With a good deal of help from Year2.
Pop quiz: On which side of the ball does Kentucky have, on average, the highest-rated recruits playing as starters? The offense, believe it or not. Despite the performance the last couple of years, there is some talent on both sides of the ball in Lexington; whether it's enough to make a serious run at the East now or in the future ...
THE ONE WE DON'T KNOW
It's not that unusual to not know the starting quarterback after spring practice -- if your fourth-year quarterback has gone to the NFL or graduated. But Mike Hartline stayed behind after another frustrating season -- not that he had much of an option to go elsewhere -- and still can't secure the starting job firmly, after holding it sporadically for the past two years.
"I think this competition is way too close to decide in April," said [Kentucky head coach Joker] Phillips in the post-game news conference. ...
"I would like to have come out of this with a No. 1 quarterback," Phillips said. "But we can win with all three of these guys."
If we take it for granted that Phillips wants his starter to have some SEC experience, the best two bets are Hartline and Morgan Newton. Neither exactly shined last year.
Technically, Phillips' statement also included redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski, but if you were looking for ways to make Kentucky's already struggling offense worse, "throwing an inexperienced signal-caller to the wolves" would have to top the list. Hartline and Newton appear to be
as good as it gets the contenders, and the Wildcats will probably sink or swim with one or both of them.
THE ONES WHO GOT AWAY
Only two of Kentucky's five offensive linemen are likely to have starting experience this year, with C Jorge Gonzalez and tackles Zipp Duncan and Justin Jeffries gone from last year's team. Of course, when you're not sure about your quarterback, you'd really like to have some experience along the offensive line. So -- no problem.
Beyond that, the high profile losses are largely on the defensive side of the ball: LB Micah Johnson, who lead the team and ranked fifth in the SEC with 105 tackles; LB Sam Maxwell, third on the team with 80 tackles and tied for second in the SEC in interceptions with six; and fourth-round pick CB Trevard Lindley.
THE ONES LEADING THE WAY
WR Randall Cobb, who scored 14 offensive touchdowns -- more than a third of the team's total -- is perhaps the most important returning starter on offense. Calling Cobb a wide receiver is a little bit of a disservice; he actually rushed for 573 yards while collecting 447 yards receiving. Also back in 2010 is RB Derrick Locke, third in the SEC with 1,830 all-purpose yards, including 907 rushing.
Kentucky needs help from senior WR Chris Matthews will have to make good on being one of the Wildcats' highest-ranked wideouts out of high school (four stars according to Rival, three from Scouts). Matthews averaged just 27.2 receiving ypg last year, though how much of that was due to the instability at quarterback is open to question.
On defense, LB Danny Trevathan (82 tackles), DE DeQuin Evans (38 tackles, 12.5 TFL, 6.0 sacks) and CB Randall Burden (2 INTs, 8 passes broken up) will look to improve on a mediocre defensive effort in 2009.