Mark Stoops went out and got himself one of them big-play offenses and Kentucky has a completely new identity this year. Stoops hired Liam Coen from Rams in the NFL and he has brought a more balanced and explosive offense to Lexington. Transfers were utilized to plug major holes on the offense and the Cats now have the ability to score with just about anyone.
The biggest transfer for the Cats is Will Levis. The 6-3/232 transfer from Penn State threw four touchdown passes in his first game and the offense has consistently made big plays with him under center. Levis has a big arm and he is mobile enough to extend plays and scramble for first downs. Levis is also really inconsistent when it comes to his accuracy and his decision-making can leave a lot to be desired. The majority of his 11 interce[tions this year have been on throws that he probably shouldn’t have made. As a runner, he also does well to run hard and fight for extra yardage.
Chris Rodriguez continues the tradition of UK having a running back that’s been there forever. The Cats are still a run-heavy offense and Rodriguez is putting up another really good season. Rodriguez is well over 1,000 yards on the season and this new offense takes some of the load off of him. He is only averaging about 18 carries per game this year and he’s making the most of them with a 6+ yard per carry average. He and Kavosiay Smoke combine to make up a very good duo in the backfield. The one issue is that Rodriguez fumbles the ball a lot. It’s a major issue for him that UofL needs to take advantage of.
The wide receiver position looked pretty grim for the Cats before Coen was hired. His hiring coincided with Wan’Dale Robinson transferring home to become Levis’ primary target. Robinson went over 1,000 yards this past weekend and he has a chance to break some UK receiving records this season. They utilize him in multiple ways and Georgia is the only team that’s been able to completely contain him this year. I expect Coen to work Robinson into the offense even more this week with plays that get the ball in his hands running off the edge. Jet sweeps reverses, or even lining him up in the backfield. UofL has had some issues on the edge and UK will try to exploit them.
Josh Ali is the other big factor in the UK passing game. Ali is a veteran receiver who has blossomed with improved quarterback play. He led the team in catches last year but his speed has been a bigger factor this season as the offense has schemed players open more often. Ali also enjoys less attention from defenses due to Robinson’s abilities. He’s made the most of it this season.
The tight end position also deserves some notice as Izayah Cummings has shifted over from receiver and Justin Rigg has become a reliable target who can score at any time in plus territory. Cummings runs well and he’s impressed me with his ability to get open. Rigg is just an all-around good player and he has reliable hands. Both of these guys get plenty of plays where they are the target. UofL can’t focus so much on the receivers that they forget about these guys.
The strength of UK’s offense over the last half-decade has been the offensive line. While the new offense has shifted the focus to the skill positions, the line is still the group that makes the offense go. The Cats still do a good job of avoiding negative plays and they are solid when it comes to protecting Levis. One thing that stood out to me this past weekend was New Mexico State getting free runners on blitzes. Levis was forced to improvise a lot against a very bad team. Maybe that is something UofL can build off of.