The bedrock of last season's resurgence by Kentucky football was the offensive line’s ability to impose their will on opposing defenses--especially in the run game.
The Cats went nine to ten players deep in 2016 and even with the loss of All-SEC center Jon Toth to graduation and mauling tackle Cole Mosier return a seven-man rotation of talented, versatile players.
The coaching staff has been mixing and matching players different combinations of players for varying reasons.
Offensive line coach John Schlarman said after practice Wednesday that mixed groupings have much to do with the situation at hand at the strengths of the players.
"You try maybe to put guys who are better at communicating next to guys who aren't communicating. You look for strengths and weaknesses as a unit, not necessarily as individuals all the time, but what can this guy bring to the table playing on the right side next to this guy", he explained.
He also added this: "At the end of ball games, you get into the two-minute drill you look for guys that are better pass protectors and put them in there. You get into a four-minute drill; you might have a different set of two or three or four guys different in that lineup with bigger bodies that can pound the defense and run the ball, and close the game out."
Schalrman also stated that many of the rotations seen in the depth chart released on Monday had been practiced with as far back as the spring.
However, playing out of position has come as an adjustment for several players, including offensive tackle Kyle Meadows, who is seeing snaps at left tackle.
The answer to him getting more comfortable lies in his feet.
"You know your footwork is a little different on that side. You're steeping more with your right foot into the run game as opposed to the left. In pass protection, you're moving with your left foot first as opposed to the right", Coach Schlarman said.
Many fans expected sophomore Landon Young to take the starting spot at left tackle instead of Meadows. Schlarman stated that Young has done nothing wrong and is working his "tail off."
On Monday during his press luncheon, head coach Mark Stoops identified junior George Asafo-Adjei as a standout player on the offensive line.
Schlarman believes the native Ohioan's success comes with his dedication to the fundamentals.
"I think that he has focused on his assignment and technique."
Asafo-Adjei has always been a physical force for the Cats but in the last six months his focus on the more minute details has elevated his game, Schlarman added.
The Cats' line will face a challenge against Southern Miss on Saturday. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran called the Golden Eagles "twitchy" up front and said he expected them to use a lot of motion to throw Kentucky's big men off their game.
Coach Schlarman just hopes that his skill group will show up when it counts the most.
"We've got to get out there and do it on Saturday. You can do whatever you do on the practice field, but unless you prove it on Saturdays, that is when it really matters, that is when it counts."