ESPN has continued its conference rankings by position group for SEC football, and the rankings for defensive front sevens and offensive lines have recently been released. Their verdict on Kentucky’s big guys isn’t good on either side of the ball.
The o-line is actually ranked higher than the defensive front seven, as ESPN Staff Writer Alex Scarborough put the offensive line 10th in the SEC, right between Ole Miss at No. 9 and Vanderbilt at No. 11. Scarborough likes this line in comparison to last year’s saying that the Cats "could be in for a significant improvement this season."
That is in part thanks to their experienced members coming back this season, including center Jon Toth, who has started 35 consecutive games. You may remember last season that Patrick Towles got beat up quite a bit and had to learn how to maneuver the pocket quite often in order to get passes off without getting de-cleated, but Scarborough is right in saying that the returning experienced players will help.
KSR noted that the only big change come opening day will likely be George Asafo-Adjei starting at right guard over Ramsey Meyers. If that’s the case, there will be continuity across most of the line from last year to this year, so hopefully that group has developed well together this offseason and during camp, and not only show improvement but do a little better than 10th-best in the conference.
As for the front seven on defense, ESPN is not impressed, and isn’t even expecting growth and improvement like they expect from the o-line. Staff Writer Sam Khan Jr. ranks them 13th, and says that "the inexperience at linebacker leaves a lot of questions."
He, of course, noted that the loss of Regie Meant will be difficult for the Cats to overcome. He mentioned Courtney Love being a key at linebacker, but essentially dismissed his significance by saying that youth surrounds Love. I think that Love could actually help bring the entire position group up with his ability, and help them to play like more experienced linebackers.
As for the line, Khan mentioned the team relying on Courtney Miggins and Matt Elam, as well as sophomore Adrian Middleton to step up in Meant’s absence.
It’s obvious that Meant’s absence hurts, but other than that I think this defense is in good hands. Love is going to be huge with the ‘backers, and a lighter Elam should help lead a line that isn’t very deep. And if they’re not happy with the linebackers they could always run a 4-3 and put another big guy beside Matt Elam, making Love one of three linebackers and reducing the amount of under-experienced linebackers on the field.
All-in-all, the o-line could be troubling, although I think the talent all over the field on the offensive end will make up for that. It’s the defensive side that I think ESPN is disrespecting here. This front seven, while young and thin as far as depth, has plenty of talent.
Elam, Love and Miggins will lead the way and present a formidable front seven that should be better than 13th-best in the conference.