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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Likes and Dislikes

Five and Five: Kentucky

What are five things I like about Kentucky in 2010? What about five things I don’t? This list has all the answers.

Likes

1. A solid receiver corps. We all know about Randall Cobb, but I’m looking forward to a big senior season from former JUCO transfer Chris Matthews, who should be more familiar with the offense in his second season in the system.

2. Running back Derrick Locke. He’s come a long way, from an undersized change-of-pace back to, now, an every-down back. He’ll continue to be relied upon for significant action due to Kentucky’s questionable quarterback situation.

3. Despite some losses, I like what Kentucky has along the defensive line and backfield. The Wildcats are in good shape at end, and return three players — including both cornerbacks — with starting experience in the secondary.

4. A nice non-conference slate. Kentucky does face rival Louisville on the road, but the Wildcats should be confident in their ability to be 4-0 outside of SEC action.

5. Joker Phillips has done more than enough, particularly at Kentucky, to deserve this opportunity. His experience under Rich Brooks is certainly a positive as well.

Dislikes

1. Yet again, uncertainty under center. We’ll see the same cast of characters competing for the starting job in 2010: senior Mike Hartline, sophomore Morgan Newton and redshirt freshman Ryan Mossakowski. Someone needs to step up; my money is on Hartline to start the year, Newton to finish it.

2. Question marks at linebacker. There’s simply not a lot of experience here, though Kentucky could receive an enormous boost from sophomore strong Ridge Wilson, who could crack into the starting lineup on the strong side.

3. I mentioned that easy non-conference schedule. Check out how Kentucky opens SEC play: at Florida and at Mississippi; home for Auburn, South Carolina and Georgia. It won’t be easy getting off to a good start.

4. The offensive line, which will rebuild around a new coach, Mike Summers, and four new starters. Look for plenty of competition at every spot but left guard, where Stuart Hines lends some consistency and experience to an unproven line.

5. Can Phillips keep the bowl streak alive? Or were the last four years, the four consecutive bowl trips, purely due to Rich Brooks? In all fairness, Phillips has played a big role in Kentucky’s success since 2006.

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