It’s Friday and that Q-n’-A swappin’ time again, and this week we’re lucky to have Tru from behemoth Kentucky blog A Sea of Blue here to answer a quick five-pack of questions about the ‘Cats. Enjoy.
1. You’ve said you expect Fidler, Newton, and Cobb to all take snaps at various points on Saturday. Which of those three do you think Kentucky will have the most success with? Who’s most dangerous to Auburn?
“I think that UK will have the most success with Cobb, just because he can do so many things that it’s hard to scheme against him. The downside to Cobb is that he nearly has to move the pocket to be able to see over the line, which limits him a bit — if you know he will be rolling out, you can plan for that. Auburn’s defense is not great against the run, so Cobb is a serious danger in combination with Locke.
“Fidler is a drop-back passer, so he will be Mike Hartline lite. He has a stronger arm than Hartline, but has yet to prove he can throw the ball any better downfield. Morgan Newton is the most interesting case. Newton is an extremely athletic 6’4” 220#, and is capable of most of what Randall Cobb can do, plus he has a strong, accurate arm. His problem, of course, is youth, having never taken an SEC snap. My experience with freshman QB’s in the SEC is that they can be tremendously talented, but unless they are once-in-a lifetime talents, they are not ready for the speed and power of the SEC in their freshman year.
“My gut feeling is, if Newton were that good, he would have won the spot from Hartline already. Plus, Brooks’ offense is not simple, and he will have to scale it back significantly for Newton but not for Fidler, who has been in the system for his entire time at UK. But you never know. Newton is a wildcard, and his athleticism makes him a threat.”
2. In your opinion, does the losing streak have Kentucky circling the wagons or demoralized? Do you expect that the close loss in Columbia will give the team confidence it can get over the hump, or make them believe that even their better efforts won’t be enough?
“Psychologically, I think Kentucky is okay. Kentucky played scared against Florida, and lacked any confidence they could compete. Against Alabama, they discovered the could compete, even with one of the best teams in the nation. Versus South Carolina, they knew they could win and almost did. I think you’ll see that same mentality from here on out.
“From what I have read and seen, the players are confident they can turn this thing around even without Mike Hartline. That either falls under the rubric of irrational exuberance, or they truly feel like they have the tools to beat the Tigers. We’ll find out Saturday evening.”
3. With Trevard Lindley out, who’s Kentucky’s best defensive player? Which unit of the D do you give the best chance of slowing Auburn’s offense down?
“Overall, that would be a toss up between Micah Johnson (MLB) and Corey Peters (DT). In the defensive backfield it would be sophomores Randall Burden and strong safety Winston Guy, unless Paul Warford is healthy. Warford would really help with our youth problem at cornerback, but his nagging quad injury makes him questionable. He has practiced two days in a row, but he is not going to be 100%, although he will likely see some time unless he has a setback.
“I think that the defensive line will be the key. Kentucky has a solid defensive line and Corey Peters is a good pass rusher. If we can keep the heat on Auburn and manage to control their running game somewhat at the line of scrimmage, I think this will be a very competitive game.”
4. We know about Cobb and Derrick Locke (or at least “we,” meaning Auburn fans, should), but who else on Kentucky’s offense will Auburn’s defense have to keep an eye on?
“Chris Matthews, the JUCO receiver transfer, is due for a breakout game if the QB can get him the ball. Matthews is 6’5”, 210# and fast. If he can ever learn to run a clean route, he can be big trouble for any defensive backfield.
“Alfonso Smith is also a very capable back, and even though he isn’t as good at seeing holes as Locke is, he is the very devil to catch if he gets in the defensive backfield.”
5. What’s the one thing about Auburn that really has you worried, and what’s the one thing about Auburn that makes you feel better about the ‘Cats’ chances?
“The Auburn offense is different from anything we have faced, much in the same way that Florida’s was. Kentucky seems to do pretty well against conventional offenses, but exotic or unusual offenses seem to give them trouble.
“Auburn’s defense is not as strong as any of the last three we have faced, and that gives me confidence that Kentucky can score, even without Hartline. The question is, can UK stop Auburn enough times for that to matter?”
Many thanks to Tru, and be sure to check out A Sea of Blue for the Kentucky view of things as we get set for kickoff. For a different version of an Auburn-Kentucky blog exchange, you can also read WarBlogle‘s Q-n’-A with Kentucky Sports Radio.