Through most of the first half of the season, coach Mark Stoops couldn’t even pick a starting quarterback, switching between Jalen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith. Finally, when Stoops did pick, Whitlow suffered an ankle injury in a blowout loss to No. 1 Alabama. The two QBs have combined for 8 TDs and just 2 INTs, but they haven’t done nearly enough to lead the Wildcats out of the SEC basement.
Rest of offense: F
The Kentucky offensive line so far lacks punch and the run game ranks last in the SEC, even with Whitlow serving as a dual-threat quarterback. There are no players for whom defensive coordinators must plan.
With so many defensive all-conference candidates on Kentucky, it’s amazing how poorly the run defense fares. Tackling machine Avery Williamson hasn’t been able to keep his team from last in the SEC, allowing 213.3 rush yards per game. The pass defense has been slightly better despite its youth. The Wildcats defense played respectably against Louisville, but gave up 83 points in its last two games against South Carolina and Alabama.
Stoops probably didn’t think he was walking into an easy situation when he arrived in Lexington. If he did, those delusions have surely vanished by now. Kentucky appears to be the worst team in the SEC week-in and week-out.
Offensive Spotlight: RB Jojo Kemp
Kemp is pushing RB Raymond Sanders as the featured back in the Kentucky offense and has out-performed him. The freshman leads the team in rushing yards and is a full yard better in yards per carry (5.9-4.9). Kemp hasn’t yet reached the end zone, though.
Defensive Spotlight: DE Za’Darius Smith
For Kentucky to perform better against the run, it must make more plays behind the line of scrimmage. Bookends Smith and Alvin Dupree give the Wildcats the best chance in that regard. Smith registered 28 tackles, including 4.5 sacks during his first six games. He must now make better, more disciplined plays in the run game. All of his TFLs have been on the quarterback.
QB Jalen Whitlow might not miss much time with his ankle injury. Kentucky is off this week, giving him extra time to recover before next Thursday’s game at Mississippi State. If Whitlow can’t go, Maxwell Smith will get the nod.