How Kentucky and Western Kentucky match up

mstory@herald-leader.comSeptember 1, 2011 

WHO HAS THE ADVANTAGE?

Quarterbacks

Joker Phillips says Morgan Newton has looked so good at times in fall camp, he's been unrecognizable from the guy who played (so-so) in the BBVA Compass Bowl. We'll start seeing Thursday night if the junior QB carries that into game action. WKU's Kawaun Jakes begins his third year as a starter, but he completed only 51.2 percent of his passes last season. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

Running backs

UK sophomore Raymond Sanders and true freshman Josh Clemons will get first crack at replacing the graduated Derrick Locke at tailback. Western's Bobby Rainey is a genuine star. The Griffin, Ga., product accounted for a stunning 49.3 percent of Western's total offense a season ago. He has run well against UK in the past — 184 yards last season; 99 yards in 2008. ADVANTAGE: WKU

Wide Receivers

For all the talk about Kentucky's young receivers, the Cats are slated to start a senior (Matt Roark) and two juniors (La'Rod King and Gene McCaskill) as they try to replace departed standouts Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews. Marcus Vasquez (30 receptions) was WKU's leading receiver a season ago and is back. Former Lone Oak High School star Jamarielle Brown has won a starting spot for the Hilltoppers. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

Tight ends

Kentucky has not gotten consistent performance from its tight end position since ex-Boyle County star Jacob Tamme went to the NFL. Another Boyle product, sophomore Jordan Aumiller, won a six-man scrum for the starting job for the Cats. Western's Jack Doyle caught 37 passes in 2009 and 20 last season before an injury knocked him out after seven games. At 6-foot-6, Doyle is a massive target. ADVANTAGE: WKU

Offensive linemen

A veteran offensive line is expected to be UK's strength. Injuries, however, may keep guard Stuart Hines and center Matt Smith from starting Thursday (though both are expected to play). Right guard Larry Warford is thought to have NFL potential. Pre-season All-Sun Belt tackle Wes Jeffries is one of three starters returning on the Western line. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

Defensive linemen

Kentucky expects breakthrough years from junior end Collins Ukwu and sophomore tackles Donte Rumph and Mister Cobble. Senior defensive end Jared Clendenin had 2.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries for Western in 2010. End Quanterus Smith, who led the Toppers with four sacks in 2010, is listed as second team behind Bo Adebayo for the opener. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

Linebackers

Danny Trevathan is an All-America candidate and Kentucky expects big things from hybrid linebacker/rush end Ridge Wilson. WKU will have three new starters, including Andrew Jackson manning the middle and Owensboro product Ben Duvall on the weak side. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

Secondary

UK will start all seniors and juniors. Safety Winston Guy is expected to play as a hybrid linebacker, too. Converted cornerback Martavius Neloms could become a standout at safety. WKU's pass defense improved greatly in 2010 after the insertion of then-true freshmen Arius Wright and Tyree Robinson at cornerback. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

Special teams

Kentucky expects returning punter Ryan Tydlacka and place-kicker Craig McIntosh to be major strengths. With Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke gone, both punt and kickoff returns are a question. WKU place-kicker Casey Tinius had a strong 2009 (14 of 19 field goals) but slumped (6-for-15) in 2010. He is trying to hold off former Bell County star Monte Merrick. ADVANTAGE: Kentucky

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