The bye week has come and gone and the Kentucky Wildcats football team will now turn away from improving the younger players and resting up the veterans and will focus on preparing for a tougher-than-you’d-think Jacksonville State team. The defense has been better this season than most statistics would indicate and lengthy stays on the playing field have watered down their overall performance. The offense has been putrid at times, but has shown small glimpses of hope at others. The improvements I think this 2011 team will need to make for a second half push are as follows:1. Get Newton’s confidence back
Morgan Newton proved that he was capable of executing the Kentucky offense as a true freshman and led the Cats to improbable wins @ Georgia and @ Auburn among others. He has a unique skill set that can be utilized to run the offense, but it’s time to stop trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Newton is a different type of Quarterback than Andre Woodson and Mike Hartline were and the offense will inevitably function differently with him running it as we have seen. This staff recruited Newton and knew his style when he was brought to Lexington and needs to adapt the offensive system to fit his skills. If Newton can regain his confidence and get back to the player that he was as a true freshman, this offense should have an easier time moving the ball.2. Throw the ball deep and throw it often
One of the inherent downsides to throwing the deep passes (20+ yards) is that they are more likely to be incomplete, require the line to block for longer, and require a greater amount of arm strength from the quarterback. UK’s receivers have struggled to catch all passes and the shorter routes aren’t being completed at a high rate anyway, the offensive line is beginning to gel and has had an additional week to heal up with the bye, and Morgan Newton has a howitzer for a right arm. If you’re going to throw an incompletion, why not throw one 20+ yards down the field instead of 4 yards? If nothing else, keeping the defense on its toes will open up the running game and force the safeties to at least honor the threat of a deep pass. With several receivers standing 6’4 or taller, this could give the Cats some big-play potential to spark the offense.3. Get Brandon Gainer and Jonathan George involved in the running game
Losing Josh Clemons really hurts the offense as he was probably the most consistent player the unit had despite being a true freshman. Getting Raymond Sanders back will certainly help, but Sanders has fought injury issues in both of his two years at Kentucky, so it will be tough to count on him to log the kind of carries that a feature back normally would. CoShik Williams runs as hard as anyone on the team, but with a slight frame and a similar playing style to Sanders, he may not be the answer to fill the void left by Clemons injury. That leaves Jonathan George and Brandon Gainer as the top candidates to give the Cats the versatile player that can fight for the tough yards up the middle and give Kentucky a different look from the scat-back styles of Sanders and Williams. While George has played well in his limited action, Gainer has some serious potential and was one of Kentucky’s top signees of the 2010 class. Injuries, a late clearance from the NCAA and fumble issues have limited his ability to contribute so far, but giving him an opportunity could pay long-term dividends and would show fans what he can do and why the coaches continually praise him.
Will these three things guarantee Kentucky a 6-0 finish to the season? Of course not, but they certainly can’t hurt. At a time when a large portion of the fanbase is calling for blood and talking about a head coaching change, these are my own suggestions to get things back on track.Keep following www.wildcatbluenation.com for the best in Kentucky basketball and football news, rumors, and opinions. By Kentucky fans for Kentucky fans