John Clay

Are you in or out on these Kentucky football topics for 2019?

For my summer football fix, I listen to podcasts. Move the Sticks. The Ross Tucker Football Podcast. The MMQB podcasts. The “Room Full of Heroes” that is Around the NFL. Just to name a few.

A recent playlist addition is College Football Bros, where the brothers Newman, based out of California, discuss all things college gridiron. One of their recent episodes featured a segment called “In or Out” where the brothers opined on whether they were in (positive) or out (negative) on a particular person or statement.

Their topics included yearbook guru Phil Steele, new Washington quarterback Jacob Eason, returning North Carolina coach Mack Brown, the College Football Playoff Committee and, wandering a bit off track, Arby’s.

Just for fun, let’s apply the game to Kentucky football.

Mark Stoops — In. Definitely in. Might have wavered some during the UK head coach’s first three seasons, but it’s obvious now Stoops was merely building a foundation. He’s 24-15 over this last three seasons, including 10-3 last year. After going 4-20 his first three SEC seasons, Stoops is 13-11 over the last three. For UK football, that’s high cotton.

A second straight winning SEC season — Out. UK AD Mitch Barnhart said recently the football Cats will enter 2019 eager to prove last year was not a fluke. I don’t think it was a fluke. But after posting a winning conference mark (5-3) for the first time since 1977, it stands to reason the Cats will regress a bit given the personnel losses to graduation.

Eddie Gran — In. With a caveat attached, I should add. Still think Kentucky’s offensive coordinator knows what he’s doing, and he’s molded an attack that fits well with Stoops’ defense-oriented mindset. But after finishing 104th last season in total offense, the offense needs to carry more of the load in 2019, especially when the team figures to have a younger, less dominant defense.

The win total will take a big drop — Out. From what I’ve seen, the early-season college football magazines have the Cats around the 6-6 mark. I think the schedule is manageable enough that Stoops and Co. can go 8-4 rather than a slide back to .500.

Brad White — In. Stoops’ new defensive coordinator has never called the defensive signals before, but he’s built a reputation as a future star in the profession, thanks to his NFL background, his teaching of technique and the job he did with Josh Allen last season. White will get plenty of help from old DCs Stoops and Dean Hood while making the transition.

Win streak over South Carolina will continue — Out. UK has won five straight over the Gamecocks. The law of averages has to catch up with the Cats at some point, however. And this year’s game is in Columbia, where Will Muschamp’s club has lost two straight to its SEC East rival.

Terry Wilson — In. I may be higher on UK’s returning starting quarterback than others, but still think the junior from Oklahoma has the skills to be a difference-maker. Grad transfer quarterback Sawyer Smith from Troy should give Wilson a needed push, and Gran a backup plan if Terry Touchdown falters.

Run game will still thrive minus Benny Snell — Out. Come on, Snell rushed for over 1,000 yards three consecutive seasons to become the school’s all-time leading rusher. A.J. Rose is a good back and redshirt freshmen Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke have shown potential, but it’s unrealistic to think the committee will match Snell’s production.

Lynn Bowden can be Randall Cobb — In. That’s not to say the current Cat is as good as the former Cat, but he could be. Cobb was a jack of all trades who ended up in the NFL, and Bowden is following a similar path. With Snell, C.J. Conrad, Dorian Baker and David Bouvier gone from the offense, there will be even more pressure on Bowden to make plays this season.

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