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The Kentucky Football Youth Movement

Kentucky's best players are painfully young. They have to grow up fast.

Freshman Jojo Kemp is leading Kentucky in rushing yards.
Freshman Jojo Kemp is leading Kentucky in rushing yards.
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

The Louisville game left a bad taste in my mouth after watching a good defense and an awful first half offense. While I'm not saying that the Wildcats could've or would've won had the offense performed better, the game could've been much closer had the offense done something, anything, in the first half. Wouldn't it be great if the offense and defense managed to play well in the same game?

We saw it in the Miami game, but Miami might be the worst team in the FBS. Both sides of the line of scrimmage  were awful against WKU and you have to have downed a gallon of vodka mixed with blue kool-aid to be happy with the offense against Louisville. It wasn't coaching or play calling that caused the offense to look bad. It was execution. What good we saw on offense came from our youngest players. That is, youngest in terms of first year players.

Mark Stoops arrived on campus last winter and made an immediate impact on recruiting in around 60 days by signing the #29 class as ranked by Rivals. It was the highest ranked class signed by Kentucky since Rivals began covering recruiting in 2002. You have to wonder if that class was slightly under-rated considering the impact those players have had in their first three games at Kentucky.

Here's the list of first year players (including 2012 red shirts) who have seen action in Kentucky's first three games (Bold indicates a member of the 2013 signed recruiting class):

1. WR Jeff Badet started against Miami and played against Louisville. Badet is 3rd on the team in receptions (6 for 124 yds and 1 TD)

2. WR (JUCO signee) Javis Blue started all three games. Blue has 2 carries for 23 yds and leads the team in receptions (15 for 197 yds and 1 TD). He also has 6 kickoff returns for 151 yds.

3. TE (JUCO signee) Steven Borden played against WKU and Miami. He's caught 2 passes for 25 yds.

4. S RS Fr. Josh Harris (2012 class) played against WKU.

5. DE/LB Jason Hatcher played in all three games. He has nine tackles so far.

6. CB Jaleel Hytche played in the first two games. Hytche has one tackle (Maimi).

7. RB JoJo Kemp played in all three games. Kemp leads the team in rushing yards. Kemp has also caught 1 pass for 11 yds.

8. DB Blake McClain played in all three games and started the last two. He is third in tackles with 15. He has also forced one fumble.

9. WR Alex Montgomery played in all three game and started against Louisville. He has caught 6 passes for 39 yds and 1 TD.

10. DE (JUCO signee) Za'Darius Smith has started all three games is tied for 1st nationally in Sacks. Smith is tied with Dixon and Tiller with 14 tackles.

11. CB (JUCO signee) Nate Willis has started in all three games. Willis has 6 tackles.

12. WR (Walk-on JUCO Transfer) So. Joey Harrick played in the Miami game

13. RS Fr. Long Snapper (Walk-on) Matthew Adolph played in the Miami game.

14. WR Ryan Timmons played in the first two games and started against Louisville. He has 7 carries for 79 yds (4th on the team), he also is 2nd on the team in receptions (9 for 133yds).

15. DB Marcus McWilson played against Miami and had one tackle.

Source: UKAA list of player participation. 68 players have played in at lease one game

Those from the 2013 class who haven't yet seen action will most likely red shirt. You can see who they are here.

The 2014 class, of course, has yet to be signed, but they seem firm in their commitments to Kentucky, according to Drew Barker. This class is still ranked #7 by Rivals and holds an average star rating of 3.29. That will be our highest rated class ever. The even better news is Matt Elam will most likely sign with Kentucky and his 4 star rating will improve our overall star rating as well as our defense. With Cobble and Rumph graduating, there are open spots for Elam and Jarrett LaRubbio who had 11 tackles in his game this past weekend.  There is plenty of defensive help coming in next year in addition to Elam and LaRubbio. Just run your eyes down this list of (unsigned) commitments.

Because of our inconsistency at quarterback, Drew Barker has a shot at becoming the team leader next year by the end of the season or sooner. One reason is that he'll be an early enrollee. Barker posted an update in his diary over at KSR where he gave his stats on the year. You can read it here.

Stanley "Boom" Williams, Mikel Horton and Jaylon Heard will be added to the backfield that loses Jonathon George and Raymond Sanders. With Kemp and Mobley added in for good measure, the Cats are going to be strong in the backfield.

The receiving corps also has help on the way with 4 stars Thaddeus Snodgrass and Blake Bone coming in along with 3 star players T.V. Williams and Garrett Johnson.  Add in TE Darryl Long for good measure.

While we are going to have to endure this season, there is more help on the way. Our record this year may not improve over last year's, but I already see a team that's improved over last year. And our future looks bright in that we will be more competitive as the talent comes in from the 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes.  Right now, though, patience is the order of the day.