By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
UK Football: “Ain’t No Reason To Worry”
Major League Baseball player and two-time World Champion with the New York Yankees Mickey Rivers once said, “Ain’t no sense worryin’ about the things you got control over, ’cause if you got control over ’em, ain’t no sense worryin’. And ain’t no sense worryin’ about the things you don’t got control over, ’cause if you don’t got control over ’em, ain’t no sense worryin’.”
That’s great advice for UK Football fans to take to heart for this upcoming season. As always the UK Football Team has a few things to be concerned about. Some players transferred in the off-season, some have been lost to injury and a few are banged up coming out of Fall practice. Uncertainty still exists at the quarterback and place kicker positions but in the words of Mickey Rivers, “ain’t no sense worryin’.” Here’s four reasons why there’s no sense in worrying.
No. 1: Minimal changes on Mark Stoops coaching staff.
Two coaching changes occurred in the off-season. UK wide receiver’s coach Lamar Thomas was not retained during this past off-season and was replaced by Michael Smith. Mark Stoops also added a tenth coach, Brad White, as the outside linebackers coach for the upcoming 2018 season. Other than that the coaching staff remains intact from last season. That creates much better continuity with the offensive and defensive schemes and familiarity for the players, not to mention the staff is aware of all the current players and their capabilities. With that staff continuity each coach knows his role and how he fits into the plan for everything from on-field practice activities to game week preparation and in-game decision making. Those advantages could be huge for a team that is trying to move from seven wins into the eight or nine win or more category.
No. 2: An offense that could include two potential 1,000-yard rushers in the backfield.
Most college football fans know Benny Snell as a running back. He has averaged over twelve hundred yards per season over the last two seasons. There is no reason, barring injury, that Benny Snell should not at least reach the twelve hundred yard rushing mark again this season. Based on what we saw in the spring game it appears that AJ Rose is also positioned to have a breakout season this year. In 2016 both Benny Snell and Boom Williams rushed for over one thousand yards each and with an experienced and physical offensive line anchored by sophomore Drake Jackson at center along with Logan Stenberg on the left side and seniors Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo-Adjei on the right side along with a large cast of talented backups Snell and Rose should be in good position to both reach the thousand-yard rushing mark this season.
No. 3: Much improved wide receiver corp.
Last year’s group of wide receivers had a less than stellar season. For most of the year they struggled with untimely drops and the inability to create good separation from opposing defensive backs, especially on deep routes. With the return of high school phenom Lynn Bowden and Dorian Baker along with Tavin Richardson – two big wide receiver targets – along with the growth of David Bouvier, Zy’aire Hughes, Clevan Thomas, Isaiah Epps and Josh Ali and the addition of some speedy freshmen either Gunnar Hoak or Terry Wilson should have some quality targets to throw to.
No. 4: Improved defensive play.
Last year’s version of the football Wildcats depended on the running of Benny Snell and the gritty leadership of quarterback Stephen Johnson to win games. The defensive execution – especially after the first five games – fell off significantly. In fact it was so bad that the UK defense finished the season as the worst ranked defense – 93rd in the country – in the Mark Stoops era. That’s a tough pill to swallow for a coach whose calling card has always been as a defensive specialist.
This year should see a significant upgrade to the Wildcat defensive line. With Quinton Bohanna returning as the nose guard in the middle along with senior Adrian Middleton and junior TJ Carter at tackle and end, respectively, along with some very able backups in Kengera Daniel, Calvin Taylor, Phil Hoskins and four-star freshman Marquan McCall look for UK to have the most depth on the defensive line in the Stoops era.
Along with an improved defensive line UK should have a talented group of linebackers – led by Kash Daniel in the middle – and Josh Allen on the outside along with Jamar “Boogie” Watson or Jordan Jones. The secondary should also be solid with Mike Edwards, Derrick Baity, Chris Westry and Lonnie Johnson along with many other talented backup players.
All in all there could be plenty to worry about with the players lost to injury, transfers and inexperience at some positions but like Mickey Rivers said, “if you can control it, ain’t no reason to worry. And if you can’t control it, ain’t no reason to worry.”
So the next time you hear bad news about UK Football – like the unfortunate season ending injury to Landon Young – just remember what Mickey Rivers said, “Ain’t no reason to worry.”