There's a question you kind of get tired of asking when you do football team previews for a few years: Is it better for a lackluster team to get back players from the previous year with more experience, or better to have those players move on in the hopes that the next group will be better. In some ways, it's an impossible question to answer; some players will figure things out in a dreadful season, and some will simply have another dreadful season if they get another year. And yet that's the situation Kentucky finds itself in. The Wildcats bring back seven starters on offense and seven starters on defense (per Phil Steele, of course) from a team that went 2-10 last year.
BIGGEST RETURN | DE Alvin Dupree, LB Avery Williamson
If you can't score much -- and, let's be honest, this was a department where the Wildcats struggled mightily last year -- then you best be able to keep the other team from scoring. Williamson has to get some credit for leading the team in tackles by more than 40 (Williamson had 135 tackles to Dupree's 91), but Dupree might have been the biggest threat to blow up the play in the backfield, logging 12.5 tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks. Williamson also had more passes broken up than Dupree, as you might expect based on their respective positions. They're part of a team that returns four of its top five tacklers. With Bobby Petrino's Western Kentucky (that still looks odd) coming to town in the first game of the season, the defense best be up to the task.
BIGGEST LOSS | WR La'Rod King
We don't really keep track of these things, so it's impossible to do know if this has happened before or not -- odds are it has or would have if we'd been doing this for ten years -- but King was tabbed our biggest return for the Wildcats last year and will be our biggest loss this season. King led the wide receiving corps with 488 yards on 48 catches. That was close to twice as many catches as the next leading receiver and was about 65 percent more yards than the No.2 (Demarco Robinson, 297). It would be nice to have that kind of experience returning for the first year of the new Air Raid offense in Lexington, but King also makes this spot at least in part because there are so few players who left. Kentucky can probably weather King's absence -- to the extent the Wildcats will weather anything this year -- with a little bit of difficulty.
BREAKTHROUGH POSSIBILITY | QB Jalen Whitlow
I walk into this one knowing that I'm going to get some criticism thrown my way, but here me out: If he wins the starting quarterback position out of camp -- something that looks more likely than ever in the aftermath of the Blue-White Game --this could end up being a huge year for the sophomore. Not to compare the two, but if you want to see what a young starter with wheels can do in the first year of an Air Raid offense, see: Manziel, Johnny. Whitlow's not a lock because of one good spring game, and it's important to keep in mind that his passer efficiency rating last year was more than 35 points below Maxwell Smith's. But if he can throw well and improve on his 3.0 yards per carry rushing average, Whitlow might have a chance for a great year.