This past Saturday, the University of Kentucky was fortunate enough to escape Papa John's Stadium with a victory, its fourth in a row against the Louisville Cardinals. Yet, despite the victory against their hated rivals, there were still many lessons to be learned for the 2010 Wildcats.
Although these lessons may not have affected the outcome of the opener, they will have an immense effect on the remainder of the season. Acknowledging these areas of inadequacy and making the appropriate adjustments could mean the difference between a losing season and a fifth-straight bowl appearance.
The following are a couple of the biggest lessons learned in Kentucky's victory against Louisville.
Kentucky Needs Joe Mansour to Step Up
Coming out of high school, Joe Mansour was ranked the No. 2 punter in the country by Scout.com. Consequently, expectations have been extremely high for the freshman from LaGrange, Ga.
These expectations were tempered a bit because of returning junior Ryan Tydlacka's exceptional performance as the Wildcats' starting punter last season. So, in order to optimize the roster, the coaching staff had planned to utilize Mansour's talents primarily as a placekicker and kickoff specialist.
The move made sense because Mansour was also a three-time All-State selection as a placekicker in high school, as well as the placekicker for Georgia's All-Decade team as decided by MaxPreps.com.
Unfortunately, Mansour's transition from high school to college hasn't been quite as seamless as many had hoped. The immense talent that helped become one of the most prized recruits in the nation has also proved to be a hindrance to his development.
He has the kind of leg strength that special teams coaches dream about, but he is still very raw mechanically. In high school he was able to rely solely on his natural ability, but the Kentucky staff expects much more from him. For him to see the field as a placekicker, the coaches have made it clear that he will first have to sharpen his technique.
With Mansour unavailable, Tydlacka has been forced to pull double duty as the team's starting punter and placekicker. Sadly, Tydlacka struggled against Louisville, missing both an extra point and a 25-yard field goal attempt.
If Kentucky is going to succeed in special teams, Mansour will first have to prove to the coaching staff that he is ready to take over the role as the team's starting placekicker.
Randall Cobb Needs More Touches
If Kentucky's success this season depends on any one player, it is wide receiver Randall Cobb. The junior from Alcoa, Tenn. emerged as Kentucky's best skill player last season when he accounted for over 1,000 combined receiving and rushing yards, in addition to excelling as a kick returner.
Cobb again flashed his game-changing ability against Louisville when he broke off a 51-yard touchdown run. He also provided one of the best catches of the season when he prevented a likely interception by making a one-handed grab on a ball thrown behind him.
Unfortunately, Cobb's impact on offense was largely limited to these two plays as he accounted for only four carries, two receptions, and one pass attempt.
Obviously Louisville's defense did all it could to prevent the Wildcats from getting the ball into Cobb's hands, but this should serve as no excuse for offensive coordinator Randy Sanders. Louisville's defense is nowhere near the caliber of some of the SEC defenses that Kentucky will be forced to face later this season.
If Kentucky hopes to win games against these SEC powerhouses, Randall Cobb will have to be more involved on offense. Defenses may be able to limit his receptions through double coverage, but he can still make a large impact through the use of designed plays.
In fact, Kentucky's most potent offensive formation over the last year has been the "WildCobb," the team's variation on the recently popularized Wildcat offense in which Randall Cobb assumes the quarterback position. In this formation, Cobb is allowed the option to either pass, hand off, or run the ball himself.
For the team to continue its success on offense against tougher defenses, the coaching staff will have to use the "WildCobb" formation more often, in addition to designated screen plays and reverses.
The bottom line is that seven offensive touches simply isn't enough for a player who college football analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has described as the best all-around player in the nation.