WILDCATS ON OFFENSE
Neal Brown, first season at Kentucky, fourth overall as an offensive coordinator
Neal Brown, quarterbacks; Tommy Mainord, wide receivers; Vince Marrow, tight ends; John Schlarman, offensive line; Chad Scott, running backs; Tyler Sargent and Josh Pruitt, graduate assistants
Updated Air Raid
UK finished second-to-last in the SEC and 113th (out of 120) in the nation in total offense, averaging an anemic 315 yards a game. The Cats were the worst scoring offense in the SEC, averaging just 17.9 points a game.
Kevin Mitchell, lineman; Zach West, lineman; Darrian Miller, lineman; Jalen Whitlow, quarterback; D.J. Warren, fullback; Jonathan George, running back; Ronnie Shields, wide receiver (from tight end)
What to Watch
After losing a starting running back and a starting quarterback to injuries, Kentucky went from showing promise with a new, up-tempo offense back to the bottom of the SEC in scoring offense (17.9 ppg) and near the bottom of the nation in total offense. The stadium will be filled with the sounds of Air Raid sirens with a new coordinator, but the Cats will be running the new scheme with some familiar faces and a lot of unproven talent.
Will a team that returns only four wide receivers — who caught zero TDs last season — turn into an instant Air Raid offense? How fast can the newcomers come along? Will injuries spell doom for UK's offense for a third straight season?
Brown cautioned in the pre-season that Rome wasn't built in a day, and that's true for the Kentucky offense as well. The Cats will improve only as much as some repurposed veterans and newcomers will carry them. The quarterback situation looks less bleak this year with several quality candidates with some level of experience, so injury might not destroy a season like it did last year.
Unofficial Depth Chart
Left tackle: Darrian Miller, Jon Toth
Left guard: Teven Eatmon-Nared, Zach West
Center: Zach Myers, Max Godby
Right guard: Kevin Mitchell, Jack Gruenschlaeger
Right tackle: Jordan Swindle, Shaquille Love
Tight end: Anthony Kendrick, Jordan Aumiller
Wide receiver: Demarco Robinson, Jeff Badet
Wide receiver: A.J. Legree, Alex Montgomery
Wide receiver: Daryl Collins, Ryan Timmons
Quarterback: Jalen Whitlow, Maxwell Smith
Fullback: D.J. Warren, Cody Jones
Tailback: Raymond Sanders, Jonathan George
Kicker: Joe Mansour, Austin MacGinnis
WILDCATS ON DEFENSE
D.J. Eliot, first season at Kentucky and as a coordinator
D.J. Eliot, linebackers; Derrick Ansley, cornerbacks; Jimmy Brumbaugh, defensive line; Bradley Dale Peveto, safeties; Adam Federle, defense/special teams graduate assistant; Matt Powledge, defense/special teams graduate assistant
Base 4-3 defense with multiple looks
Kentucky finished 11th in the SEC and 59th in the nation in total defense, allowing 391.4 yards a game.
Alvin "Bud" Dupree, end; Tristian Johnson, tackle; Donte Rumph, tackle; Mister Cobble, tackle; Miles Simpson, linebacker; Avery Williamson, linebacker; Ashely Lowery, safety
What to watch
New Coach Mark Stoops is a defensive guy, and when he got on campus he said he wanted to make sure his team knows who and what it is. So he installed his 4-3 defense and moved some players around. Stoops and Eliot will try to help the UK defense make a quick turnaround as they have at their previous stops, but they're doing it with inexperience at key positions. One thing Stoops knows is that the Cats must be better on third down. UK was last in the league last season in that category and one of the worst in the nation.
Can UK start forcing turnovers after getting only a paltry 13 last season? If the up-tempo offense struggles, does the defense have enough players and stamina to be on the field for extended periods of time? Can a veteran defensive line help offset inexperience and lack of depth at other places on the field? Can UK stay healthy?
Stoops and Eliot have helped defenses improve dramatically in a short amount of time, but they say there's still much work to be done this season on the field and in the living rooms of future recruiting targets for the transformation to be complete. UK has a solid, veteran line and two impressive ends in Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith. But a thin, small secondary could spell trouble this season.
Unofficial Depth Chart
End: Alvin "Bud" Dupree, TraVaughn Paschal
Tackle: Mister Cobble, Mike Douglas
Tackle: Donte Rumph, Tristian Johnson
End: Za'Darius Smith, Jason Hatcher
Linebacker: Avery Williamson, Tyler Brause
Linebacker: Kory Brown, Miles Simpson
Linebacker: Khalid Henderson, Josh Forrest
Cornerback: Cody Quinn, Jaleel Hytche
Safety: Ashely Lowery, Glenn Faulkner
Safety: Eric Dixon; Daron Blaylock
Cornerback: Fred Tiller, Nate Willis
Punter: Landon Foster, Joe Mansour
Note: Unofficial depth charts as of Monday, Aug. 19.
Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com, ukwomen.bloginky.com.