Stellar quarterback play from senior Stephen Johnson, ferocious front-7 play from “Blitz Bro” Josh Allen and the emergence of Eli Brown in Jordan Jones’s spot have been the highlights through six games. Not to mention is second in the SEC in the turnover margin (+8), just behind the top team in college football (Alabama, +12).
However, Kentucky has given up multiple “big plays” to opposing skill players and blew multiple half-time leads as well. They’ve escaped with some wins, but they are indeed wins to get them to 5-1 at the midway point. Here’s what they can look to improve on coming out of the bye week.
I stated earlier that the Cats have given up way too many chunk plays to opposing teams. Samuel’s game-opening touchdown at South Carolina and Cleveland’s 4th & 3 touchdown that later ultimately cost Kentucky their lone loss so far this season are just a couple of those “big plays.”
I’m not sure if it’s issues with communication or scheme but it’s an issue that will cost Kentucky as they face strong suits such as Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Louisville down the stretch. It’s definitely the top adjustment head coach Mark Stoops will need to make this week.
I may be even more frustrated with this the chunk yardage. Not kidding, either. Why is Eddie Gran taking the ball out of Johnson’s hands when Kentucky goes to close games? Opponents find it easy to predict late in games, and even though Benny Snell is elite when it comes to yards after contact, it’s hard to get 10 yards every three downs when the box is stuffed full of tacklers.
Stephen Johnson has proven he can win big games (just go watch the footage against Louisville last November) and Gran should take advantage of every snap he has Johnson left for.
Speaking of Johnson… I know he’s in his early 20’s but how many more hits can he take? Kentucky has faced some tough edge rushers but they’ll only get tougher down the stretch.
The run blocking has been sub-par as well. Snell’s “down" year isn’t necessarily all his fault. The holes simply haven’t been there. I know the Cats have multiple injuries up front but a priority should be to get as healthy as possible up front to avoid injury to their stars.
Get the Ball to Lynn Bowden
Bowden was a pain the first two games of the season, I get it. Going after the coach (as a true freshman) for limited snaps in your first ever game and then being ejected for a targeting penalty in the following outing isn’t such a great start. But he’s talented and seems to really be picking up the offense.
Bowden for QB in 2018? Who says no? I’m kidding, but am I? Seriously, though, even for now he should take over as the Cats’ swiss army knife and one of the focal points in their passing game.
Make CJ Conrad More of a Threat
Conrad has had a much better start to his 2017 campaign than a season ago. However, he’s far too talented to not be used more in the passing game. To me, he is an every-down TE who can be the offense’s most dominant player. Down the stretch Johnson will need someone to go to when Garrett “JUICE” Johnson or Lynn Bowden are doubled and Conrad can be that guy. Get him the ball, Eddie.
Yes, I went mostly towards improving the offensive side of the ball for Kentucky but it’s not like Kentucky’s defense has been that bad. They’ve had a consistent top-10 rush defense, and if you take out the chunk plays, they’ve been terrific.
The defense will get healthy over the break and be just fine. The offense, however, is what’s going to win games for the Cats. Fix the play-calling, offensive line & get the playmakers more involved and Kentucky will make it a tough contest for every team they face down the stretch