Kentucky spring wrap

2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 9, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Morgan Newton, WR La’Rod King, OG Stuart Hines, OG Larry Warford, DE Collins Ukwu, LB Danny Trevathan, LB Ronnie Sneed, S/LB Winston Guy

Key losses

QB Mike Hartline, RB Derrick Locke, WR Randall Cobb, WR Chris Matthews, DE DeQuin Evans

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Derrick Locke (887 yards)

Passing: Mike Hartline (3,178 yards)

Receiving: Randall Cobb (1,017 yards)

Tackles: Danny Trevathan* (144)

Sacks: Danny Trevathan* and Luke McDermott* (3)

Interceptions: Winston Guy* (3)

Spring answers

1. Strength up front: Despite being gutted at the skill positions on offense, Kentucky should be able to match up with just about anybody in the league on the offensive line. Four starters return, and the Wildcats will also have some flexibility with players capable of playing a couple of different positions. The guard tandem of Larry Warford and Stuart Hines has a chance to be dominant.

2. Morgan Newton takes control: After filling in for Mike Hartline as a spot starter each of the past two seasons, Newton took the reins this spring as the Wildcats’ full-time starting quarterback and showed the kind of consistency coach Joker Phillips has been looking for from the 6-foot-4, 235-pound junior. Newton was much more in command of the offense and also improved his accuracy. The trick now is playing that way in games.

3. Making the transition on defense: First-year defensive coordinator Rick Minter installed his multi-look defense designed for getting the Wildcats’ best athletes in a position to make more plays and help create more turnovers. Two of those players – Ridge Wilson and Winston Guy – will play hybrid roles next fall. Wilson will alternate between linebacker and a pass-rushing end position, while Guy will move up and play some linebacker in addition to his safety duties.

Fall questions

1. Who’s going to make plays on offense? Randall Cobb, Derrick Locke and Chris Matthews accounted for 32 of the Wildcats’ 53 touchdowns last season. They’re all gone now, leaving a huge void in the playmaking department. Sophomore running back Raymond Sanders was one of the stars of the spring and looks like he’s ready to step in for Locke, but there were as many dropped passes as there were big plays from the receivers this spring.

2. Will there be a big learning curve on defense? Phillips likes the aggressive approach on defense and is confident the new scheme will pay dividends. Along the way, though, there’s sure to be some busts and mental errors while everybody adjusts and works to get on the same page.

3. Can Kentucky get to the quarterback? The Wildcats managed just 21 sacks in 13 games last season, finishing tied for 10th in the SEC. They were also 10th in the league in opponents’ third-down conversions. The bottom line: Kentucky needs to do a better job of harassing the quarterback. The Wildcats could sure use big seasons from junior end Collins Ukwu and sophomore tackle Mister Cobble.