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Kentucky Football: Stoops’ Troops are on the Rise

Athlon Sports is looking for big things out of the ‘Cats in 2017.

Kentucky v Louisville Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

With such a good end to Kentucky Wildcats football in 2016, the folks at Athlon Sports are looking for the Wildcats to breakout in 2017.

Mark Stoops’ team is listed as one of the top 15 teams on the rise for 2017, according to the publication. Here is what they said about the ‘Cats:

The Wildcats are coming off their first bowl trip and winning season since 2010, and with most of the depth chart returning for 2017, another step forward in the win column wouldn’t be a surprise. An injury to Drew Barker pressed junior college transfer Stephen Johnson into the starting quarterback role last season, but both passers should battle for time this offseason.

Regardless of which quarterback wins the job, the ground game will be the focal point for the offense. Boom Williams (1,170 yards in 2016) is off to the NFL, but Benny Snell (1,091 yards in 2016) is back after a terrific freshman season.

With only five seniors set to depart after contributing a major role from 2016, this unit has enough returning depth and talent to show improvement on the stat sheet. Linebacker Jordan Jones (15.5 TFL) is quietly emerging as one of the better defenders in the SEC.

The recruiting in the month of December and January has certainly reflected this rise. With all of this taken into consideration, anything less than six or seven wins would certainly be a big setback to a team that finally looks to be going in the right direction.

The offense should be the unit to excel even more so than it did in 2016. As Athlon points out, the defense is the unit where significant improvement needs to occur. While the defense did show some signs of life midway through the season, depth continued to be an issue, especially on the line.