Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Checking in on the Kentucky Wildcats
By ESPN.com staff
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Kentucky wrapped up its final practice Wednesday prior to its spring game on Saturday, and I had a chance to spend some time with coach Joker Phillips and several of his players.
This will be Year No. 2 under Phillips as head coach, and it’s obvious nobody is pleased with the Wildcats’ 6-7 finish a season ago.
“There were too many games we should have won last year and didn't,” said senior Winston Guy, who’s moving from strong safety to a hybrid linebacker/safety position in Rick Minter’s new defensive scheme. “We’re looking for more consistency, and that’s something coach (Phillips) has been on us about since the bowl game.”
The Wildcats return many of their key pieces on defense, including All-SEC linebacker Danny Trevathan. Guy conceded that it’s been a challenge to learn the new defense this spring and joked that Minter’s playbook was several inches thick.
“We’re not there yet. It’s still going to take some time, just learning where you need to be all the time, but it’s a defense that’s going to let us use our speed,” Guy said.
On offense, the big names are gone. Receiver Randall Cobb, one of the SEC’s finest all-around players the last couple of seasons, turned pro early. Also gone are quarterback Mike Hartline, running back Derrick Locke and receiver Chris Matthews.
Junior Morgan Newton takes over as the Wildcats’ starting quarterback after being a spot starter his first two seasons. While there might not be a lot of household names returning on Kentucky’s offense, Newton said several young guys stood out this spring.
Raymond Sanders has had a big spring at running back. Receiver Brian Adams, who’s split time between football and baseball, has made several big plays when he’s been on the football field.
Don't be surprised to see incoming freshman running backs Marcus Caffey and Josh Clemons thrown into the mix when they arrive this summer.
It also helps that Kentucky returns four starters on an offensive line that was underrated a year ago.
Check back later this week and then again next week following the spring game, and I’ll have a lot more on the Wildcats on the SEC blog.