Kentucky Football: Wildcats' 2019 Spring Preview

The Wildcats need quarterback Terry Wilson to improve if they are to replicate last season's success

Kentucky's annual Blue-White spring game is set to kick off on Friday, April 12 at Kroger Field as Mark Stoops and the Wildcats look to keep the momentum going after a historic 2018 season. Kentucky won 10 games last season, the most since 1977. What's more impressive is when you consider that the Wildcats won just two games in 2013, his first season.

 

Since then UK has gone 34-29, including a 17-23 mark in SEC play. All-American linebacker and running back Benny Snell Jr. are some of the key Wildcats that have moved on but there are still reasons for optimism in Lexington. Here's what to expect as Kentucky returns to the practice field.

 

5 Storylines to Watch During Kentucky's Spring Practice

 

1. Snell's successor?

Benny Snell Jr. had a marvelous junior season for the Wildcats, finishing second in the SEC with 1,449 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns. Snell was a huge part of the offense for three seasons leaving a big hole in the backfield. Asim Rose should be the guy who receives the bulk of the carries. He finished third on the team with 442 yards while averaging a healthy 6.2 yards per carry on his 71 attempts. Rose seems to have the advantage but don't sleep on freshman Travis Tisdale, who ran for more than 1,900 yards as a senior at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia.

 

2. Wilson's development

Terry Wilson returns at quarterback after being at the helm of a 10-win team as a sophomore. Wilson was absolutely a game-manager as Kentucky's formula relied primarily on a heavy dose of Snell mixed with some stingy defense. Wilson posted a nice completion rate (67 percent), but he threw for just 1,889 yards (12th in the SEC) with 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Wilson is a threat to run 547 yards, 4 TDs) but he needs to show improvement as a passer if the Wildcats have any hopes of matching last season's win total.

 

3. Who wants to ball with Bowden?

Lynn Bowden Jr. returns as the top pass catcher for Kentucky but the offense will need to find more reliable targets after losing five of the top seven receivers from 2018. Bowden led the way with 67 receptions for 745 yards and five touchdowns but among the returners the next on the list is fellow junior wideout Josh Ali, who had a total of 10 catches last season. Besides Ali, the hope is that Isaiah Epps and Ahmad Wagner also can take a step forward this spring.

 

4. Secondary must become primary

It's one thing when an SEC program like Alabama or Georgia loses its top five players in the secondary from the previous year. It's another when it happens to Kentucky. That is the task ahead of newly minted defensive coordinator Brad White. Upperclassmen Jordan Griffin and Davonte Robinson will be called upon to stabilize things on the back end while cornerback Cedrick Dort Jr. can hopefully take a big step forward this spring following the departures of Derrick Baity Jr., Lonnie Johnson Jr., and Chris Westry. The secondary's issues are exacerbated by the fact that the Wildcats also must replace linebacker Josh Allen. A unanimous All-American, Allen also won the Bronko Naguski Trophy, the Chuck Bednarik Award, and the Lott IMPACT Trophy.

 

5. Banking on young bucks

Nine players of Kentucky's 2019 recruiting class are early enrollees and that's a good thing given the personnel losses. Incoming freshmen Taj Dodson and Moses Douglass could push for playing time in a revamped secondary. Others to keep an eye on are junior college transfer Marquez Bembry and freshmen Jared Casey, a four-star recruit from Louisville's Ballard High School. Those two will be part of the competition to see who can fill the enormous shoes of the aforementioned Allen.

 

— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.

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