Shannon Dawson, first season at Kentucky, seventh as a Division I offensive coordinator
Shannon Dawson, quarterbacks; Tommy Mainord, wide receivers; Vince Marrow, tight ends; John Schlarman, offensive line; Chad Scott, running backs; Mark Pelini, Max Drisko offensive graduate assistants
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Kentucky finished 10th in the Southeastern Conference and 82nd (out of 128) in the nation in total offense, averaging 384.3 yards a game. The Cats also were ninth in the league in scoring offense at 29.2 points a game.
RETURNING STARTERS (7)
Zach West, offensive lineman; Jordan Swindle, offensive lineman; Jon Toth, center; Ramsey Meyers, offensive lineman; Ryan Timmons, wide receiver; Dorian Baker, wide receiver; Patrick Towles, quarterback
WHAT TO WATCH
Kentucky returns its quarterback, leading rusher (Stanley “Boom” Williams) and leading wide receiver (Ryan Timmons) this season and has a host of other playmakers, including a huge group of experienced wideouts and running backs. For the first time in the Mark Stoops era, UK can go two deep and sometimes more at each position on the depth chart. The Cats also return a veteran offensive line with four of five starters back — with 90 starts between them — and some talented backups there, too.
Can Patrick Towles take that next step to an elite quarterback in the SEC? Can he make timely, accurate passes to his playmakers? Will he get enough time to make the big throws? Who will emerge as the Cats’ go-to wide receiver and do they need just one? Will Shannon Dawson be able to keep everyone happy with enough touches? Will the tight ends actually produce more than just blocks this season? Can UK get to a pace Dawson enjoys of 85 plays per game? Will they be able to keep defenses off balance?
Kentucky has plenty of talent returning from an offense that showed big play-making ability in spurts last season. New offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson likes to mix up the pass and run, which Mark Stoops likes because it keeps defenses off balance and allows for UK to stretch the field vertically. That plan could be effective with some speedy receivers in Jeff Badet, Garrett Johnson, Blake Bone and Dorian Baker among others. Kentucky seems to have all of the pieces in place offensively for a special season if the defense can stay off the field.