Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Season recap: Kentucky
By Edward Aschoff
Record: 5-7, 2-6 SEC
The Wildcats entered the year down a handful of offensive playmakers and it certainly showed all season. Without the likes of Randall Cobb, Mike Hartline and Derrick Locke, Kentucky hovered around the bottom of the SEC in just about every offensive category for the entire season. Kentucky was last in scoring (15.8 points per game), total offense (259.8 yards) and passing (135.6 yards), and scored just 21 touchdowns all year.
Coach Joker Phillips prides himself on offense, which had to make this year that much more difficult. Morgan Newton had a solid freshman campaign, but as Kentucky’s starting quarterback in 2011, he regressed. Newton averaged less than 80 yards passing a game and threw eight touchdowns to seven interceptions. After Newton suffered an ankle injury late in the season, freshman Maxwell Smith eventually took over and performed better at times, but threw four touchdowns and four interceptions.
The Wildcats missed out on a sixth consecutive bowl trip and won just two conference games, but there was some satisfaction. The defense was much improved under new defensive coordinator Rick Minter and the Wildcats ended a 26-year losing streak to Tennessee on the season's final weekend — a victory that ended Tennessee’s bowl chances.
Offensive MVP: Running back CoShik Williams. He was one of the few bright spots for the Wildcats. Williams emerged after starter Josh Clemons went down with a season-ending knee injury and led Kentucky with 486 rushing yards and three touchdowns. His two 100-yard rushing games came in Kentucky’s only 30-point games.
Defense MVP: Linebacker Danny Trevathan. There might not be a more unheralded player in the SEC. For the second year in a row, Trevathan led the league in tackles. After registering 144 in 2010, Trevathan totaled 143 this season, added four interceptions and forced five fumbles.
Turning point: Kentucky’s offense got a facelift in a 38-14 victory over Jacksonville State on Oct. 22. It stopped a four-game losing streak, was the Wildcats’ first 30-point game and was the first of three wins in Kentucky’s last six games.
What’s next: Without a bowl to prep for, Kentucky’s coaches will be out on the road recruiting. Phillips should use this time to recruit the heck out of as many offensive players as he can. Kentucky was very limited in the playmaking department and that has to change going forward.