I was a little skeptical that Kentucky would be much improved this year from last. That skepticism is beginning to fade.
Reports out of the practice sessions continue to be largely good news, and Brooks seemed about as pleased as I have ever seen him about the scrimmage this past Saturday. The best way to judge if Brooks is pleased or not is, if you don't hear many complaints, he is about as happy as he will ever be about practice. Brooks was pleased with the effort and energy all around, and we keep hearing something that gives me hope: "Hartline is much better, and he has a lot of help."
Truly, if Mike Hartline and the receiving corps really are significantly better, that is as good as news gets. Neither of the true freshman are ready for any significant time at quarterback, and Will Fidler has firmly established himself as Hartline's backup. The word out of UK is now that they will be looking at which one of the two frosh is the most ready, and make "decisions" (read: redshirt) from there. That makes a lot of sense, and both Newton and Mossakowski came here knowing a redshirt was a definite possibility. One of them almost surely must sit out a year in order to create a progression.
The offensive line continues to get good comments from the staff, with one exception -- blitz pickup. For some reason, they are having trouble with that, and it is important they work out their difficulties in blitz blocking as soon as possible, because UK will be seeing a lot of them if Hartline is really capable of delivering the ball. Kentucky has some very dangerous skill players, and no defensive backfield in the SEC is going to be able to let those guys catch the ball downfield without lots of points going up.
Continued after the jump ...
Another group drawing some praise from Brooks has been the defensive line. It drives me crazy hearing this, because we can only imagine how much better this group would have been withJeremy Jarmon on the edge. Steve Brown continues to be impressed with DeQuin Evans' work, but even if he winds up being a small drop-off from Jarmon, I keep wanting to think of what kind of depth and power we would have had at that position if Jarmon were available. This is one of those "what-ifs" that is going to drive me crazy all season because of the circumstances surrounding Jarmon's loss of eligibility.
The defensive backfield, as highlighted in an article in the Courier-Journal today, is probably the strongest we have had at UK, maybe ever. Kentucky is deep and talented at all the DB positions, and it is being said that
Chandler Randall Burden may be as good as Trevard Lindley was his sophomore year, which means that UK is going to be dangerous to throw against. No team, not even in the SEC, dares throw at Lindley with impunity, or as we have seen, defensive touchdowns break out. If Burden can only be 60% as good as Trevard, it farily boggles the mind. And Paul Warford is no slouch, either, and may wind up keeping the starting spot over Burden.
The one thing I have nothing to report on is special teams, particularly punting. Tydlacka is a capable, maybe even excellent punter, but I would like to hear how he is progressing. We have been spoiled here at UK for having such a good kicking game (if you can somehow forget Florida last year) for so long, but now that Tim Masthay is gone, I worry about this. Nothing can get you in as much trouble as bad special teams, and UK has been blessed with pretty darn good special teams for the last few years.
Finally, Team Speed Kills has a long post up containing a ton of information about the SEC. Yours truly participated in the information dump, so you should really head over there and check out the competition.