Kentucky won't bank on just one offensive look

August 17, 2003|LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky will not have one dominant offensive look this season. Instead, new offensive coordinator Ron Hudson says opposing defenses will dictate what the Wildcats do.

"Some things work better against different opponents," said Hudson. "The system we uses puts a lot of pressure on players It requires them to understand the checks. The quarterback has to get us into the right set, but then the other players also have to execute what is presented to us.

"We might have one game where a quarterback throws for 300 yards. The next week we might rush for 250 yards. We have to get everything in, or as we say, bank it. Then we withdraw from the bank as we need it and exploit what the defense gives us as best we can."

A position-by-by outlook for the Kentucky offense is as follows:

* Line.

This is Kentucky's most experienced unit with five starters - tackles Antonio Hall and Matt Huff, guards Jason Rollins and Sylvester Miller, and center Nick Seitze - returning. The line blocked well enough last year for Artose Pinner to lead the Southeastern Conference in rushing and helped the Wildcats win 10 games.


Hall and Seitze, both seniors, are ranked among the best at their positions in the SEC going into the season. However, Hall says that Rollins, a junior, might be the team's biggest surprise this year.

"He came on in the middle of the season last year and a lot of players respect him. He's gotten a lot stronger and should be able to dominate more this year," Hall said.

Hudson likes this unit.

"They are all big kids and have played," Hudson said. "The thing that is worrisome is that we are not very deep. We are not like a Georgia that can just bring in another quality player. Our backups are young."

Outlook: UK's success could hinge on keeping the starting five healthy. If they can give quarterback Jared Lorenzen time to throw and open consistent running lanes for different backs, Hudson's offense could be extremely productive.

* Tight end.

Projected starter Jeremiah Drobney, a sophomore, missed most of spring practice with a knee injury. Coach Rich Brooks said senior Win Gaffron made "major strides in strength and speed" during the summer and that redshirt freshman walk-on Bruce Fowler had lost weight.

However, two players expected to help - junior college transfer Kurt Jackson and true freshman Eric Scott - may not. Jackson has a back problem and has not yet reported for practice and Scott has had trouble adjusting to UK's offense.

"I think we will be decent. I hope there is one guy who will take charge," Brooks said.

"I think tight end is a major concern," Hudson said. "If we are not satisfied with the position, that may require us to do some different things formation-wise. We would like to have two or three quality tight ends. Whether we have that remains to be seen. We have some guys we think can play, but potential is a big word."

Outlook: This could be a major problem. There is not a physical blocker like Chase Harp, last year's starter, in the group. All are also suspect as pass catchers. Hudson's offense at Kansas State relied on the tight end, but the offensive coordinator may well have to use many formations that do not include a tight end this year.

* Receiver.

Senior Derek Abney is the logical go-to guy and Brooks wants him to average more than 14.2 yards per catch like he did last year. Junior Tommy Cook (22 catches for 276 yards and two scores in 2002) is a solid player looking to make a major improvement this year with increased playing time. Senior Chris Bernard could also be much more productive after adjusting to SEC football from the junior college ranks last year.

The team's rising star could be sophomore Glenn Holt, who caught only four passes for 31 yards last year.

"He has all the tools and could really help us stretch the field with his speed," receivers coach Joker Phillips said.

Hudson isn't worried about having players to make catches. Instead, he's eager to see if the receivers are as physically tough as he expects.

"If they aren't tough and aggressive, we will struggle," Hudson said. "I used to coach defensive backs and I know defensive backs don't like receivers who will get after you and cut your butt. If our receivers do that, not only will it help the running game, but it will help the throwing game a great deal. Anything we can do in terms of toughness will help."

Outlook: Look for Abney, Bernard and Holt to get the chance to catch more deep balls this year and for Brooks and Hudson to create more ways to get the ball in Abney's hands, including reverses. Shane Boyd could become a factor here as Brooks not only wants his backup quarterback to play receiver, but he also wants him to get the ball.

* Running back.

Replacing Pinner will be a daunting task for the Wildcats. The top three candidates - Alexis Bwenge, Arliss Beach and Draak Davis - are all sophomores. Bwenge has limited experience, Beach almost none and Davis is a California junior college transfer. Boyd also likely will get limited carries.

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