With a SEC losing streak that stands at 16, it’s difficult not to feel sorry for Kentucky Football fans. While their basketball players are playing like gods and pulling off last-minute victories, Kentucky football players simply find ways to lose. Sometimes heartbreakingly. Will 2014 be any different for Mark Stoops and his team? 

LAST SEASON

The Wildcats finished 2-10 (0-8 SEC), including losses to Western Kentucky and hated Louisville. Victories included (wait for it) Miami (Ohio) and (drumroll) Alabama State. The closest losses were by a touchdown to South Carolina and by 6 to Mississippi State, and by 9 to WKU. The rest were blow-outs.

OFF-SEASON

WR DeMarco Robinson was arrested for disorderly conduct, where he apparently “disorderly conduct, violation of a noise ordinance and resisting arrest”. He was suspended indefinitely. Other than that, it’s been pretty quiet on that front.

And all Mark Stoops’ assistants got raises despite the dismal performances. Thank you Big Blue (and yellow)  for big TV deals, eh?

RECRUITING

Stoops had gotten himself a reputation as one of the best recruiters in the nation, and by God, did he manage it with this class. 22nd in the nation, 10th in the SEC despite the record? That’s impressive. Even more impressive was bringing in the state’s No.1 player Pro-Style QB Drew Barker alongside DT Matt Elam, S Darius West, DE Denzil Ware, ‘all-purpose’ back Stanley Williams, and WR Thaddeus Snodgrass, who were all 4-star recruits. All in all, he brought it 26 recruits.

THOUGHTS ON THE 2014 KENTUCKY WILDCATS

WHO’S GOING TO WIN THE QB RACE?

We know this may sound silly, but I kinda like the idea of Drew Barker – the 6th-rated QB in the country – to take the job from Patrick Towles and Reese Phillips. He’s got a cannon, and he can move. Then again, so can Towles. This is going to be intriguing. Towles and Barker definitely have talent.

WILL THE QB HAVE THE RECEIVERS?

It’s not going to be too bad. Javess Blue (15th best WR in the SEC with 586 yards) and Ryan Timmons (37th in the SEC with 338) will lead the way. And if he can stay out of jail, Robinson could be a weapon for the ‘Cats, too. Jeff Badett will need to fully recover from injury, too. Watch out for Snodgrass to get some reps, too. It’s a pretty deep side – although it probably doesn’t compare talent-wise with a lot of teams.

BUT AT RUNNING BACK….WATCH OUT FOR THE BOOM!

A lot may have been said about the QBs, but the RBs really put on a show during the Spring Game. Jojo Kemp, Mikel Horton, Josh Clemons and Braylon Heard all impressed onlookers, and OC Neal Brown is also psyched about the arrival of freshman RB ‘Boom’ Williams which apparently will ‘add speed’ to the team.

OFFENSIVE LINE: THIN AND INEXPERIENCED

C Jon Toth had such a good season in 2013 he was named to the SEC All-Freshman team. LT Darrian Miller and RT Jordan Swindle should also start. Freshman LG Nick Richardson and RG redshirt frosh Ramsey Mayers will try and hold down the fort for a line that gave up 37 sacks for an average of 239 yards and 3 sacks per game…all dead-last (by some margin) in the SEC. Towles and Barker should breathe deeply now.

AS FOR THE DEFENSE?

Kentucky was the second-worst D in the SEC (apart from Texas A&M. Question: HOW IN THE HECK IS A&M DC MARK SNYDER STILL IN A JOB?) in terms of yards per game. Still, it returns 8 starters – although will be missing defensive star Avery Williamson. A lot of people will be looking to DEs Alvin Dupree, Za’Darius Smith and Jason Hatcher for even more production, and frosh DE Denzil Ware could also come in. DT Mike Douglas and Christian Coleman are good, but DT Matt Elam will also play immediately – he’s really good, by the way.

At linebacker, it’s all about the new. Junior Khalid Henderson will lead a linebacking corps that features JUCO Ryan Flannigan, freshmen Dorian Hendrix and Nico Firios. Still, it’s going to be one big experiment. And not easy.

Secondary-wise, transfers AJ Stamps and Chris Davis are going to help the secondary, while Ashley Lowery and Eric Dixon will also be flanked by freshman Darius West, who could play himself into a starting role.

SCHEDULE: DIFFICULT AND PRETTY UNMANAGEABLE

Aug 30: UT MARTIN 
Sept. 6: OHIO
Sept. 13: at Florida
Sept. 27: VANDERBILT
Oct. 4:  SOUTH CAROLINA
Oct. 11: ULM
Oct. 18: at LSU
Oct. 25: MISSISSIPPI STATE
Nov. 1: at Missouri
Nov. 8: GEORGIA
Nov. 15: at Tennessee
Nov. 29: at Louisville

Kentucky will fly to 2-0 in its first two weeks, before losing against Florida and Vanderbilt. Why Vandy? They can’t stop the rush, and Vandy’s rush is pretty good. They then lose a remarkably close one to South Carolina, before easing past ULM, losing at LSU on the road, and losing their next 5 games- including the last one to Louisville. That’s a 3-9 record, but still winless in the SEC. If the ‘Cats ARE going to pick up a win, look for the September 27th game against Vanderbilt.

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