#68 Kentucky Football 2013 Preview

Kentucky Wildcats

Overall Rank: #68
# 14 SEC

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The Kentucky Wildcats embark on a new era in 2013 with new head coach Mark Stoops. Stoops is a defensive mastermind and a dogged recruiter and should inject some much needed positive energy into the Kentucky Wildcat program. The key in 2013 will be getting off to a fast start and surviving a tough four game stretch in late September and early October that includes Alabama coming to Lexington and getting players to buy in and compete from the opening snap of training camp onward.

2012 Record: (2-10, 0-8)
2012 Bowl: None
Coach: Mark Stoops (0-0 at Kentucky, 0-0 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Neal Brown
Defensive Coordinator: D.J. Eliot

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Raymond Sanders, RB, 669 yards
Passing: Maxwell Smith, QB, 975 yards
Receiving: Demarco Robinson, WR, 297 yards
Tackles: Avery Williamson, LB, 135
Sacks: Alvin Dupree, DT, 6.5
Interceptions: J.D. Harmon, CB, 2

Other Key Returnees: QB Jalen Whitlow, WR Daryl Collins, TE Patrick Ligon, KR Demarcus Sweat, P Landon Foster, OL Darrian Miller, OL Kevin Mitchell, DT Donte Rumph, LB Miles Simpson, S Ashely Lowery

Key Losses: WR Larod King, OL Larry Warford, C Matt Smith, S Martavius Neloms, DE Collins Ukwu, CB Cartier Rice

The pass rush could be a nice strength under the direction of new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot and defensive minded guru Mark Stoops. The defensive line returns Alvin “Bud” Dupree who had 6.5 sacks last season. If Dupree can get to double figures that will be a huge bonus towards rebuilding the defense and will give Coach Stoops the confidence to take chances by being aggressive defensively like he was at Florida State. Avery Williamson is the leading returning tackler with 135 tackles in 2012. Hopefully, with improvement offensively, Williamson’s tackle numbers will drop some by not having to play so many snaps. With the new coaching regime, players should be eager to prove their worth early, creating plenty of competition for playing time.  

The Wildcats had to battle last season just to find a way to consistently put points on the board, scoring just under 18 points per contest. This left the defense on the field way too long. The scheme under new offensive coordinator Neal Brown was very easy to install as the “air raid” offense that was so prevalent under Hal Mumme is returning to Lexington. If the Wildcats can develop some playmakers at receiver, it will help fuel the process of returning the Wildcats back to being more competitive.

The Bottom Line:
The Wildcats have young talent in place for Coach Stoops and his staff, but by playing in the Southeastern Conference, the climb back to respectability is going to be the biggest challenge in year one and beyond. A potential loss in the opener in a neutral site game against in-state rival Western Kentucky, led by Bobby Petrino, would be a huge setback getting this program back on track. Kentucky needs to beat the Hilltoppers in Nashville.  If the Wildcats can get the job done along both interior lines, they have a chance to be more competitive in 2013 and grind out a four or five win season; however, it will be very difficult when the schedule lists Louisville, Florida, South Carolina, and Alabama consecutively in the first half of the season. The Wildcat Nation will have to be patient with this new regime for the next couple years while the foundation to a competitive perennial bowl team is reestablished in Lexington.    

Projected Bowl: None

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 138.8 (87th in nation, 11th in conference)
Passing Offense: 176.3 (102, 12)
Total Offense: 315.0 (113, 13)
Scoring Offense: 17.9 (116, 14)
Rushing Defense: 161.3 (62, 10)
Pass Defense: 229.8 (57, 9)
Total Defense: 391.0 (59, 11)
Scoring Defense: 31.0 (85, 13)
Turnover Margin: -0.33 (82, 10)
Sacks: 2.17 (49, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.17 (75, 5)

Madness 2013 Recruit Rankings:
#168 Jason Hatcher
#242 Marcus McWilson


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