clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Missouri's defense will need to rein in a boom-or-bust Kentucky offense

New, 10 comments
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Since I'll pushing the hell out of these for the foreseeable future, I encourage you to check out Kentucky's statistical profile at Study Hall. It will be referenced in both this depth chart piece and tomorrow's preview.

Kentucky's in an interesting place right now. Early in Mark Stoops' third season in charge, he's crafted a team that isn't particularly bad at anything ... and isn't particularly good at anything. They are woefully inefficient but break quite a few big plays (like Missouri's offense, only better). The running game is especially hit-or-miss, with far-below-average success rates and major explosiveness. The defense, meanwhile, has been extremely bend-don't-break this year, great at preventing you from getting the big plays that they get, but allowing you all the four- to six-yard gains you can stomach.

If you play well against the Wildcats, you will beat them. If you don't, they will beat you.

Offense

QB
Patrick Towles (6'5, 240, Jr.) -- 45-for-87 (52%), 575 yards, 3 TD, 4 INT, 10 sacks (5.2 yds/att), 8 carries, 56 yards (7.0), 1 TD
Drew Barker (6'3, 225, RSFr.)
Reese Phillips (6'2, 225, So.)

Patrick Towles is a big dude and former four-star prospect. He was just promising enough last year and just solid enough in fall camp to hold off the very well-regarded Drew Barker for the starting job ... and he's been wholly mediocre this year. He completed only 16 of 34 passes against UL-Lafayette but hit on a bunch of big plays, gaining 257 yards and hitting on three TD passes.

The next week against South Carolina, he was wonderfully accurate -- 21-for-29 -- on passes that didn't actually go anywhere (192 yards). And against Florida's awesome pass defense, he was just bad: 8-for-24, 126 yards, two picks.

Towles is still the starter, but it will be interesting to see what happens if he continues to struggle.

RB
Stanley "Boom" Williams (5'9, 196, So.) -- 40 carries, 322 yards (8.1), 1 TD; 5 targets, 4 catches, 23 yards (4.6)
Jojo Kemp (5'10, 200, Jr.) -- 24 carries, 134 yards (5.6), 1 TD; 4 targets, 3 catches, 3 yards (0.8)
Mikel Horton (6'1, 226, So.) -- 17 carries, 69 yards (4.1), 2 TD; 2 targets, 2 cathes, 18 yards (9.0)
Sihiem King (5'9, 172, Fr.) -- 1 carry, 1 yard

FB
Will Tom Collins (5'11, 238, Jr.)
Tanner Fink (6'2, 233, Jr.)

Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, previously of West Virginia, has tried to make Towles' job pretty easy. UK's passing quite a bit on standard downs and running quite a bit on passing downs, which is a nice way to protect your quarterback from high-pressure situations. And Towles' passing line is still pretty bad.

That said, the run game has massive potential. Boom Williams and Mikel Horton were both four-star recruits, and Jojo Kemp has shown potential for quite a while. Williams is a scary presence in the open field, and thus far Horton has proven decent in short-yardage situations.

That said, these guys don't actually see the open field very often. UK's only 95th in rushing success rate, and only 40 percent of Williams' carries gain even five yards. If Mizzou can control the line of scrimmage, big-play opportunities will be rare.

WR
Jeff Badet (6'0, 182, So.) -- 13 targets, 6 catches, 144 yards (11.1), 1 TD
Blake Bone (6'5, 208, So.) -- 8 targets, 5 catches, 44 yards (5.5), 1 TD
T.V. Williams (5'10, 155, So.) -- 1 target, 0 catches

WR
Dorian Baker (6'3, 208, So.) -- 22 targets, 11 catches, 139 yards (6.3)
Thaddeus Snodgrass (6'1, 190, RSFr.)

WR
Garrett Johnson (5'11, 182, So.) -- 14 targets, 10 catches, 134 yards (9.6), 1 TD
Ryan Timmons (5'10, 192, Jr.) -- 6 targets, 3 catches, 58 yards (9.7); 1 carry, -3 yards
Charles Walker (5'11, 203, So.) -- 1 target, 1 catch, 12 yards

TE
C.J. Conrad (6'5, 245, Fr.) -- 1 target, 0 catches
Darryl Long (6'4, 246, RSFr.)

UK's got a diverse receiving corps, with five guys seeing at least a couple of targets per game. Dorian Baker's the possession guy, and Jeff Badet, Ryan Timmons, and others have shown solid big-play potential for a couple of years.

Because of the diversity here, the Wildcats will provide an interesting test of both Mizzou's defensive backs and Barry Odom's tactics. Will he end up playing more nickel than he has to date? Does he still trust someone like Donavin Newsom to man ths slot?

LT
Jordan Swindle (6'7, 309, Sr.) -- 26 career starts
Kyle Meadows (6'5, 298, So.) -- 1 career start

LG
Zach West (6'4, 309, Sr.) -- 32 career starts
Nick Haynes (6'5, 308, So.) -- 2 career starts

C
Jon Toth (6'5, 310, Jr.) -- 26 career starts
Zach Myers (6'3, 300, Jr.) -- 1 career start

RG
Ramsey Meyers (6'4, 320, So.) -- 15 career starts
Cole Mosier (6'6, 335, So.) -- 2 career starts

RT
George Asafo-Adjei (6'5, 325, Fr.) -- 3 career starts
Kyle Meadows (6'5, 298, So.)

UK ranks 116th in Stuff Rate, with 25 percent of its carries going for zero or negative yards. Meanwhile, Towles got sacked six times by Florida last week.

Kentucky probably won't have to score a ton to beat Missouri, but it's hard to see the Wildcats manning a steady challenge. If they can break off some big plays, Mizzou's in trouble, but I assume that with the advantages Mizzou seems to have up front, neither team will be particularly efficient in this one.

Defense

DE
Farrington Huguenin (6'4, 282, Sr.) -- 10.5 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 PBU
Courtney Miggins (6'5, 285, Jr.)
Alvonte Bell (6'5, 260, Jr.)

NG
Melvin Lewis (6'4, 332, Sr.) -- 6.5 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack)
Matt Elam (6'7, 360, So.) -- 5.0 tackles
Reggie Meant (6'4, 302, So.) -- 9.5 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack) -- questionable/doubtful

DT
Cory Johnson (6'3, 300, Sr.) -- 4.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL (0.5 sacks)
Adrian Middleton (6'3, 295, RSFr.) -- 0.5 tackles

DE/LB
Jabari Johnson (6'1, 272, Sr.) -- 9.5 tackles, 1 TFL (0.5 sacks)
Denzil Ware (6'2, 255, RSFr.) -- 8.0 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF

Despite losing two strong pass rushers in Bud Dupree and Za'Darius Smith, UK has mounted a solid pass rush so far, with a bunch of different guys spending time in the backfield. But the Wildcats have allowed a 56.5% success rate on the ground, 125th in the country. Despite plenty of meat in the middle of the defense, UK has been a pushover against a good run offense.

SLB
Jason Hatcher (6'3, 252, Jr.) -- 2.0 tackles (1 game)
Josh Allen (6'5, 210, Fr.) -- 0.5 tackles

MLB
Josh Forrest (6'3, 255, Sr.) -- 23.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 INT, 4 PBU
Jordan Jones (6'2, 215, Fr.) -- 2.5 tackles

WLB
Ryan Flannigan (6'2, 225, Sr.)
Khalid Henderson (6'1, 235, Sr.) -- 24.0 tackles, 2 TFL (1 sack)

Of course ... Mizzou doesn't have a good run offense, so this might be a "resistible force vs. movable object" situation. In theory, the Tigers will have Russell Hansbrough back, but UK's getting a boost too -- Jason Hatcher's back after missing the first two games because of a suspension, and Ryan Flannigan's back after missing the first three games with a shoulder injury. The two combined for 66.5 tackles and seven tackes for loss last season.

The UK front seven hasn't made enough plays, especially against the run, but the Wildcats have the full battery (sans maybe tackle Reggie Meant, anyway) back for this one. And honestly, Mizzou bears the burden of proof against anybody at this point. Until proven otherwise, I'll assume the Tigers aren't doing much on the ground against anybody.

NB
Blake McClain (5'11, 195, Jr.) -- 5.5 tackles, 1 TFL
Kendall Randolph (6'0, 180, So.) -- 2.5 tackles, 0.5 TFL

CB
Chris Westry (6'4, 185, Fr.) -- 6.0 tackles, 1 TFL (1 sack), 1 INT, 1 PBU
J.D. Harmon (6'2, 197, Jr.) -- 7.5 tackles, 2 INT, 1 FF
Fred Tiller (6'0, 180, Sr.)

S
Marcus McWilson (6'0, 208, Jr.) -- 13.5 tackles
Mike Edwards (6'0, 200, RSFr.)

S
A.J. Stamps (6'0, 205, Sr.) -- 13.0 tackles, 3 PBU
Darius West (6'0, 206, RSFr.) -- 1.0 tackle

CB
Cody Quinn (5'10, 180, Sr.) -- 6.0 tackles, 1 PBU
Derrick Baity (6'3, 180, Fr.) -- 1.0 tackle

Despite a solid pass rush, Kentucky has been pretty inefficient against pass attacks, too -- 89th in success rate (efficiency), 19th in Passing IsoPPP (explosiveness).

The Wildcats will force Mizzou to remain patient with the football, with shorter passes and screens. Can the Tigers execute well enough to work the ball back and forth a few yards at a time? They haven't yet...

Special Teams

K
Austin MacGinnis (5'10, 175, So.) -- 7-8 PAT, 4-4 FG under 40, 2-3 FG over 40; 17 kickoffs, 63.6 average, 47.1% touchbacks

P
Landon Foster (6'1, 178, Sr.) -- 14 punts, 40.4 average, 4 fair caught, 3 inside 20

KR
Sihiem King (5'9, 172, Fr.) -- 6 KR, 19.3 average
J.D. Harmon (6'2, 197, Jr.) -- 1 KR, 60 yards

PR
Ryan Timmons (5'10, 192, Jr.) -- 3 PR, 8.3 average, 3 fair catches

Kentucky had massive coverage issues last year and has allowed 14.8 yards per punt return (99th in FBS), albeit in only four returns so far. Assuming there are quite a few punts in this game (a fair assumption, I'd say), there's a chance for Mizzou to derive a field position advantage, as Corey Fatony has very much been the better punter so far. Field position is enormous in close, low-scoring games, and I'd say this qualifies as such.