Nobody knows quite what to expect out of Kentucky's Mike Hartline, a third-year sophomore who's never been in the spotlight. The Wildcats will likely ask Hart-line to just manage the offense and limit mistakes. U of L has a much more proven commodity in Hunter Cantwell, who stood in admirably as Brian Brohm's backup on several occasions during the past three seasons.
This might be the strongest position for both teams. UK can come at you with four different options in Tony Dixon, Derrick Locke, Alfonso Smith and Moncell Allen, while U of L's Brock Bolen and Bilal Powell provide the Cards with a bruiser and a slasher. Kentucky has a little more depth and experience.
This might be the biggest area of concern for both teams. The Wildcats aren't quite sure what they have outside of senior Dicky Lyons Jr., and neither of U of L's projected starters (Doug Beaumont and Troy Pascley) have made a catch in a college game. At least the Cats have a legit go-to guy in Lyons, who has 108 career catches for 1,488 yards and 16 TDs.
Both teams are solid in some spots and have holes in others. The Wildcats have a pair of quality tackles in Garry Williams and Justin Jeffries, but guard play was a concern in fall camp. For Louisville, center Eric Wood and left tackle George Bussey are on several pre-season watch lists, but left guard Mark Wetterer and right tackle Jeff Adams will be making their first career starts.
The Cats and Cards lost a lot of production from last year, with Jacob Tamme (56 receptions, six TDs) and Gary Barnidge (53 catches, seven TDs) now in the NFL. Kentucky moved Louisville native Maurice Grinter over from fullback, and T.C. Drake and Ross Bogue have combined to play in 51 career games. The Cards will start Tates Creek product Pete Nochta, with Johnnie Burns and junior-college transfer Rock Keys in reserve.
Kentucky has talent and quality depth here. End Jeremy Jarmon and tackles Corey Peters and Myron Pryor could all contend for All-SEC honors, end Ventrell Jenkins is experienced and tackle Ricky Lumpkin and end Nii Adjei Oninku are solid reserves. The line should be the strength of the Louisville defense as well. Tackle Earl Heyman is the leader and is joined by fellow seniors Adrian Grady and Maurice Mitchell.
For Kentucky, senior Braxton Kelley moves from the middle to the weakside to replace Wesley Woodyard, with junior Micah Johnson taking over in the middle. Senior Johnny Williams will line up at the strong side and move up to defensive end in the nickel package. The Cards might have the country's most inexperienced linebackers. True freshman Dexter Heyman will be joined by first-year junior-college transfers Antwon Canady and Jon Dempsey.
The Cats have a top-notch cover corner who's capable of shutting down one side of the field in junior Trevard Lindley. Lindley is surrounded by veterans in senior cornerback David Jones, senior free safety Marcus McClinton and junior strong safety Ashton Cobb. Louisville's secondary struggled mightily last year but should be improved in 2008. Bobby Buchanan and Latarrius Thomas are a nice safety combo, and corner Woodny Turenne should be better acclimated in his second year out of junior college.
UK needs kicker Lones Seiber and punter Tim Masthay to conquer their past inconsistencies and provide stability to a unit that will need to give support to the young offense. Dicky Lyons and Randall Cobb are a dangerous punt return tandem, and there's plenty of speed on the kickoff return team also. U of L punter Cory Goettsche was up and down in 2007, and the Cards are also breaking in a freshman kicker in Chris Philpott.