UK Football must make good on promises



By Nick Gray

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After a 2014 season that started with promise and ended in disappointment, the University of Kentucky football team enters a new season where promises need to become reality.

Imagine how different this offseason would have been had UK won just one more game. The 5-1 start to open the season seems like a fuzzy memory in hindsight. At the time, losing six-straight games after such an impressive start seemed like a bad joke. Well, the impossible became not only possible, but it became UK’s nightmarish reality.

With that, UK is a tad wiser, a tad more experienced and a tad more explosive. The Cats may also be a tad luckier schedule wise, but that may just be wishful thinking in a conference as brutal as the Southeastern Conference.

The 2015-16 home schedule appears to be unbearable and the stretch of games in September and October — hosting Florida, Missouri, Auburn and Tennessee around road games at Mississippi State — will determine whether or not a bowl berth is attainable. There are certainly winnable games in November. However, if UK opens the season 2-6 — it will only be favored in two of its first eight games — the postseason is almost unrealistic.

Stoops has said that his football team is better than last season, but questions still remain after the departures of defensive anchors Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. The defense will have to be better, and the improvements will need to come from players with almost no experience.

We know the middle linebackers will be solid if not unspectacular. We know that if the secondary continues to employ the same members — Cody Quinn, J.D. Harmon, Fred Tiller and Blake McClain — then the Cats will struggle to cover talented wide receivers.

However, if defensive ends Denzil Ware and Jason Hatcher convert their athleticism to success on the field, the Cats’ defense may stand a chance in the SEC.

But only time will tell.

For the first time since Stoops took over the program from a beleaguered Joker Phillips, a bowl game becomes not just wishful thinking, but an expectation.