Fall Camp is over for the Kentucky Wildcats and now it is time to prepare for Western Kentucky. There was a lot of news from camp and I'm here to give you my recap of the most noteworthy topics.
The Quarterback Situation- We have an answer. Kind of. Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow are the two left standing to continue to duke it out for the starting spot. Mark Stoops stated that both may play during the WKU game. My hope is that he is playing mind games with Bobby Petrino and will not follow through with the dual QB plan. I don't think this approach does much to help the team. Consistency at quarterback is always the key to a successful offense. There have been limited success stories of programs that run a two QB system. Tim Tebow and Chris Leak come to mind, but Tebow was utilized mainly as a red zone quarterback while Leak was the regular every down quarterback. In the end, I think that either Smith or Whitlow will be the primary starter unless the staff decides to use Whitlow in a Randall Cobb capacity but I doubt that is the plan.
The Patrick Towles situation is a big question mark. Stoops said that the odd man out would most likely redshirt this season. Towles was the odd man out. Obviously Kentucky fans have a soft spot in their hearts for the Commonwealth native and want to see him succeed, but he had his opportunity and for whatever reason he didn't rise to the occasion. If Towles does indeed redshirt, then next season he will again be behind whichever current QB wins the job this season. Drew Barker will be stepping onto campus as the most ballyhooed quarterback recruit since Tim Couch. Towles could see himself as a career back up player at Kentucky. It will be interesting to see what he does after this season.
Be Excited About Jojo Kemp and Ryan Timmons- The coaching staff had many good things to say about the young guys during camp. Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet were spoken of in positive terms, but Kemp and Timmons stole the show.
Stoops on Kemp:
"He's a pit bull," Stoops said. "We do board drills over there and I thought he was going to pull a knife out of his sock and stab somebody. He's a pit bull. I love it."
Neal Brown on Timmons:
"Ryan's familiar with this offense, so the learning curve wasn't as steep as it was for some of those other freshmen. And he's really good with the ball in his hand. He's fast and he can make people miss."
Kemp is quickly becoming a fan favorite. He has a ton of confidence and is really good in front of a microphone. Apparently that confidence is well founded and that talent he has in front of a microphone transforms into extreme intensity on the football field. Kemp will be an important asset with the loss of Josh Clemons and the late start for Dyshawn Mobley.
Everyone in the Blue Grass is familiar with the talent level of Ryan Timmons; after all there is a reason why Urban Meyer wanted to see him as a Buckeye. He can be the X-factor for the Wildcats as a returner on special teams and as the H-Back on offense. Right now he is giving Daryl Collins all he can handle in the battle for the primary H-Back spot.
Injuries Are a Factor- Two extremely important players on defense and an important player on offense didn't make it through camp unscathed. Defensive end Za'Darius Smith and corner back Cody Quinn have both been sidelined for a while with ankle injuries. Smith's injury was initially thought of as no big deal, but it nagged him for some time before Za'Darius himself confirmed yesterday that he is "good to go." He is a part of the position with the most depth and this could give freshman Jason Hatcher a chance to play if he has a setback. Smith is a man-child and, along with Bud Dupree, will be a major key on defense. The more pressure the defensive front puts on opposing quarterbacks the more it helps cover for a depleted secondary. We need Smith to be healthy.
Speaking of the secondary, this is the position where the ‘Cats can most ill afford any injuries. Cody Quinn is battling for a corner back position. Even if he doesn't win the starting job, a healthy Quinn would add depth.
Offensive lineman Zach Meyers, who has been playing some center, has also been sidelined with an ankle injury. I could tell you how important a healthy offensive line is to a football team, but chances are you already know.
Hopefully these injuries aren't major and that the extra healing time is just a precaution. The ‘Cats will need everybody to participate if they want to beat WKU.
The Coaches Seem Pleased- Aside from a few grumbles here and there, Mark Stoops and the coaching staff seem to be pleased overall with the progress being made. Stoops continued to comment about how some of these players don't understand what it takes to be tough and that they don't understand how to win. I can remember only twice when the coach seemed completely disgusted with practice and both times he mentioned a lack of toughness.
Time to Start Prepping for the Hilltoppers- Bobby Petrino stated that his team's primary focus during fall camp was preparing for Kentucky. Mark Stoops stated that the Wildcats weren't even thinking about their first opponent. I'm not sure how much of that is true or how much of it is coach speak from both. What I do know is that from here on out the Wildcats will be prepping for WKU. We will start seeing more players emerge as starters in the next two weeks and the coaches will get a feel for how their team prepares week to week in order to win on Saturday. The good feelings that Stoops has at the moment may disappear quickly. His attention to minor details is shared by the entire coaching staff. The players better be as mentally prepared for WKU as they are physically prepared.
Questions at the Linebacker Position- Defensive Coordinator DJ Elliot hasn't been bowled over by the play of the Kentucky linebackers besides Avery Williamson. Miles Simpson, Khalid Henderson, and Kory Brown haven't done a lot to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. Williamson won't be able to do everything on his own and the linebacker position is a major part of the defense. Hopefully two more guys step up before August 31st.
And the Leaders Are...- Avery Williamson, Raymond Sanders, and Bud Dupree seem to be locks as well as whomever wins the QB job. Whitlow looks to be in command of the huddle and has the confidence of a leader but Smith has been there longer and has had success in putting up good numbers. Other than that, everybody else is young for the most part. There will be more opportunities other players to step up and claim a leadership role as the season rolls on. Don't be surprised if a freshman or two stake claim.
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