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Kentucky Wildcats: Time to Get Back to Football

While the Rick Pitino affair has been interesting and fun to debate, I figure it's time for us to get back to the business of talking about the Kentucky Wildcats of today, not of yesteryear.  Particularly, I think it's time to check in with the football team and see how things are shaping up.  A lot of this news might have been missed in the recent fusillade of posts about Pitino and Sypher.

First off, we begin with a couple of suspensions.  Senior center Jorge Gonzales has been suspended for the first game for the infamous, "violation of team rules."  Sophomore receiver Aaron Boyd was also suspended, but his case was apparently more serious, as Brook suspended him from all football activity for one week, again for an undisclosed team rules violation.  This is much more serious for Boyd, as this is the point at which players get to make an impression on the coaching staff.  Not only will Boyd miss that, but he will miss all the information and instruction that goes along with it.

Alfonso Smith has a gimpy wheel and has missed a couple of practices, as does one of his backups, CoShik Williams the walk-on.  T.C. Drake has a groin pull that will keep him out until next week.  Offensive lineman Jake Lanefski has also torn some knee cartilage that will keep him out for about 3 weeks after surgery.  That is a blow to our offensive line depth, but hopefully he'll be back in time for the Louisville game, at least.

That's the negative side, but there is some good news to report after the jump:

Larry Vaught is reporting that freshmen Qua Huzzie and Ridge Wilson are ahead of the curve, according to linebacker coach Chuck Smith:

Huzzie and Wilson are kind of separating by the way they are picking up the system. The other two are going to be good players, but they are having a little more difficult time picking it up."

Smith did not rule out Huzzie and Wilson getting some time as freshmen, which is a very encouraging thing.  Other Wildcats who have seen time as true freshmen at the linebacker spot include Wesely Woodyard, Micah Johnson, and Danny Trevathan.

It also looks like our receiving corps will be much improved this year.  Chris Matthews and the redoubtable Randall Cobb have both been impressing early, but Brooks has had good things to say also about Gene McCaskill, Kyrus Lanxter, La'Rod King, E.J. Fields, and Matt Roark.  That is big news to me, as our receiver youth was a huge reason why the Wildcat offense was ineffective last year, along with the lack of a vertical game from Hartline.

Matt Lentz is also coming into this year in much better shape with significantly improved numbers in the weight room and a better handle on what he can do to help the team:

Wasn’t it hard to give up playing a marquee spot to go to defense?

"A little bit, but not really. It was best for the team. We have good quarterbacks now, and they didn’t need me there. I can help more at safety and play special teams. I have to be a team player because that’s not only best for the team, but it is also best for me," he said.

This is a young man who is really becoming a team player, and I expect to see a lot of him in the defensive backfield this year.  He has some really big shoes to fill with Marcus McClinton having graduated.  Junior college transfer DeQuin Evans, who plays defensive end, is also missing another Wildcat who has moved on -- Jeremy Jarmon:

"I hated it when I heard the news about Jeremy Jarmon. I know not everybody will believe this, but I wanted to learn from the best," said Evans, who has been limited in practice so far because of a pulled hamstring. "I knew he gave me that chance.

Here's hoping that Evans and the other players at the spot can find a way to fill in for Jarmon by committee, because it will be very hard to fill those shoes.

Finally, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has a preview of the Louisville Cardinals, our rival and second game opponents.  Here is the summary:

OUTLOOK: When asked about his quarterback situation, Kragthorpe said, "Its fun. You're evaluating guys every day."

Let's see how much fun he is having when the season begins. The schedule is awfully tough this season, including non-conference road trips to both Kentucky and Utah in the month of September. Kragthorpe simply doesn't have the horses to beat good teams, especially on the road. This very well could be the final year of a failed experiment with Kragthorpe.