Todd of Roll Bama Roll, the Crimson Tide blog on the SB Nation network, has written an excellent pre-season review of the Kentucky Wildcats. Obviously, as a Tide fan, Todd has forgotten more about college football in the last five minutes than I will ever know. He has written a thoughtful, carefully supported piece that absolutely deserves a response. So, I'll do my best.
Offense: The Good
RBR correctly points out that our skill positions on offense, notably Woodson, Burton, Lyons, Tamme, and Little are what makes Kentucky a dangerous opponent. A senior quarterback as skilled as Woodson, plus all ten of the top receivers returning, make this team likely to vie for tops in the SEC in passing, scoring and total offense.
Our passing offense was 9th in the entire NCAA last year, and it's hard to imagine how that goes down this year.
Offense: The Bad
I think RBR gets this part right, for the most part. We have repeatedly suggested that the offensive line was the big question mark for this year's team since the entire right side of the line plus the center were lost to graduation. The left side of the line actually gets better, so I'll just examine what we have on the right.
We have Jason Leger coming in as a senior to man the RG spot, and he looks to be serviceable, but our depth in that position is very suspect.
The RT position is likey to be manned by true freshman Stuart Hines, formerly of Bowling Green High. Our depth at this position is a bit better than at guard, as Justin Jeffries may well win the position away from Hines.
In response to our Red Zone scoring issues last year, I expect our experience and a healthier backfield will be the difference there. I expect our running game to be better, and our passing game is likely to be even more potent.
The right side of our offensive line is the weakness of this offense, as well as the center position. The right tackle is particularly suspect, though. If we don't find a player who can man that position with some competence, Woodson had better get used to throwing a lot of quick-hitters, and take the Happy Gilmore approach to toughening up before the season -- shots from baseballs in a batting cage will seem like kisses from mama compared to an SEC DL or LB.
Defense: The Good
Our linebacking corps is going to be absolutely solid, with everyone coming back led by all-SEC WLB Wesley Woodyard.
Johnny Williams (SLB) and Braxton Kelley (MLB) will join Woodyard, and Micah Johnson, a rare 5-star recruit, is likely to see major minutes this year, and be much improved. Sam Maxwell was strong in spring drills, and should give Williams some serious comp. Woodyard is facing a season without an understudy due to injuries, but he rarely sits anyway.
Our defensive backfield expects to be improved, and as RBR points out, really needs to be. CB Karl Booker will be sorely missed, but EJ Adams looks to be ready to step in after a strong performance at the end of last season.
RBR points out that Trevard Lindley is showing serious CB potential, and our athleticism is improving year by year. With returning players manning both safety positions, significant improvement in our defensive backfield is likely.
Defense: The Bad
Our defensive line is a real weakness considering two probable starters, Jenkins and Minton, will likely be out for most if not all of the season due to injuries. We do have Myron Pryor (DT) and Jeremy Jarmon (DE) returning as starters.
The other DE job looks to be in fairly capable hands with Oninku and Lewis battling for it, but the DT is a concern. It looks like that position could be manned by a redshirt freshman. Our depth on the DL is really thin, and we get no help from this year's recruiting class. Although we signed 5, only DJ Stafford is physically ready, and he is academically ineligible this year.
Our defense will be improved against the pass, but the question mark remains how we will perform against the run. Any improvement at all against the run this year should place our defense solidly in the middle of the SEC pack, rather than at the bitter end. Our defensive backfield, barring injury, will surely improve, and that is a very good thing.
Overall, our biggest problems are both our personnel and depth on the d-line. That is where we will be most vulnerable.
I think RBR gets it wrong when they picked Vandy winning against the 'Cats. Vandy is unlikely to hold down our offense, and the Vanderbilt offense probably can't outscore us. Even playing down there won't be enough, in my opinion. The 'Cats win that one in a shootout. Other than that one quibble, Todd has this pretty much as I do.