Season Review: Kentucky
This Kentucky squad did not enter the season with high expectations, but still fell well short of fans' measuring stick with a disappointing 2-10 season and some embarrassing blowouts in SEC play (49-7 at Arkansas and 40-0 at home to Vanderbilt) that ultimately led to the dismissal of Joker Phillips as head coach.
2. What one player has made the difference this season?
Kentucky's season effectively ended when quarterback Maxwell Smith went down with a season-ending ankle injury in the South Carolina game Week 5. He was leading the SEC in passing at the time, and the Wildcats were never the same after his surgery.
3. What are the key improvements that need to be made in the offseason?
Kentucky must focus on an overall talent upgrade under new head coach Mark Stoops. The Cats have some good players in the freshman and sophomore classes, but felt the pain of a two-year recruiting gap this season preceding those classes. They don't currently have the type of depth, especially on the defensive side of the ball, to be competitive in the SEC. A major talent transfusion is needed in February, and possibly some juco players who can step in and contribute immediately.
4. What has been the dominant headline of the regular season?
The cloud surrounding Joker Phillips' job security hovered over the program all season long. He was placed on the "hot seat" from Day 1, and a loss to arch-rival Louisville in the first game lost most of support he had remaining. A loss to another in-state program, former I-AA squad Western Kentucky, in Week 3 doomed his chances of returning next season.
5. If the recruiting class stays in-tact, what are your expectations for next season?
This is a difficult question to answer. Kentucky's recruiting class is currently not very highly regarded, but with a coaching change, it's expected that the new staff will want to bring in some of their own players. Mark Stoops has a strong recruiting reputation at Florida State, and I expect him to attempt to bring some talent from the Sunshine State with him. If he can, the Cats have some nice complementary parts coming back to be an interesting team next season.
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