At a time when baseball is at its best, a curve ball or change-up could be Kentucky’s offense of choice.
Less than a year ago, Kentucky quarterbacks one and two were out for the rivalry game with Tennessee so Joker Phillips and his staff drafted senior wide receiver Matt Roark who last played quarterback in high school.
All Roark did was beat the Vols, something that future NFL quarterbacks Tim Couch, Jared Lorenzen, Andre Woodson and all other Kentucky qbs since 1984 failed to accomplish. With Roark, the Wildcats emphasized option, quarterback sweeps, draws, and other plays from the past. Roark threw six times and completed four, but ran 24 times for 124 yards.
Once again, the Wildcats’ first two quarterbacks are out with injuries. To make matters worse, Maxwell Smith and Patrick Towles were Kentucky’s two best passers and Arkansas’ susceptibility to the pass is well documented.
Unless there is another wide receiver with quarterback skills hiding in the weeds, Kentucky will play freshman Jalen Whitlow and-or senior Morgan Newton. Between them, they have completed 42 percent of their passes with five interceptions and no touchdowns — stats that raise a question about the Wildcats’ strategy.
Will Kentucky restrict the offense as it did against Tennessee or go in the opposite direction and throw it all over the lot against Arkansas’ secondary?
Kentucky does not have a running back or receiver in the top dozen in the SEC so the stats don’t offer any clues.
Cognizant of deadlines and the likelihood of clock-stopping incomplete passes, I vote for run-run-run. Using the tactic that gives the Wildcats the best to chance to win, Kentucky will throw.
Even last week, when Auburn was 22-of-35 for 281 yards, the Tigers had receivers behind the Arkansas defense and their very average quarterbacks overthrew them. In addition, Arkansas is starting a pure freshman at one corner, a sophomore back from an injury on the other side, plus a freshman at linebacker and another freshman backing up an inexperienced senior at middle linebacker.
The silver lining to the injuries and the resulting fast track for Will Hines, Davyon McKinney, A.J. Turner, and Otha Peters is that they could be the foundation for Arkansas’ defense in 2013.
Ever since Peters made a last-minute switch from Tennessee, I have anticipated what the linebacker from Covington, La., can do at a position where the Razorbacks were desperate. Today, he should play quite a bit, maybe both in the middle and on the weakside.
Judging by the schools that offered them scholarships and the positions they play, Peters and tackle Darius Philon were Arkansas’ prime defensive signees in February. Peters abandoned the Vols, but he also had scholarship offers from Nebraska, Texas A&M, TCU, Pittsburgh, Arizona, and others. Philon, who is being redshirted, was offered by Alabama, Auburn, and Mississippi State. When suitors of that ilk are left in the dust, I pay attention. Beating Louisiana Tech, Indiana, Southern Miss, Arkansas State University and the like for players leaves me cold.
ARKANSAS 31, KENTUCKY 13.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.