A big reason for the lack of playmakers was the injury bug. That, and the absence of do-it-all athlete Randall Cobb who left after his junior season, the consummate playmaker.
The injury bug bit and didn't let go of the Wildcats at their skill positions, both prior to and during the season. They lost incoming freshman wide receiver Daryl Collins to a dislocated knee cap during preseason practice, an injury that sidelined him for the entire season. Meanwhile, with an injury to Raymond Sanders in the first game of the season, freshman tailback Josh Clemons was called upon to carry the bulk of the load.
Clemons flourished and looked to be "the guy" out of the backfield for the Wildcats. He had a touchdown in UK's 14-3 win over Western Kentucky in the opener. In the next game against Central Michigan, Clemons reeled off the longest play of the season from scrimmage for UK with an electrifying 87-yard touchdown, finishing with 126 yards on the day.
In the sixth game of the year in a loss to South Carolina, Kentucky lost more than a game. They lost Clemons to a season-ending knee injury with a torn meniscus. It's an injury that Clemons is still working to rehab during Spring football practice.
"I'm pretty much just doing handoff drills, not doing any contact stuff," said a bulked-up Clemons.
Clemons looks to have put on a bit of weight and mass in his upper body, which he attributes to his knee and the inability to run. He figures to be back down to his playing weight around 205 by the times the season comes.
While Clemons' was a huge blow to a struggling Kentucky rushing attack, Clemons remained calm and realized that injuries are all a part of the game.
"Things happen sometimes," said Clemons. "I just try to keep my head up, heal, and do what I need to do off the field to get back and help the team."
Collins felt differently. Expectations were high for the freshman even before he hit the field for his first game. Many compared him to Randall Cobb in his game-breaking ability and versatility. His season was over before it began without having an opportunity to contribute.
"It was very disappointing because I thought I was going to come in and play right away," said Collins after practice Wednesday. "But, you know things happen, and that was one of the big things that happened that I dislocated my knee, so I didn't get a chance to play with my team last year."
Collins has been chomping at the bit, looking to impress and show coaches the skills he possesses with his "speed and quickness." Out of all the wide receivers in camp, it's been Collins who has stuck out to head coach Joker Phillips.
"Daryl Collins continues to show up," said Phillips. "When he knows what to do, he looks like a guy that can help us. He looks like a guy who can be a big-time player."
Though Collins was off the field all of last season, he was still paying attention. He continued to attend meetings and watch film to make sure that when it was time to get back on the turf, he would be ready.
"I soaked in a lot of stuff because I was still in the meeting rooms," said Collins. "Still going over the different types of plays and stuff like that. So, it helped out a lot. It was much easier at today's practice, everything's coming back."
For Clemons, his primary goal is to stay healthy and prepare for next season. The coaches, his teammates and Clemons himself know what he's capable of, and he's determined to get back on the field to be a difference maker on the offense.
The 2012 season is all about improving as a player and picking up where he left off.
"Just trying to build as a player in general, not just the stuff I did last year," said Clemons. "I know there's some stuff I need to learn still. I'm still a young guy and didn't get to play that much, but just learning from the other guys."
With Collins studying the offense during his redshirt season and Clemons looking to improve on his success last year, both players have the ability to hit the home run.
That's exactly what they plan to do.
"I just want to go out there and make plays," said Clemons emphatically. "I mean that's what we come out here to do. We try to help our team win the best we can."
"(There should be) high expectations," said Collins. "I'm trying to do as much as I possibly can as a receiver."