Earlier this summer I wrote a statistical synopsis for Kentucky to play postseason football. Periodically throughout camp and the season, we’ll take a look back to gauge accuracy based on game/practice result and available personnel. The numbers below provide a look back at original projections with adjusted numbers based on realistic expectation.
2015: 24.7 points per game
2016 Projection: 29.7 points per game
Updated Realistic Expectation: 32.7 points per game
By all accounts Eddie Gran has made a world of difference in the Wildcat offense. Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson are completing a high percentage of their passes as the offensive line is opening holes for its deep and talented backfield. Receivers and tight ends are also experiencing success. An uptick in receiver production is derived from new coaching as well as competitive depth. Add all this together and my original goal of 29.7 points per game has been changed to 32. Under Gran’s supervision, an eight-point jump from 2015 is a realistic goal. UK will need its offense to average a higher number in order to win football games.
Rush Yards Per Game
2015: 162 rush yards per game
2016 Projection: 195 rush yards per game
Updated Realistic Adjusted Expectation: No Change
Again crediting Eddie Gran, but this time as a running back coach; 195 yards per game may eventually seem like a low ball bid. JoJo Kemp, Sihiem King, AJ Rose, and Benny Snell have been excellent in the first ten days of fall camp. The running team’s early running game success has come without the services of preseason All-SEC performer Boom Williams. Boom is being held out of practice contact for precautionary measures. With Boom, this group is poised for a collective breakout season. UK’s offensive line’s strength lies within its interior. Eddie Gran’s philosophy emphasizes that benefit. Coupled with RB and OL prowess, the surfacing of three SEC-quality tight ends only magnifies the Cat’s rush game resurgence.
Pass Completion Percentage
2016 Projection: 62.5%
Updated Realistic Expectation: No Change
62.5% is an accurate and optimum number for Drew Barker. Its been reported that he’s completing 68-70% in scrimmage scenarios. Referring back to the Total Offense number, for UK to achieve bowl eligibility, Barker/Johnson will have to be above the 60% threshold.
2015: Surrendered 394.2 yards per game
2016 Projection: 355 yards per game
Updated Realistic Expectation: 375 yards surrendered per game
The defensive line is a serious concern. Losing Regie Meant only lessened the status of an already uncertain defensive front. Current DL starters are: DE Courtney Miggins, NT Matt Elam, and DT Adrian Middleton. I buy into the theory that “It’s never as good or bad as it seems,” thus I’m giving this grouping the benefit of doubt and a chance to develop. Tymere Dubose, Jacob Hyde, Alvonte Bell, and Kengera Daniel must grow into viable options. True freshmen TJ Carter, Kordell Looney, and Ja’Quize Cross have been better than expected. The sky is not falling. Inexperienced and youthful defenders have to step in and up. But, if ample development and depth are not exhibited, then rumbles of thunder could be heard in the horizon.
2015: 17 sacks
2016 Projection: 28 sacks
Updated Realistic Expectation: 22 sacks
See above. Kentucky enters its 11th day of fall camp and I’m not confident in proclaiming any starter as its designated pass rush specialist. Mark Stoops and DJ Eliot’s 3-4 look is in actuality a multiple-front defense. If it can’t organically produce quarterback pressure (front-7) then exotic blitzes and other sub-packages will be implemented to influence opposing quarterbacks. I still have a strange feeling that Jordan Bonner or another newcomer could factor.
Kentucky’s obvious defensive strength lies within its secondary. When I say strength, I mean that Chris Westry-Derrick Baity and their back-ups are the best collection of cornerbacks that I’ve seen in decades. Safeties also have big-play capability. However, if opposing quarterbacks are given more than 3.5 seconds to dissect and throw the football, the Wildcat’s strength will be neutralized. Somehow, someway, a pass rush has to develop in order to go bowling.
As stated before, the first 10 days of fall camp paint an accurate picture of the upcoming season. Saturday’s scrimmage film will be used to whittle away at the depth chart as Southern Miss prep will soon begin. Optimism remains. And remember: It’s not personal, it’s personnel.