After losing NFL draft pick Andre Woodson, the Wildcats have to replace one of the most productive passers in SEC history. After spring practice, quarterbacks Curtis Pulley and Michael Hartline both have the chance to become the starter within their reach. "They finished in a virtual tie," said Rich Brooks. "Neither of them at this point has shown the efficiency in teh passing game that Andre' did. They both have strong arms. They both can throw the ball well. But I think the verticle game needs to improve by both of them, and we need to work more on that."
The tie-breaker in this virtual tie may not come on the field, but off the field. Curtis Pulley was recently found to have been in trouble with the law, and could see a loss of playing time. The loss in playing time could wind up elevating Hartline by default.
The Wildcats also lost three very productive pass-catchers in Jacob Tamme, Keenan Burton and Steve Johnson. But they do return feisty wide receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. and junior DeMorio Ford, who both have had an impact on the UK offense in previous seasons. Lyons, the leading returning receiver with career totals of 1488 yards and 108 catches, will be expected to carry a lot of the load early on. Kyrus Lanxter, EJ Adams, Terrence Jones and Anthony Mosley are all expected to play as well. However, freshmen Aaron Boyd and Randall Cobb are expected to compete for snaps early as well.
"I would say the receiving position is our biggest question going into the season as far as who's gonna be second, who's gonna be third, who's gonna be forth. It's possible freshmen could play a role in that pecking order," said Brooks.
The loss of the third leading rusher in school history would usually mean a big drop off in the running game. But in this case, losing Rafael Little can open doors for several other excellent running backs on the Wildcat roster. And add the talented offensive line, and the running game should remain productive. "This will be the best offensive line we've had since I've been at Kentucky," said Brooks. "We have four talented running backs. I think the competition is going to be great."
Running backs Derrick Locke, Alfonso Smith, Tony Dixon and Moncel Allen will all have several carries this season. "Right now I would lean, if I had to guess, I would guess that it might be a little bit more by comittee because the top three producers have had some injury problems," said Brooks.
With the questions at quarterback and receiver, the Wildcats need production from the running game and the defense. "We're gonna rely on the defense and a strong running game. We'll be doing a lot of play-action passes," said defensive end Jeremy Jarmon.
"The freshmen are coming in, the two quarterbacks are stepping up, so things are starting off okay," said Lyons.
Rich Brooks agrees with Lyons' thoughts on the offense.
I feel good about all the positions returning on offense and the people that have an opportunity to replace (the graduates). I think we're gonna be a very good offensive football team," said Brooks.