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Kentucky’s improved recruiting and talent upgrade showing on field

Kentucky’s defense gave up 24 points last week and now will face Eastern Michigan Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

Kentucky’s football team hasn’t reached the same level as Southeastern Conference power and national title contender Alabama, but the Wildcats are enjoying similar success when it comes to winning football games.

During the past 14 encounters, the Wildcats have recorded 11 victories and have lost just three times. Among Southeastern Conference foes, only the Crimson Tide has a better record than Kentucky during that same time frame and is 13-1.

Experience has been a big factor behind the Wildcats’ success recently and it’s no surprise Kentucky has developed a winning mentality on the field. While winning  always helps on the recruiting trail, upgraded workout and practice facilities on campus have played a big role in the program’s ability to turn the proverbial corner.

Improved recruiting by Vince Marrow and his staff also has resulted in an improvement across the board, especially on the defensive side of the football.

The Wildcats lost several key players from last year’s 10-3 team, including first-round draft choice Josh Allen and nearly all of the team’s secondary, but have enough talent to help fill the void. Just look at DeAndre Square and his performance in a season-opening 38-24 win over Toledo last week.

“It is encouraging (to see the younger players perform well), because you know when you have the exodus that we had this past year that you have to overcome that inexperience and that’s just the way it is,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you, right? I mean just ask coach (John) Calipari, right? He’s got to deal with that every year.

“It’s hard. I tell him all the time, I said, I don’t know how you do that. I don’t know how you can do that. It’s hard coaching young guys. It’s tough, it’s a challenge, but we all have to do it and that’s what also makes it a lot of fun, I guess, too.”

Prior to Stoops’ arrival and even early in his tenure a Kentucky, the Wildcats struggled on defense and seeking better play on defense was one of the top reasons why Mitch Barnhart hired a defensive-minded coach when he lured Stoops from Florida State, where he served as a defensive coordinator under Jimbo Fisher before taking over at Kentucky.

Kentucky has surrendered 24 points or less in 14 of the past 15 games, the best stretch for the Wildcats since Oct. 4, 1978 through Sept 6, 1980. Limiting points is a big thing and defending passes is another thing when it comes to wining football games, but stopping the run is critical.

The common thread in losses by Tennessee, Missouri and South Carolina on opening weekend was run defense. Georgia State rushed for 213 yards against the Volunteers, North Carolina piled up 238 yards in a win over rival South Carolina ad Wyoming torched Missouri’s defense, rushing for 297 yards on 42 carries.

Kentucky gave up 181 yards on the ground in its opener, but expect that number to get better as the season progresses and a young secondary gains more experience.

“You just always have to be ready to go, especially on third down,” defensive back Jamari Brown said. “You have to take that serious and lock down. That could make or break you on defense.”

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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

15 comments

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  1. Its kinda early to be posting this article. It is just one game in the season and it was against a team that was whooping us until they lost their starting quarterback. It would have been more appropriate for this article to have been posted midway through the season with us having 5-1 record to substantiate it. If we come in at 3-3, then I think the article has a lot to explain. The Eastern Michigan game is a MUST win game, but is not a guaranteed win by any means. Did Pup write this article? He likes to crow about what we are going to do way before we do it. Let’s see if we can post a 5-1 start or even a 4-2 start and then we can make a more credible argument about what the last half of the season could look like. Oh, I almost forgot….Rah Rah Rah!!!

    1. I don’t think he put out this article out over just one game. We have made strides over the last two or three years as far recruiting better players and he also point it our track record speaks for it self how things have improved during Stoops tenure. No were not in Alabama or Georgia group by any means but we have made strides that our fan base has something to cheer about.

    2. Wah Wah Wah. The biggest cry baby troll on the site has the nerve to talk about saying things before they happen. Billy D is coming Billy D is coming. 3 years just you wait and see! ROFLMFAO. There’s as much of a chance that Billy D Williams will be our coach as there is for Billy Donovan. The recruiting is head and shoulders above anything we are use to and that is something to talk about. Rah Rah Rah!

    3. “We”, are you from France or do you have a mouse in your pocket?

    4. Hey “shit head” I mean Catmandoo, do you ever read what you post man? Go find a team that never loses a game, and find a little happiness, and let us real fans just enjoy our team after a win? You were even trashing the Cats before the game was even played, especially the UK secondary. Now you want to be heard? Better still tell us what your number was you gutless wonder. Go root on the Gators, they need a few more arrogant know it all’s. You would fit in well in Gainesville or Knoxville. This is Cat country, Big Blue country, Go spread your poison someplace else.

  2. Pup, I am glad that I torment you so, lol. I used to go to the movies for entertainment, now all I have to do is thump your head with a post and watch you go to pieces. Rah Rah Rah!!!

    1. Hey Catman, what was your number?

    2. Pup is a very fragile dude…very thin skin..still very easy to score on.

      1. Mike, you are tough on Kentucky players and coaches, and fans, behind a computer screen. You are all talk and never did the walk. The mighty Pupster has your number, it is quite obvious.

    3. Can I be the mediater on here in order to bring truce on here. Lol

      1. Try and enjoy the ride…..does not have to be that serious…let’s just have
        a little fun.

  3. Hey, Pup is the psycho. Get him to a doctor and put him on some meds, then put him in a straight jacket in a rubber room where he can’t hurt himself.

    1. Sounds to me like you have experienced the rubber room first hand. You seem to know an awful lot about it, LOL Your parents must have locked you up after they dropped you on your head when you were young. LOL

    2. Hey Catman, I am a psycho, you never know hoss. I may find out your real name. Sounds like you two are drawing some fire from other good UK fans on this site. Like I said, go on down to Gainesville, or maybe Knoxville, and cheer on our rivals. You sure don’t help UK’s cause much.

      1. You are a psycho fraud still in need of therapy…LOL

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