Behind Enemy Lines: Kentucky football beat writer Derek Terry talks CMU game
Central Michigan Life's Evan Petzold spoke with Kentucky beat writer Derek Terry from The Cats Pause on 247Sports to preview CMU's 3:30 P.M. Sept. 1 season opener against Kentucky.
The Wildcats finished the 2017 season with a 7-6 record (4-4 SEC), good for third-best in the East Division.
Terry, a graduate of Kentucky, discussed starting quarterback Terry Wilson, star running back Benny Snell Jr. and the offensive line in this exclusive Q&A.
What's the vibe around Kentucky football this year after going 7-6 last season with just two wins over 10 points?
Derek Terry: "Outside of the South Carolina and Vanderbilt games, Kentucky never seemed like they were playing super well (last season). The Eastern Kentucky win was an 11-point victory at home against an FCS opponent. People expected more. Eastern Michigan had a chance to win on the final play of the game, which was another at Kroger Field. It was frustrating for the fans.
"This year, it's hard to say. If you look at it, this is (head) coach Mark Stoops' most talented team since coming to Kentucky (in 2012). There are four or five guys that are can't miss NFL draft guys. The talent is strong. Last year, the defensive backs had four seniors who gave up the 13th-most passing yards in the SEC.
"I think it should be better because a lot of them are All-SEC guys. Fans are waiting to see because the talent is good but you never know."
CM-Life: Terry Wilson was named the starting quarterback by Stoops on Aug. 27. What do you know about him?
DT: "Terry is a dual-threat guy. A couple of players and other people say that he legitimately could be the fastest player on the field, not just as a quarterback. He's going to be able to help Kentucky in the run game with Benny Snell. In some ways, you could say Kentucky is going to double down on its rush game this year with Terry bringing that extra threat.
"From opening practices and the spring game, he has a strong arm but accuracy needs to get better. He threw four touchdowns and no interceptions in the second scrimmage, which was the day where he took control of the job.
"For a while, it seemed like Stoops was open to the idea of playing Gunnar Hoak and Terry Wilson but after hearing things this morning, I think the leash is going to be longer for Terry than we originally thought. I was confident that both guys would play. Maybe Gunnar will get a designed series, but I don't know. Terry will definitely get his chance to prove himself before Gunnar ever steps on the field."
CM-Life: What makes junior Benny Snell Jr. so dominant as Kentucky's running back?
DT: "It's cliche, but he runs hard. You can tell the game really matters to him. His durability is very impressive for a running back. Kentucky only played two running backs, which is rare for the SEC. He led the league in carries and yards. Some of the best defenses in the country couldn't slow him down.
"Out of the gate last year, especially against Southern Miss, he was overeager. He wasn't waiting for the holes to open, so that'd be something to watch on Saturday. There's no doubt he will be the all-time leading rusher in school history if he returns next year, which I don't think he will.
"I would watch to see if he'll be patient and to check the push Kentucky will get up front against Central Michigan. Stopping Benny for four quarters might be tough because I'm sure Kentucky is going to be bigger. If CMU can stop the run, they'll have to force a new quarterback to beat them through the air."
CM-Life: How much will Kentucky be hurt by losing starting left tackle Landon Young for the season with a knee injury?
DT: "For people who don't know Kentucky football, he was a huge recruit. He was a five-star All-American, ranked No. 3 in his class at offensive tackle. He started nine games over the last two years and came on as a full-time starter in 2017. There's nobody else on the roster with his experience at that position.
"Kentucky has E.J. Price, a transfer from USC at left tackle, Naasir Watkins and Darian Kinnard to help in his absence. Watkins was a guy they really considered playing before giving him a redshirt. There's a lot to like with the potential. I don't know if (Kinnard) will play any left tackle because he's been working a lot at right guard but he's a guy you'll see. The offensive line is the strongest unit on the team, so you can sustain the loss."
CM-Life: How is sophomore defensive end Josh Paschal doing after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma in August? Is there any chance he returns?
DT: "It sounds like that's improving, but if he will be able to play at all this year is still up for debate. He was a guy that they moved to defensive end after he picked Kentucky over Ohio State, Alabama and schools like that. Losing him takes away from the pass-rush up front."
CM-Life: Final score prediction?
DT: Kentucky 28, Central Michigan 13