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Ranking the SEC's best units, players

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Linebacker Danny Trevathan led the SEC in tackles last year as a junior. (photo by Victoria Graff) Linebacker Danny Trevathan led the SEC in tackles last year as a junior. (photo by Victoria Graff)

I'm back, everyone. My second vacation has come and gone, meaning no more breaks on here in the UK action. It looks like I've missed quite a bit over the last couple of days, a lot of which you can catch up on in Guy Ramsey's link post below.

One thing I wanted to compile that I've mised over the last week-plus is ESPN's football rankings. Southeastern Conference blogger Edward Aschoff has been busy ranking the different units of the SEC along with some of the best players.

Below is a list of how UK has fared so far along with Aschoff's summary of each:

Defensive backs (team)

10. Kentucky: There is a lot of experience with four senior starters returning, but the unit has to show that it can be consistent in big games. Safety/linebacker hybrid Winston Guy leads the group with his speed, strength and athleticism, and will move down into the box as the nickel linebacker. Seniors Randall Burden and Anthony Mosley are back at corner after combing for 11 pass breakups and two interceptions. Junior Martavius Neloms began the spring as the starter at corner, but could see more time at safety this fall. Mychal Bailey will line up at safety and was second behind Guy with two interceptions last season. Inexperience behind this group is still a problem.

Linebackers (individual)

4. Danny Trevathan, Kentucky, Sr.: Talk about being the hardest working man on the field. Trevathan led the SEC with 144 tackles a year ago and was third with 16 of them behind the line of scrimmage. He's Kentucky's most trusted defender and was the first Kentucky linebacker to ever earn any sort of All-America first-team honors.

Linebackers (team)

6. Kentucky: Things start with one of the nation's best in Danny Trevathan. He led the SEC with 144 tackles a year ago and the word out of Lexington is that he's looking to be even better this fall and wants to move around the field a lot more. Ronnie Sneed returns as the starter in the middle, after grabbing 61 tackles a year ago. He made some nice improvements this spring. Ridge Wilson will be another hybrid on the outside, and will occasionally lineup as a rush end for the Wildcats. The talented Winston Guy, who has played just about everywhere on Kentucky's defense has finally settled into his home at linebacker and should play closer to the line of scrimmage and be a nickel linebacker. 

Defensive line (team)

12. Kentucky: End Collins Ukwu and tackle Luke McDermott return with the most experience on Kentucky's line. Ukwu improved not only on the field but in the weight room this spring and is expected to be a more consistent pass-rusher. McDermott is a walk-on currently ahead of Donte Rumph, who has the talent to be one of Kentucky's top defenders, but has yet to fully buy in to the program. The coaches are also waiting for tackle Mister Cobble to finally break out of his funk and be a regular contributor. The rest of Kentucky's linemen have some developing to do and are inexperienced. 

Offensive line (individual)

4. Larry Warford, Kentucky, Jr.: He's the best of a veteran group in Lexington. Warford, who was an All-SEC second team selection in 2010, has ideal athleticism to play inside and started every game for the Wildcats at right guard. He also led the team with 43 knockdowns.

Offensive line (team)

4. Kentucky: The Wildcats return four starters on their line. Right guard Larry Warford headlines the group after gaining second-team All-SEC honors a year ago. Kentucky also returns two-year starter Stuart Hines at left guard and Matt Smith at center, who was solid in his first year there. Left tackle Chandler Burden missed spring practice, but is expected back by fall practice. Finding a suitable right tackle is the next step for Kentucky.

Receivers (team)

12. Kentucky: The Wildcats lost a lot when do-everything Randall Cobb left early for the NFL and things didn't get any better by losing No. 2 wideout Chris Matthews. Now, it's back to the drawing board in Lexington. La'Rod King should be the top target for quarterback Morgan Newton, but he disappointed at times this spring. Matt Roark and E.J. Fields will compete for time, but both need vast improvement. The top athlete could be Brian Adams, but he spent spring playing for Kentucky's baseball team.

Running backs (team)

12. Kentucky: Derrick Locke had been the heart and soul of the Wildcats' running game the past couple of seasons, and now he's gone. The good news is that sophomore Raymond Sanders was one of the Wildcats' most-improved players in the spring and looks like he's more than capable of being their go-to back. Several other younger guys are also waiting for their chance, including redshirt freshman Brandon Gainer, and the Kentucky coaches are extremely high on incoming freshmen Marcus Caffey and Josh Clemons.

Quarterbacks (individual)

10. Morgan Newton, Kentucky, Jr.: The Wildcats had high hopes for Newton when they signed him. Now that it's his job going into the season, look for him to play with more consistency.

Quarterbacks (team)

10. Kentucky: Morgan Newton was forced into some tough situations over the past few years, filling in as a true freshman when Mike Hartline was hurt and then filling in a year ago in the bowl game when Hartline was suspended. Now, it's Newton's job, and with most of his key playmakers gone, he faces a stiff challenge in 2011. Consistency will be the key for him, though, and the Wildcats don't have any proven depth behind him now that Ryan Mossakowski has transferred.



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