University of Kentucky 2013-14 Football: What to Expect

By Cody Thomas
The University of Kentucky and the Mark Stoop’s 2013-14 season kicked off Saturday night in Nashville, Tennessee against Western Kentucky with a disappointing loss. A well coached Bobby Petrino team handed first year head coach Mark Stoops  the loss after being favored by 4 1/2 points.
Coming off a disappointing 2-10 record Coach Stoops and his staff look to not only improve from last year but bring in a new attitude to a program that has been overshadowed by the school’s basketball success as well as funding for the program.
Stoops along with his staff have created a buzz not only in the state but across the nation by signing highly talented recruits from not only Kentucky but nationwide.  Recruits now want to play football at Kentucky hence Stoops capturing the best recruiting class to date in the history of the program.
A program once filled with 2 star and a few 3 star recruits is now being replaced with 4 star players. Stoops’ ability to recruit along with the new offense will help build a strong program as well as making the University’s decision to upgrade facilities a no brainer. The new amenities will catch the attention of future recruits. The buzz has already put in plans for a facelift for Commonwealth. This in return along with the style of football Kentucky brings puts on the turf along with playing in the best conference in the NCAA will undoubtedly help aid the staff in capturing more 4/5 star recruits.
With that being said coach Stoops and his staff face a first year that will be tremendously tough even without one of the nation’s toughest schedule. A weak secondary and a wide receiving core that combined caught zero touchdowns last season are the two biggest weaknesses Kentucky will have exploited by opponents this season. Stoops hopes that returning players along with junior college transfer and defensive back Nate Willis will help try to fill some of the holes on defense that was apparent to every fan and opponent last season.
At quarterback position Jalen Whitlow looks to be the starter but Maxwell Smith is hot on his heels as his backup. Whitlow shined during the spring game and is a very mobile quarterback. Whitlow improved tremendously from last year with his confidence and accuracy and fits perfectly in Neal Brown’s offense but is prone to injury with the hard hitting defenses of the SEC. Whitlow will  need to protect himself instead of taking the big hit and learn to slide or step out of bounds.
If injured veteran Maxwell Smith will step in and with SEC experience and a strong arm he is more than capable of running Brown’s offense. Smith lacks Whitlow’s elusiveness but has an upside with more experience.
On the defensive side of the pigskin Kentucky has two great defensive ends with junior college transfer Za’Darius Smith and Alvin “Bud” Dupree. Along with the ends Kentucky’s starting defensive line is SEC worthy but depth is the key in the SEC and especially with the quick pace of  Brown’s offense. It’s  either a quick score or a short series and that puts a load on the defense. The line backing core is mediocre but coaches and the new weight training program has helped returning players improve from last years campaign. Again the biggest question and weakness on that side of the ball is Kentucky’s secondary. The front four will need to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks to take pressure of the secondary. If not it could be a long year for the Cats and their fans.
After a 2-10 record and slated to play one of the toughest schedules in the nation Kentucky’s 2013-14 record will not reflect Stoops’ coaching or his recruiting. Stoops inherited a Joker Phillip’s team and fans shouldn’t get down if Kentucky only wins 3 to 4 games this season. The season has a four game gauntlet with 4 top ten teams in a row.
Nothing is for sure and fans shouldn’t be surprised if Kentucky loses to anyone on the schedule.
No matter how many wins Kentucky piles up this year look for a better coached team with more discipline and points on the board. Kentucky may be in many shootouts this year and the defense will be key to this season’s outcome.
No matter how the season turns out Mark Stoops and staff have a top 15 recruiting class coming in next year and could possibly get better with key recruits who haven’t decided yet. Stoops has stolen recruits from Louisville, South Carolina and the “Old Ball Coach” ( QB Drew Barker A 4 star WR) and some of the best players in Ohio (Micheal Horton and Tyler Snodgrass) and many others that hail from a state that produces many Division 1 players and the number one athlete with Stanley “Boom” Williams from Georgia. If Matt Elam offensive tackle from Kentucky(4/5 star recruit) chooses Kentucky over Alabama, yes Alabama the future of Kentucky football looks bright.