Neal Brown’s ‘Air Raid’ offense is not in its final state in 2013. Not by a long shot. Wildcat personnel fits better with a strong running game, the future is in the air. As a result the Cats have used 2 quarterbacks in 2013. Max Smith (6-4, 218, Soph) is a pass only option, Jalen Whitlow (6-2, 220, Soph) is a dual-threat. Thus far Max Smith has a recorded win over Miami (OH) and has passed for 23 of 36, 435 yards, 4 TDs. Jalen Whitlow was at the helm for the WKU loss and is 20 of 27, 181 yards passing, 0 TDs through the air. Whitlow also has 14 carries for 123 yards and 2 TDs rushing. Max Smith will start against the Cards, but don’t be surprised to see a few packages with Whitlow at QB.
The Cats like to spread the ball around and through 2 games, 12 players have recorded receptions. Junior College Transfer Javess Blue (6-0, 190, Jr.) leads UK with 9 receptions, 139 yards, and 1 TD. Blue had a long of 88 yards for the lion-share of the yardage, but is easily the most targeted Wildcat in the passing game. True Freshman Ryan Timmons (5-10, 185, Fr.) has 6 hauls for 61 yards and is currently 2nd on the team in receptions. Behind Timmons Tight End Anthony Kendrick (6-3, 233, Sr.), WR Demarco Robinson (5-10, 158, Jr.), and Alex Montgomery (6-2, 210 Fr.) are tied with 5 catches a piece. Freshman Jeff Badet (6-0, 170, Fr.) also figures to have an increasing role in the passing game as the season rolls along for the Cats. With Max Smith or Jalen Whitlow, the Cats really like to spread the field and complete short to intermediate throws. There is a lot of shotgun and quick reads to negate pressure.
Raymond Sanders (5-8, 187, Sr.), Jonathan George (5-10, 209, Sr.), and JoJo Kemp (5-10, 190, Fr.) are Kentucky’s three main running backs thus far in 2013. Sanders has 20 carries for 137 yards, 1 TD; George 13 carries for 39 yards, 1 TD; and Kemp 13 carries for 87 yards. George also has a 48-yard reception to his credit, while Sanders has 4 catches for 25 yards. This group is going to get their chances as the run/pass mix is 84/63 thus far in favor of the run.
The UK offensive line is highlighted by Right Guard Kevin Mitchell (6-6, 289, Sr.) who was the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week last week against Miami (OH). The Left Tackle position is held down by Darrian Miller (6-5, 284, Jr.), while the Cats have gone between two different left guards in Zach West (6-4, 308, Soph) & Teven Eatmon-Nared (6-7, 330, Jr.). This week is looks as if West will get the nod at LG. The Cats have also flip-flopped the Center between Zach Myers (6-3, 277, RS-FR) and Jon Toth (6-5, 285, RS-FR) and Toth should get the start with Max Smith under center. Finally the RT spot is held by Jordan Swindle (6-7, 290, Soph). This group is probably feeling really good having allowed just 3 sacks on the season and fresh off a 675 yard performance against Miami (OH), including 262 yards on the ground.
Up front the Cards are lead by senior NT Brandon Dunn (6-3, 300). Dunn has been outstanding to start the year compiling 9 tackles and 2.5 sacks from the interior. Next to Dunn is Lexington native Roy Philon (6-3, 290, Sr.) who has 5 tackles and a sack thus far. On the outside the Cards use a healthy rotation of 5 players: Marcus Smith (6-3, 260, Sr.) 5 tkls, 1 TFL; Deiontrez Mount (6-5, 243, Jr.) 3 tkls; Lorenzo Mauldin (6-4, 243, Jr.) 6 tkls, 1.5 TFLs; Nick Dawson (6-3, 261, Fr) 8 tkls 1.5 TFLs; and BJ Dubose (6-5, 287, Jr.) 2 tkls. So far the Defensive Line has been completely different than it was in 2012.
At linebacker the group is headed by Senior MLB Preston Brown (6-0, 260) who leads the Cardinals in tackles with 17, 3.0 TFLs, 2 sacks, and a forced fumble. The way Preston Brown is playing in 2013 has been outstanding. Brown has always racked up big tackle totals, but him adding TFLs, Sacks, & Forced Fumbles will set him apart and take the Cardinal defense to the next level. James Burgess (6-0, 214, Soph) has also really stepped his game up from a year before. Burgess is 2nd in tackles with 15, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 pass break-ups. At strong side LB George Durant (6-0, 245, Sr.) has been very steady with 6 tackles.
When the Cards go to Nickel package Andrew Johnson (5-9, 186, Jr.) comes in and either Durant or Burgess (usually Durant) comes off the field. Johnson is also Louisville’s 3rd or 4th cornerback in the rotation. Jermaine Reve (6-0, 180, Soph) & Terrell Floyd (5-10, 201, Jr.) are the #1 group and have been fantastic thus far in 2013. The Cards are 20th in the nation in passing and have allowed just 145.5 yards per game in the first two games.
A big part of that passing game production has been because of Safeties Calvin Pryor (6-2, 208, Jr.) & Hakeem Smith (6-1, 179, Sr.) both ALL-Conference performers. Pryor has 11 tackles and an INT thus far, Hakeem has 5 tackles & an INT himself. With the way these two play the Cardinal Corners can play with confidence, and so can the Louisville Front 7. Pryor and Smith make the Louisville defense extremely effective both against the pass & the run.
Who Has The Edge?
Last year the Cards couldn’t rush Max Smith due to the quick drops & throws, but it still didn’t matter. The Cards didn’t allow much to the Wildcats until late in the contest and the game was decided. UK had 419 yards against WKU, but tallied 675 against Miami (OH). I think the Cardinal defense is significantly better than both of those groups and should be able to do a nice job. That being said, UK is light years ahead of where they were a year ago in terms of yardage production and are much more likely now to break a big play. The Cards have a distinct advantage on 3rd down, and that really is going to be the difference. If Louisville doesn’t give up the big gainer they shouldn’t have much problem slowing the Kentucky offense.