SEC: Justin Jeffries

Kentucky spring wrap-up

May, 5, 2009
Posted by's Chris Low

Kentucky Wildcats
2008 overall record: 7-6

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 5; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Mike Hartline, QB/WR Randall Cobb, RB Alfonso Smith, OT Justin Jeffries, DE Jeremy Jarmon, DT Corey Peters, LB Micah Johnson, CB Trevard Lindley

Key losses

RB Tony Dixon, WR Dicky Lyons, OT Garry Williams, DT Myron Pryor, LB Braxton Kelley, S Marcus McClinton, P Tim Masthay

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Tony Dixon (430 yards)
Passing: Mike Hartline* (1,666 yards)
Receiving: Dicky Lyons (264 yards)
Tackles: Braxton Kelley (98)
Sacks: Johnny Williams (5)
Interceptions: Trevard Lindley* and Marcus McClinton (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Miami, Ohio (Cincinnati)
Sept. 19 Louisville
Sept. 26 Florida
Oct. 3 Alabama
Oct. 10 at South Carolina
Oct. 17 at Auburn
Oct. 24 Louisiana-Monroe
Oct. 31 Mississippi State
Nov. 7 Eastern Kentucky
Nov. 14 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 21 at Georgia
Nov. 28 Tennessee
Hartline's job : Mike Hartline is Kentucky's quarterback. Coach Rich Brooks made that clear in the spring, as the Wildcats prefer to use Randall Cobb as a receiver. Hartline has vowed to be more than just a guy that doesn't get the Wildcats beat next fall. He has to keep improving, though, and play with the confidence he did in the second half of the bowl game last season.

Solid defensive nucleus: The most important recruits this offseason for the Wildcats were defensive end Jeremy Jarmon, linebacker Micah Johnson and cornerback Trevard Lindley all deciding to return to school for their senior seasons. All three are All-SEC caliber players who know what it takes to get it done in this league.

Under the radar: Some of best news for Kentucky this spring was the way some of the younger players performed, particularly on defense. Sophomore Winston Guy was a hit at free safety after moving over from cornerback. Sophomore linebacker Danny Trevathan had 11 tackles in the spring game, while redshirt freshman Collins Ukwu and sophomore Chandler Burden made big moves at defensive end.

Fall questions

Running game: Derrick Locke missed the spring after blowing out his knee late last season. The Wildcats hope he will be able to come back 100 percent. Moncell Allen was academically ineligible for the bowl game, so there are some questions surrounding his future. Alfonso Smith had a big spring, but he can't do it alone. Kentucky was eighth in the league in rushing last season.

Cobb's future: There's not a more dynamic playmaker on Kentucky's roster than Cobb. He spent most of his time this spring at receiver, even though he's a quarterback by trade. He's still going to get some chances in the Wildcat formation. How much he ends up behind center will likely depend on how well Hartline plays. Freshman quarterbacks Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski will be added to the mix when preseason practice begins in August.

Stretching the field: There wasn't much of a deep passing game last season for the Wildcats, and that becomes even more of a challenge now that Dicky Lyons is gone. Hartline has to prove that he can effectively throw it down the field, and more big-play targets at receiver need to step forward. That's where Cobb comes in along with Kyrus Lanxter and Gene McCaskill.

Offensive line still taking shape for Wildcats

May, 4, 2009

Posted by's Chris Low

With all the talk this spring about Mike Hartline getting the nod at quarterback and Randall Cobb spending most of his time at receiver, lost in the shuffle was the moving and shaking going on with  Kentucky's offensive line.

The best news for the Wildcats is that they actually have some genuine competition. They've been able to redshirt some offensive linemen the last couple of years and haven't had to throw them to the wolves as true freshmen.

Joker Phillips, Kentucky's offensive head coach, said heading into the spring that the Wildcats were serious about getting their best five linemen on the field.

Judging by all the shuffling that went on and some of the position changes, it's still anybody's guess as to what the Wildcats' starting offensive line will look like when they open the season against Miami (Ohio) on Sept. 5 in Cincinnati.

Senior Zipp Duncan is the likely starter at left tackle, but that's after starting 26 consecutive games at guard. Senior Justin Jeffries missed the spring with a shoulder injury after starting last season at right tackle, but he'll face challenges from junior Brad Durham and sophomore Billy Joe Murphy in the fall. Redshirt freshman Dave Ulinski also moved to tackle after starting the spring at guard.

Senior Jorge Gonzalez returns as the starting center, but sophomores Jake Lanefski and Stuart Hines along with senior Christian Johnson will battle it out for the two starting guard spots.

Lanefski started the last four games a year ago at right guard. Hines played in all 12 games in 2008 as a backup at guard and has added weight. Johnson redshirted last season after struggling with back and academic issues, but he started 15 games during the 2006 and 2007 seasons.

"We have great competition at all the positions up front, and it's never been that way since we've been here," Phillips said.

The biggest challenge for Kentucky's offensive line next season will be improving its run blocking. The Wildcats were solid in pass protection a year ago and allowed just 13 sacks, which led the SEC.