We’re a month away from the state to the 2016 Kentucky football season. There are high hopes this year, and the feeling that I’m getting is that this is the year Coach Mark Stoops has to prove that he has molded this Kentucky football team into a team that can go to and win a bowl game.
The 2014 class of recruits has played okay to start their careers, but expectations are high for them to start performing. They were the 22nd ranked recruiting class in the country by 247sports.com, and were the first class that Mark Stoops had a full season to recruit.
The 2014 class includes talent like Drew Barker, Matt Elam, Dorian Baker, and Boom Williams. Boom has been the only consistent producer out of the bunch, but had a hard time remaining healthy last year and needs to prove that he can stay on the field.
Dorian Baker has had a hard time with dropped passes, but possesses the talent and size to be a playmaker if he can limit the mistakes. Baker should have a little bit easier of a time catching balls from Drew Barker instead of Patrick Towles, who threw a wobbly pass that sometimes were hard to reel in.
Matt Elam needs to be the run stopping presence in the middle that he was supposed to be when Kentucky snaked him away from Alabama in recruiting. He has been slow and has had trouble maintaining his weight, but has been working out well and has had his weight under control according to Coach Stoops. He needs to be explosive in the middle if Kentucky’s defense has any shot of upsetting anyone this year.
Drew Barker needs to find comfort. The job is his for the taking, and he needs to assume the leadership position on the team. I think it is overlooked how hard it was for both Towles and Barker to play last year with the other one completely ready on the sidelines if they messed up. Neither of them looked comfortable at all out there last year, and the pressure got to them. Barker needs to create continuity on the offense and be a calming influence out there, instead of panicking and having 3 and outs as soon as the going gets tough.
This is the team that Stoops has been waiting for, and he needs for the 2014 class to step it up, or Stoops could be on the hot seat by the end of the year.