With as little fanfare as humanly possible, considering everything else going on, the Kentucky Wildcats begin spring practice today. Unlike in years past, practices will be closed to the public. This is a shame for me, as I usually try to make it out once or twice and had intended to share my impressions with you on A Sea of Blue. I'm not sure what to make of this decision. I hope the practices are closed because the staff is putting in new wrinkles on offense and doesn't want to let the Cat out of the bag. I could obviously come up with a more cynical theory. Either way, we will have to wait until the Spring Game to see any of the Cats in action.
Kentucky released a pre-spring depth chart yesterday, with a few notes. Marcus Caffey will be moved over to defense, where he is listed as a starting corner. While I'm sure Caffey would have preferred to contribute at tailback, if he can truly nail down a starting spot, it will be good for all involved. He was likely to be buried on the depth chart at running back. For now, Caffey joins mainstay Cartier Rice at the corner.
With Morgan Newton unable to throw following shoulder surgery and Patrick Towles not on campus yet, Maxwell Smith is the undisputed first-string quarterback. Joker reportedly says that Towles will attend a number of practices, and should at least get a feel for what's going on with the offense. Towles will be the story going into fall practice, but there is little need to quibble about it now. It is good that Smith is going to get a full set of reps this spring. I don't expect the Cats to go back to Newton next year, and I hope for his sake he is considering a redshirt and a position change.
As expected, Bud Dupree, Avery Williamson and Malcolm McDuffen are your starting linebackers going into spring. I don't expect much to change there, as they are far and away the most experienced returnees. Taylor Windham will remain at his more natural position of defensive end. For the Cats to have any semblance of a good defense, he and Collins Ukwo will have to produce in the fall. Ukwo, it should be noted, is going to miss spring practice. This gives guys like Mike Douglas a chance to get some snaps with the starters. Ukwo will be fine by fall.
CoShik Williams is listed as the starting running back, over the likes of Raymond Sanders and Josh Clemons. Pay that little mind. If history is any guide, Kentucky will need all three to carry the ball plenty to get through the rugged SEC, and whoever emerges in the actual games will be the one getting the bulk of the carries.
Few to no surprises on the offensive line, where Zach West, Darrian Miller and Kevin Mitchell join Matt Smith and Larry Warford as starters. I expect little to no shuffling there. As always, there will be intrigue at tight end, where Tyler Robinson is listed as the starter with three familiar names (Jordan Aumiller, Anthony Kendrick and Ronnie Shields) behind him. Its high time for one of these guys to take the mantle and produce.
On defense, the real position battles should be at safety, where true sophomores Ashley Lowery and Glenn Faulkner are listed behind upperclassmen Martavius Neloms and Mickie Benton. Neloms is arguably Kentucky's best returning defensive player. He can swing back to corner, where he played as a freshman, if that gets the best defense on the field.
I'll keep you updated throughout the spring as I hear more, but unfortunately, it will all be through word of mouth. Go Cats.