The Kentucky Wildcats might not get much attention because of their 0-3 start to conference play, but South Carolina assistant head coach in charge of the defense Ellis Johnson says the Wildcats are actually quite good on offense.
His defense will have its hands full when the Gamecocks travel to Lexington to take on the Wildcats at 6:00 Saturday night.
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“They’ve made some big-time plays and I think they’re one of the best offenses in the conference,” Johnson said. “They’re putting up 36 points per game and it’s nothing but excellent football players making excellent plays. Kentucky is a really good offense.”
Kentucky is led offensively by quarterback Mike Hartline, running back Derrick Locke and its do-everything athlete Randall Cobb, who lines up at receiver and at quarterback in the Wildcat.
Locke is doubtful for this weekend’s game which means the Gamecocks will likely get a heavy dose of Cobb in the Wildcat to off-set his absence.
“He’s always in the (defensive) game plan because they’re always trying to get him the ball,” Johnson said. “They move him around, takes some snaps at quarterback, and some different alignments at the wide receiver spot. So there’s not a lot you can about creating some special defenses, but there’s situations in which coverage and other things you’ve got to be aware of where he is.”
While Hartline is sometimes the forgotten man, Johnson says he’s as good as any.
Hartline is second in the SEC in passing yards behind Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett with 240 yards per game. His nine touchdown passes tie him with Alabama’s Greg McElroy for fourth in the conference.
“I think he’s a great player,” Johnson said. “I think the reason that people have underrated him is that they haven’t really been in the thick of the race and some of the guys on some of those other teams get most of the attention, but he’s right up there with Mallett as far as passing yards. He’s a big, tall guy that can see and can make any throw on the field. When they give him time he’s really good.”
Johnson knows it will be a long night in Lexington if his team doesn’t stay focused on the task at hand after the biggest win in program history last week against Alabama.
“We’ve had a great week of practice, good focus,” Johnson says. “But you’ve still got to go play the game.”