consistent in any fashion. They could make a good play and then one would miss his assignment. They could have and should have done better. Third down conversions proves my point. Their two worst games were against WKU and Georgia. They were just awful against Georgia.
Running Backs Coach: Chad Scott – C-
My problem with Scott is that he would put our smallest back (Sanders) into the game on third down when he should’ve used our biggest (Mobley). I thought he did a good job with Kemp, but found myself wondering why George didn’t play much. If the concern was losing the ball, then why did he play Sanders so much?
The staff we have is the staff we’ll have next year and we will be better able to evaluate them. Our problems this year had to do with the level of talent and injuries. On offense, it was time of possession and third down conversions. On defense, it was also third down conversions and giving up big plays.
Stoops made a point of saying there are changes coming. We may have seen some of those changes in the senior good-bye ceremony. Here’s who participated, their position and their recruiting class, Rivals ratings and 2013 game action
Jordan Aumiller, TE, 2009 (5.4) 2* Played in 12 games
Kory Brown, LB, 2011 (5.5) 3* JUCO Played in 3 games
Mister Cobble, DT, 2009 (5.4) 2* Played in 12 games
Tyler Davenport, OT, 2010 (NR) NR Walk-on
Jonathon George, RB, 2009 (4.9) 2* Played in 10 games
Tristian Johnson, DT, 2009 (5.5) 3* Played in 12 games
Cody Jones, FB, 2009 (NR), NR, 2010 transfer from Morehead, Played in 11 games
Anthony Kendrick, TE, 2009 (5.6) 3* Played in 12 games
Patrick Ligon, TE, 2009 (5.1) 2* Played in 12 games
Joe Mansour, K, 2010 (5.4) 2* Played in 12 games
Malcolm McDuffen, LB, 2010 (5.6) 3* Played in 10 games
Kevin Mitchell, OG, 2009 (5.4) 2* Played in 12 games
Tyler Robinson, TE, 2010 (5.4) 2* Games played not known
Donte Rumph, DT. 2010 (5.5) 3* Played in 12 games
Muhammad Saifullah,WR, (NR) NR walk-on transfer from Centre College
Raymond Sanders, RB, 2010 (5.7) 3* Played in 11 games
Eric Simmons, CB, 2010 (5.4) 2* Played in 3 games
Dakotah Tyler, S, 2009 (5.5) 3* Played in 9 games
Avery Williamson, LB, 2010 (5.6) 3* Played in 12 games
Of these players, Williamson has the best chance to play on Sundays. We don’t know yet if Demarco Robinson will return to the team. What we know is that the Davis twins and Braylon Heard can play for us next year in addition to whoever comes in from the 2014 recruiting class. You can also assume that the three transfers will be on scholarships. Any other changes are speculation right now. Players from the 2013 class who red-shirted should be back. They are:
Nick Haynes, OL, (5.6) 3*
Jacob Hyde, DT, (5.6) 3*
Austin MacGinnis, K, (5.5) 3*
Kyle Meadows, OL, (5.7) 3*
Regie Meant, DL, (5.3) 2*
Ramsey Meyers, OL, (5.5) 3*
Reece Phillips, QB, (5.5) 3*
With the exception of the kicker, it looks like Stoops is trying to build some depth on both lines and at the QB position. Patrick Towles also red-shirted. Florida and Tennessee proved this year that you can’t have too many QBs.
The schedule next year gets easier than the monster we had this season. We drop WKU and pick up Tennessee-Martin. The next week, we play Ohio University. In October we play Louisiana-Monroe. Mississippi State visits Commonwealth on 10/25. This game could be our first SEC win since 2011. And, we cap off the season at Louisville. The other SEC games are at Florida and a home game with Vanderbilt in September. South Carolina is at home and we have a road trip to Baton Rouge in October. A visit to Missouri and Tennessee plus a home game against Georgia in November. Probable wins are UT-Martin, Ohio and UL-Monroe. Possible wins are Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Louisville. If you throw in a shocker against South Carolina, the best possible case would be 7-5 record which is possible, but highly unlikely. The most likely season will be 3-9 without improvement in the Spring and Fall. With improvements, I think we will go somewhere between the 3 and 7 wins. Look for the 2015-2016 season to be the Year of the Cat.