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4 Kentucky Wildcats to watch vs Southern Miss

Kentucky’s success versus the Golden Eagles will hinge on these four players

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Saturday is rapidly approaching and excitement is building for the Kentucky Wildcats kicking off the season at home against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles. With the game on the horizon, here are four key Wildcats to keep an eye on Saturday night.

  1. Drew Barker

Barker has been the definitive number one quarterback and it will be essential for Barker to have a strong season if Kentucky wants to reach bowl eligibility. Nobody really knows what to expect from Barker this season with such a small sample size from last season, but Mark Stoops, Eddie Gran, and Darin Hinshaw have enough faith in him to make him the starter.

The Golden Eagles “Havoc” defense will look to cause problems for an inexperienced Barker with disguised coverages and unpredictable blitzes. Chances are the offense will need to put up a lot of points due to the potency of the Golden Eagles offense and quarterback Nick Mullens.

If Barker has a strong night on Saturday, I like Kentucky’s chances.

2. Matt Elam

The other big-name Kentucky kid from the much-hyped Class of 2014 has to put it together this season. One of the major issues holding Elam back was his weight, and after losing several pounds in the off-season, it seems as if Elam is taking necessary steps to improve his conditioning and make sure that he can spend more time on-the-field. Elam is the centerpiece of arguably the team’s weakest position group, the defensive line. With the loss of Regie Meant, the defensive line is thin and filled with inexperience.

Elam will need to have a strong game Saturday against the Golden Eagles, eating up blockers and holding position, so as to not allow the Golden Eagles running lanes. Elam’s job isn’t to make plays in the backfield, he just needs to stay on the field, take on multiple blockers and clog running lanes. I think Elam can have a big year. If that’s going to happen, it’ll have to start Saturday.

3. “Boom” Williams

I would love nothing more than to see another Boom Williams touchdown like in the home opener a year ago.

However, Williams is on this list because it’ll be interesting to see how much he is incorporated in the offense on Saturday. He is still recovering from injury, and with a team like Southern Miss who will look to blitz early and often, the Wildcats may be more inclined to use JoJo Kemp more often to help out with pass protection. Boom is a threat to score anytime he touches the ball and it’ll be hard to keep him off the field. I’m looking for at least a couple explosive plays from him.

4. Chris Westry/Derrick Baity

I’m putting these two together because as a tandem, they will be tested early and often in the Golden Eagles offense with Mullens at the helm. The Golden Eagles will look to throw the ball, putting the Wildcats’ young and talented corners to the test. Granted, the defensive line and linebackers will have to play their role in not allowing Mullens to have all day to throw. If that’s the case, it could be a long night for Westry and Baity. They each have great coverage skills, but not if Mullens has a lot of time in a clean pocket. Nonetheless, I’m expecting big games (and a big season) from Kentucky’s two sophomore corners.