Kentucky Wildcats Spring Practice Preview: 3 Storylines To Watch

    Kentucky Wildcats spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Wildcats hit the field on March 2.

    March 2, 2017

    Kentucky Wildcats spring practice preview for 2017. Here are three storylines to watch when the Wildcats hit the field on March 2.


    Kentucky got itself over the proverbial hump last season, winning seven games and earning a trip to a bowl game for the first time in Mark Stoops’ tenure. Now, the Wildcats are looking to take the next step and become a contender in the SEC East and make their first trip ever to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

    The pieces are place for that to happen. Quarterback Stephen Johnson and running back Benny Snell Jr. form a dynamic backfield that could be one of the best in the conference, and the defense returns a lot of experienced players from a unit that improved over the course of the season last year.

    There are questions to be answered, though, and while they won’t all be answered during spring drills, the Wildcats can use the time to start working their way to the next level. Here are three storylines to watch out for as Kentucky starts spring practice on March 2.

    Kentucky Wildcats Spring Practice Storylines

    1. Snell, And Who Else?

    Snell jumped onto the scene as a true freshman last season, rushing for 1,091 yards and 13 touchdowns while sharing time with Stanley “Boom” Williams (1,170 yards, 7 touchdowns) in the backfield. With Williams off to the NFL, Snell has the opportunity to become one of the premier backs in the country.

    However, he will need a bit of rest every now and then, and that is where the real competition comes in this spring. Who will back up Snell? The favorite for that honor seems to be A.J. Rose, who spent last season as a redshirt on the scout team. He can be a bruiser, standing 6’1 and 212 lbs., and could help wear out opposing defenses with Snell.

    2. The Leap

    After Drew Barker went down with an injury, Stephen Johnson stepped in at quarterback and never looked back, throwing for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns to six interceptions while completing 54.7% of his passes.

    Now, for the Wildcats to be highly effective on offense, he will have to prove to be more efficient as a passer. The completion percentage has to improve, and Johnson will have a full spring (and fall) to make that true, while the turnovers have to be kept at a minimum.

    It isn’t often that a team makes the SEC Championship Game, where the Wildcats want to end up, with a mediocre quarterback (only Florida the last two years would be good examples), so Johnson must take the next step in his progress of being both a leader and quarterback that defenses fear.

    3. Experience in Trenches

    The defense returns its four top tacklers from last season, but the defensive front, in the words of Derrick Leblanc, will need to grow up fast as they are inexperienced.

    Courtney Miggins is gone, but his backup from last season Alvonte Bell is ready to take the role, while unproven second-team guys such as T.J. Carter and Matt Elam can fill in at nose guard with Naquez Pringle.

    The fact is this: if you don’t win the battle in the trenches in the SEC, you are not going to go far or win a lot of games. The Wildcats will have their hands full getting these guys ready for the season.

    MORE: SEC Football Predictions, Storylines For 2017 Season

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