The 2009 Wildcats are looking to improve from last season's 7-6 (2-6) record. Rich Brooks will be leading the Wildcats for his sixth season, a career that has been glorious for Wildcat fans.
The Wildcats under Brooks have made it to three bowl games in a row, and they have won all three. Brooks and the Wildcats should have a better season then last, since they returned with almost all of their defense and offense.
The recent ruling on defensive end Jeremy Jarmon is disappointing. Jarmon was found ineligible for the upcoming season due to a failed drug test. Jarmon's last season was a huge part of Kentucky's defense. Without him, sophomore Chandler Burden will be asked to step up in his place.
A player that all Wildcat fans will have their eye on is Randall Cobb. Cobb took snaps at quarterback, along with playing wide receiver. Cobb rushed for seven touchdowns and caught two. He will most likely be playing wide receiver in 2009.
Brooks also has installed the famous wildcat offense in to their repertoire for Cobb. Having these select plays in the Wildcats playbook could make for much excitement this season.
Mike Hartline will be under a lot of pressure this season. Hartline was the starting quarterback last year for Brooks. He struggled mightily and many fans were disturbed at how poorly he played throughout the season.
It will not be any easier for him this year as the fans in the bluegrass will be excited about their two incoming quarterbacks, Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski. Newton is a dual threat quarterback while Mossakowski is a pocket passer. I do believe we will end up seeing both of these quarterbacks before seasons end.
The load on the ground will most likely be handled by both senior speedster Alfonso Smith and Derrick Locke, who had limited playing time in 2008 due to injuries but is looking to have a breakout season after his stellar freshman year.
The receiving core should be very impressive this year with standout playmaker Randall Cobb there all season and Kyrus Lanxter, who was hurt for most of last season but has much potential.
The more exciting part of the season should be the defense for the Wildcats. There will be high expectations for senior cornerback Trevard Lindley, who was eligible for the NFL draft, but pulled his name to return for his senior season. Looking to improve on his draft stock, he is one of the best shutdown corners in the SEC.
A lot of hype also surrounds outside linebacker Micah Johnson. Johnson, like Lindley, elected to return for his senior season and will be the defensive cornerstone in order for Kentucky to have a good rush defense.
One likely candidate to have a breakout season is sophomore Winston Guy, the Lexington native. He will be battling for the safety position. He could also help on special teams. He may be one of the Cats kick returners with his amazing speed.
While the pressure will be on the players, the coach who has a lot to prove for the Wildcats in 2009 is offensive coordinator Joker Phillips. Phillips, the heir to the throne once Brooks decides he has had enough, will be looking to develop his young quarterbacks.
Phillips will have all the tools necessary to compete on the offensive side of the ball for the Cats; although, this will not be the same offense he had when Andre Woodson and Keenan Burton were here. It will have many scoring options.
Phillips needs to prove he has what it takes on the offensive side of the ball, which he has done in the past before he takes the job as lead signal caller at Kentucky.
All in all, Kentucky football should be a tough win for some of the elite programs in the SEC. Compared to years past, the Cats will be expected to perform at the high level they played two years ago.
This could be the season the Wildcats end one of those horrendous losing streaks to Florida and Tennessee. They also will have a chance to finally beat Steve Spurrier. Look for the Wildcats to make a fourth straight bowl game and have an overall good season for the SEC.