After Kentucky's first full week of practicing in pads, and in the wake of its first serious scrimmage Saturday, the football depth chart is beginning to take shape.
Here's how players stack up position by position with 17 days to go before the season opener against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 5 at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.
Mike Hartline will be the starter against Miami, but the No. 2 position is up in the air. Will Fidler, who put himself in the mix after a decent Blue/White spring game, has had his moments. Freshmen Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski are learning the nuances of big-time college football.
Projected starter Alfonso Smith is battling a foot issue that might linger, while Derrick Locke likely will have his good and bad days as he battles back from knee surgery. That means that head coach of offense Joker Phillips likely will have to get at least one and possibly two of his freshman tailbacks ready. Rookies Jonathan George and Donald Russell were both impressive in Saturday's scrimmage.
UK returns three starters and has another player, Christian Johnson, who started all 13 games in 2007. But there's still plenty of competition. Freshman Larry Warford has been one of the big surprises of fall camp and might be positioning himself to become at worst the first guard off the bench. Center Jorge Gonzalez's one-game suspension has redshirt freshman Matt Smith and junior Marcus Davis battling for the right to start against Miami. The Cats also have four players with starting experience at tackle in Zipp Duncan, Justin Jeffries, Billy Joe Murphy and Brad Durham.
No one has been able to lock down the starting job since Jacob Tamme departed in 2007. Ross Bogue passed T.C. Drake on the depth chart in the spring and had a solid first scrimmage this fall. But Drake, who has missed time with injuries, has a chance to make up ground when he returns to practice. The Wildcats would get a boost if Maurice Grinter lived up to his potential in his senior year.
Another hotly contested position. Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews look like strong possibilities to start the season opener against Miami, but there's still a battle for the 3, 4, and 5 spots. Kyrus Lanxter played well in the scrimmage and could have the inside track as the No. 3 guy, and Gene McCaskill is a safe bet to make the rotation. After that, E.J. Fields, Matt Roark, Eric Adeyemi, LaRod King and Aaron Boyd will fight for the final spots. King's progress was slowed briefly by a foot injury that kept him out of the scrimmage, while Boyd is set to return this week after being suspended from team activities for a violation of team rules.
The top three tackles seem to be set, with Corey Peters and Ricky Lumpkin entrenched as starters and Mark Crawford the top reserve. The end spot is where the action is. Junior-college transfer DeQuin Evans has been impressive in camp and will be hard to keep out of the lineup, with Chandler Burden, Collins Ukwu, and Taylor Wyndham also in the mix. Linebackers Micah Johnson and Danny Trevathan could move up to end in passing situations.
The starters look to be in place here, with Johnson in the middle, Trevathan on the weak side and Sam Maxwell on the strong side. Freshmen Qua Huzzie and Ridge Wilson have looked good in camp and could contend for backup roles.
This could be the Cats' deepest and most talented position with several prospects fighting for spots on the depth chart. Trevard Lindley knows he'll be out there at one cornerback spot. He could be flanked by either Paul Warford or Randall Burden. The Cats could be stacked in their nickel and dime packages when you throw in corners Cartier Rice, Anthony Mosley and freshman Martavius Neloms, who's been a pleasant surprise in camp. Winston Guy likely will start at one safety spot with three players who have starting experience (Matt Lentz, Calvin Harrison, Ashton Cobb) battling it out at the other.
Brooks said sophomore Ryan Tydlacka has been exceptional punting the ball in practice but inconsistent on kickoffs. Brooks also said that senior place-kicker Lones Seiber has been kicking the ball well so far in camp. Randall Cobb will be the primary punt returner, and Brooks will pick among several options for a kick returner.