Mark Stoops has established a specific identity as Kentucky’s football coach. He wants to win with a strong defense and a strong running game. That hasn’t been the case very much this year as the offense has been more pass-heavy than usual and the defense has struggled against good teams. Liam Coen was brought back to Lexington to get the offense back to where it was two years ago. To say that’s been a failure would be an understatement.
Devin Leary was brought in at quarterback to help continue the success of Will Levis. The former NC State signal-caller has had a rough go of it this year, however. Leary has thrown as many interceptions this season as he had in his last two years at NC State. His completion percentage and other numbers are essentially as bad as they’ve been since his first year as a starter.
It’s hard to pinpoint what the issue is for Leary but I’ve been surprised by how inaccurate he has been. He always impressed me in the past with how he pinpointed throws and made good decisions. This year he has missed on a lot of easy throws and he seems very indecisive in the pocket. The creativity in this offense hasn’t seemed to be what it was during Coen’s last stint but I would be surprised if that doesn’t change this weekend.
Louisville will face another good running back this weekend in Ray Davis. The Vandy transfer has been electric at times for UK. His 280-yard game against a then-ranked Florida team is the type of performance the Cats need to do big things in the conference but he has tailed off since that game. The lack of carries for Davis has been a real issue for the offense as he has only been handed the ball 24 times over the last two games when he got 26 against the Gators.
If there’s one thing I would actually place a bet on, it would be Davis getting more touches this week. The offense has fallen off of a cliff after a solid start to the season. The major reason, in my opinion, is the lack of carries for Davis.
The Cats have a lot of talent on paper at the wide receiver position but this group has not performed well this season. Drops have been a big issue with the timing of the drops really standing out. The receivers also haven’t made many big plays throughout the season which makes it a bit easier to defend the run from a defensive standpoint. With the speed and size that this group has, you would just expect more.
With that being said, these guys have genuine talent and can be dangerous when they get the ball. Barion Brown is still super fast and he has shown that he can get behind a defense. Dane Key is the deep threat with his size and ability to make contested catches. Tayvion Robinson is the veteran possession guy but he is very quick with the ball in his hands and can turn a short catch into a long one. I think this group is where the creativity will come from. I’m expecting speed sweeps, reverses, and trick plays to get the ball in their hands to make plays.
The Kentucky offensive line has been a major part of the offensive identity under Stoops but for the second straight year, the group has not lived up to expectations. The Cats added players from the portal this offseason but they still aren’t where they had been a few years ago. Leary is under pressure a good amount with some of that being of his own doing. The run blocking has impressed me but they do have a lot of plays stop at the line or for a loss. I’m not sure there’s much of an advantage for Louisville here but the Cards’ run defense needs to revert back to what it was before the Miami game.