In the preseason, I predicted another 5-7 season. It looks like that will be the case, I’m sad to say. While I had hoped for something better, I’ve learned to be very realistic and skeptical when it comes to Wildcat football. It’s something learned from living through the Collier years to the present.
It is hard to soar like an eagle when you’re surrounded by a bunch of turkeys.
Mark Stoops needs to take this to heart. I’m not talking about the players, although I could mention some, such as an offensive lineman who will probably leave Kentucky with the all time career number of penalties if they track such things. I am actually, however, talking about his coaching staff.
I am over Shannon Dawson. As a quarterback coach, there is much to be desired.Towles reflects Dawson's shortcomings. As a play caller, it is hard to determine exactly what our offense is trying to accomplish. If the long ball over the middle is taken away, you have to wonder what he is trying to do. A first down would be nice. A third down conversion would be nice.
I am over John Schlarman. Has our O-line improved since Joker’s second year? It is highly debatable.
Our offense was supposed to be our strength, but it is our biggest weakness again. Our failure on offense has put the fans in a position of watching our defense give up huge chunks of yards, especially in the second half. You can actually see the wind go out of their sails, game after game.
Through nine games, Kentucky’s passing offense is generating 228.7 yards per game, ten touchdowns on the season and thirteen interceptions. Our ground game is producing 135.8 yards per game, good enough for 108th in the latest NCAA statistical rankings. I think it is reasonable to believe that is the result of poor offensive line play and play calling. Excuse me if I sound harsh. Kentucky ranks 94th in total offense, averaging 364.4 yards per game. Vanderbilt (112th) and Missouri (125th) are the only SEC teams who are worse.
Those two teams are perfect examples of why you can’t win on defense alone. Will Muschamp was fired as head coach at Florida for ignoring his offense while building one of the nation’s best defenses. His defense at Auburn is a work in progress, but don’t doubt his ability.
Speaking of defense, Missouri ranks 11th in total defense and Vanderbilt ranks 19th. Kentucky is 78th. Kentucky ranks 97th in stopping the run and 58th in pass defense. I should point out that our lousy numbers are nothing new. I’ve worked up some graphics for you to consider. Worst is circled in red and best is circled in green. Let's start with the defense:
I've looked at our defense and I have come to the conclusion that our offense has to share a large part of the blame for the poor defensive performances. Repeated three and outs can wear down a defense. You should notice that our defensive woes begin at the end of the first half and then carry forward into the second half. It has a compound effect if Kentucky receives the ball at the beginning of the second half. If the offense can't move the ball on that first possession, I think it has a mental effect on our defense.
Here's our offensive numbers over the years:
Here’s the list of head Coaches and the offensive and defensive coordinators since 2000. I’ve also listed the quarterbacks that each coach used. Kentucky had a good offense with Jared Lorenzen, Andre Woodson and Mike Hartline. Kentucky's offense has been less productive with Morgan Newton, Jalen Whitlow, Shane Boyd, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles. It is up to the quarterback to inspire the rest of the team. It isn't happenin'.
2000 – Hal Mumme (20-26); Tony Franklin, Off. Coord.; Mike Major, Def. Coord. QB – Jared Lorenzen
2001 – 2002 – Guy Morris (9-14); John Goodner, Def. Coord. 2001 – 2002; Brent Pease, Off. Coord. 2001 – 2002; QB – Jared Lorenzen
2003-2009 – Rich Brooks (39-47) Bowl games in the 2006,2007,2008 & 2009 Desons; Mike Archer, Def. Coord. 2003 – 2006; Steve Brown, Def. Coord 2006 – 2009; Ron Hudson, Off. Coord. 2003 – 2004; Joker Phillips, Off. Coord. 2003 – 2009; QB – Jared Lorenzen 2003, Shane Boyd 2004, Andre Woodson 2005 – 2007, Mike Hartline 2008 & 2009
2010 – 2012 – Joker Phillips (13-24) Bowl game in 2010; Steve Brown, Def. Coord. 2010 – 2011; Rick Minter, Def. Coord. 2011 – 2012; Randy Sanders, Off. Coord. 2010 – 2012; QB – Mike Hartline 2010, Morgan Newton (2010 – 2012) & Maxwell Smith, Jalen Whitlow 2011 & 2012. Matt Roark 2011 vs. Tenn.
2013 – Present – Mark Stoops (11-22); Neal Brown, Off. Coord. 2013 – 2014; Shannon Dawson, Off. Coord. 2015; D.J. Eliot, Def. Coordinator. QB – Jalen Whitlow 2013, Maxwell Smith 2013, Patrick Towles, 2014 & 2015, Drew Barker 2015.
While the honeymoon has ended for Stoops, I don’t think he’s near losing his job simply because of his recruiting. I don’t believe that Kentucky will be favored against Vanderbilt (actually UK is a 2.5 underdog) or Louisville after the way the 'Cats have played the last few weeks. Kentucky won’t win if they play like they did against Georgia. Former QB Freddie Maggard agrees (Link). The thing about football, though, is you never know how it is going to bounce. I’ll leave you with these words from Bob Dylan:
Shadows are fallin' and I've been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is runnin' away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet but it's gettin' there.