In Thursday's CatsIllustrated.com football notes we're rounding up the top stories related to Mark Stoops' program.
PFF recognizes Derrick Baity's impressive sophomore season, an update on Lynn Bowden's status, a ticket sales report and everyone's asking about Kentucky's defensive line.
Pro Football Focus is continuing with its steady stream of research into the last college football season as a form of preparation for the season to come. Last week we showed you where their research showed Denzil Ware was one of the top sack and pressure men in the SEC, at least among those returning this year.
Now, as you can see from PFF's graphic above, they're recognizing junior Kentucky cornerback Derrick Baity. According to PFF, Baity is second only to Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick among returning SEC players when it comes to combined interceptions and pass breakups.
Baity had three interceptions last season, which tied Mike Edwards for the team lead. He ranked near the top of the SEC charts with those three picks. But when you throw in PBU's as well his play was even more impressive.
Counterpart Chris Westry garnered most of the attention going into last season. That was easy to understand at the time and in hindsight, as Westry had performed admirably against the likes of Pharoh Cooper and others as a 6-foot-4 true freshman specimen in the 2015 season.
But it's possible that last year Baity emerged as Kentucky's top cornerback. Now, finally, Kentucky's starting duo of Westry and Baity have the experience to match their impressive size, not to mention their physical and skill traits.
QUESTIONS TO ANSWER
On Wednesday, ESPN's Edward Aschoff wrote about the SEC East from a particular angle. He laid out one glaring question that each of the seven Eastern teams must answer in the approaching season.
When it comes to Kentucky it looks like Aschoff did his research. His question about the Cats? The defensive line. He's not out on a limb there.
"Kentucky's defensive line was one of the SEC's worst last year, registering just two sacks and 13 tackles for loss," Aschoff said. "That led, in part, to a change in direction in coaching up front, as Jimmy Brumbaugh left to be Maryland's co-defensive coordinator and former North Texas assistant Derrick LeBlanc was hired in his place. There's potential up front for the Wildcats, but it's up to LeBlanc to help tap into that, starting with finally getting nose guard Matt Elam to play to his four-star promise."
Whether Kentucky's defensive line potential or hopes for it really hinge on Elam at this point ... well, that's up for debate. The staff won't be waiting around for him to improve, as evidenced by Naquez Pringle's unexpected playing time and emergence last year.
CatsIllustrated.com reported earlier in the summer that a source close to the program was optimistic, adamant in fact, that Lynn Bowden would be good to go by the start of fall camp. Later we reported that Bowden had attained the necessary academic marks to enroll at Kentucky sometime in July.
The Herald-Leader's Jen Smith reported yesterday that a Kentucky spokesman has confirmed that Bowden is still on track to be with the team by the start of fall camp, a report that was confirmed by SEC Country's Joe Mussatto.
CatsIllustrated.com asked Bowden last week whether he anticipates sharing a role in return duties on punts and/or kickoffs at Kentucky. He responded that he's willing to do "whatever it takes," indicating he's not at all against the special teams role as a possibility.
Whether Bowden is in the slot, the Wildcat or on returns, he'll probably need to get a healthy share of touches as a true freshman if he shows up in shape and learns the playbook. The need for production from a freshman became more acute when Jeff Badet announced he would transfer.
TICKET SALES STRONG
Jen Smith also reported yesterday that Kentucky's season ticket sales are going very well, far outpacing the numbers from last year.
"As of last week, UK had sold 32,000 season tickets, an athletics department spokesman said," Smith wrote. That number is about 2,000 shy of the Cats’ total sold last season (33,658)."