Three days before Kentucky opens its 2018 football season at home against Central Michigan, this week’s UK Sports Mailbag is heavy with questions about Mark Stoops’ Wildcats:
Question one from email: “Landon Young’s injury seems devastating to UK’s chances this fall. My initial reaction was ‘This will cost UK one and maybe two victories they were counting on.’ I don’t have any particular games in mind. It just seems that his absence cuts out a lot of the team’s strength.
“My impression is that Young is not only exceptionally able, but he provides a lot of leadership. Am I right, or am I overreacting?”
— Signed, Lamenting Landon’s Loss
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Mark’s reply: I think you are overreacting a bit. We don’t really know how the loss of Landon Young, to a torn ACL in his left knee, will affect the UK season. After all, we’ve never seen either of the guys vying to replace him as Kentucky’s starting left tackle play in a college game.
Obviously, having an experienced left tackle like Young would be better as Kentucky breaks in a new starting quarterback, Terry Wilson, who has never played in an FBS game.
Kentucky does, however, still have four returning starters on its offensive line. So we’ll just have to see how impactful the loss of Landon Young turns out to be.
Actually, the guy whose loss to a medical issue will, I suspect, hurt Kentucky the most in 2018 is sophomore defensive tackle Josh Paschal.
The Olney, Md., product is out indefinitely while being treated for a malignant melanoma on a foot.
I think Paschal has the ability to be the caliber of disruptive defensive lineman in the front three that Kentucky has sorely lacked since Stoops implemented the 3-4 as Kentucky’s base front starting in 2014.
Question two comes from Twitter:
Mark’s reply: Both answers are very much to be determined.
Kash Daniel, UK’s junior middle linebacker is slated to make his first career start in Saturday’s season opener.
There is no question about the physicality the 6-foot-1, 242-pound Daniel, Kentucky’s 2015 Mr. Football after a stellar career at Paintsville, brings to his play. UK star running back Benny Snell says Daniel is the hardest hitter he goes against in practices.
What has been questioned with Daniel is whether he has the fluidity to make plays in space and cover in pass defense against “SEC speed.”
Daniel said after spring practice he was going to devote his entire summer to “loosening up his hips” so he can “come to balance” and change directions quicker.
“Back in the old days with Dick Butkus, all they had to do was stop the run,” Daniel said, referencing the 1960s Chicago Bears linebacking icon. “As a linebacker now, you are more like a hybrid: You got to be able to stop the run, but you got to be able to defend the pass.”
If Daniel can answer the questions about his ability to make plays in space affirmatively against SEC competition these next two years, then he could put himself in position for a shot in the NFL.
Question three comes from a caller: “You wrote about Kentucky football needing some kind of defining (game-day symbol). Well, I’ve always thought Kentucky needs its own song like “Rocky Top” at Tennessee (games). Well, I think if you played an uptempo version of Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” it would bring the fans in Kroger Field out of their seats every time.”
— Signed, A Blue Moon But No Cold Kentucky Rain
Mark’s reply: I love the song “Blue Moon of Kentucky” but I think most of UK’s game-day musical presentation is directed at 1.) the current Kentucky players; 2.) visiting high school recruits that UK is wooing.
I do not think adding a Bluegrass song, even a classic played to an uptempo beat, would be the way UK would choose to connect with the demographic it is targeting.
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory