Previewing the Kentucky Wildcats

By on November 23, 2016

By Dalton Ray–

After an upset loss against Houston, the Cardinals now set their sights on rival Kentucky. The Wildcats are 6-5, and their four conference wins are the most since 2006. The Wildcats haven’t beaten U of L since 2010.

Head coach – Mark Stoops (four years, 18-29, zero bowl wins)

Stoops is a defensive-minded coach and strong recruiter. Rebuilding UK’s program, Stoops is celebrating his first winning season this year. The Wildcats are bowl eligible for the first time since 2010.

Under offensive coordinators Eddie Gran and Darin Hinshaw, the Cats are a power-run spread team. They use multiple pistol formations and two-back sets. Building their offense around the run game, play action is a big part of the UK offense.

Stoops took over the defensive calling responsibility this year. With a flexible front seven, UK can run either a 4-3 or 3-4. Stoops can have Denzil Ware put his hand in the ground and go with a four-man front, or call for Ware to stand and rush the edge with a three-man front.

Offense – 30.1 points per game, 414.3 total yards per game, 242.3 rushing yards per game and 172 passing yards per game

Leaders – QB Stephen Johnson (1,524 passing yards, nine touchdowns, five interceptions), RB Stanley “Boom” Williams (1,072 rushing yards and six touchdowns) and RB Benny Snell (1,006 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns)

With eight games starting under his belt, Johnson has only surpassed 250 passing yards twice all season. A quarterback that knows his role in the offense, Johnson is a game manager. Johnson won’t be asked to do more than to make smart throws and protect the ball. Not a strong passing team, UK ranks 108th in the nation in passing yards.

Running backs Williams and Snell lead the Kentucky offense. The pair account for 46 percent of total yards and 48 percent of offensive touchdowns. Kentucky’s 2,385 rushing yards ranks third in the SEC and 19th in the nation. The two-headed attack is the most dangerous aspect of the Wildcat team and can put a team away if UK gets an early lead.

Kentucky doesn’t have a threatening receiving core – their leading receiver has 545 yards on the season. With only two players over the 300 yard mark, the receiving group doesn’t have good size. Of their top three wide outs, Jeff Badet is the only receiver over 6-foot. Tight end C.J. Conrad is second on team with three touchdown receptions.

The offensive line has typical SEC size with an average height and weight of 6-foot-4 and 313 lbs. Allowing 25 sacks through 10 games, the line is better at run blocking than pass blocking.

Defense – 30.5 points per game, 428.4 total yards per game, 220 rushing yards per game and 208.4 passing yards per game

Leaders – OLB Jordan Jones (90 tackles, 12 tackles for loss), SS Mike Edwards (87 tackles, four tackles for loss) and MLB Courtney Love (62 tackles, one sack)

Kentucky doesn’t get after the quarterback too well as they only have 18 sacks on the year, 93rd in the nation.

Up front, the Cats are led by two transfers, Naquez Pringle and Courtney Miggins. They combine for 5 tackles and five tackles for loss on the season. Pringle has great size for the one-technique and nose guard at 6-foot-3 and 320 lbs. Adrian Middletown is fourth on the team in tackles for loss with 4.5.

Maybe the most talented player on the defense, Ware is second on the team in tackles for loss with 11. His ability to play outside linebacker or defensive end allows the defense to show different fronts and easily adjust to opposing offenses.

The remaining linebackers have pitched in 205 tackles and 21 tackles for loss. Jones has a great nose for the game and always finds himself around the ball. His 62 solo-tackles lead the Wildcats. Josh Allen, 6-foot-5 and 230 lbs., leads UK in sacks with 6.5 and has prototypical size for an outside linebacker.

At cornerback, Kentucky is huge. Derrick Baity and Chris Westry are 6-foot-3 and 6-foot-4. The length of the corners cause match-up problems with opposing receivers. While Baity and Westry aren’t the fastest corners, both are dangerous to throw deep on.

An aggressive strong safety, Edwards is third in the SEC in tackles. Edwards isn’t afraid to stick his nose into plays and is the defensive leader for UK.

The Cats have only forced 16 turnovers on the year. Blake McCain and Marcus McWilson have traded spots starting at safety, but both play. McCain and McWilson are on the field at the same time in their nickel package and account for 109 tackles.

File photo / The Louisville Cardinal

About Dalton Ray

Sports editor (2016-18) that is technically award winning.Email: [email protected]

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