Camp start: Aug. 7
Camp objectives: 1. Continue Mike Hartline's development in the pro-style attack, building on his 204-yard passing performance in the Liberty Bowl. 2. Find a tailback who can strike some semblance of fear out of the trio of Alfonso Smith, Moncell Allen and Derrick Locke. 3. Develop the defensive ends, each of whom is without a collegiate tackle.
Season opener: Miami of Ohio in Lexington on Sept. 5 (noon on ESPNU)
Fun fact: Since the SEC split into divisional play in 1992, the Wildcats are 0-34 against Florida and Tennessee. They are the only program to be winless against two divisional rivals.
After Kentucky defeated East Carolina in last season's Liberty Bowl, Wildcats cornerback Trevard Lindley asked coach Rich Brooks for advice on whether or not to skip his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
Brooks gave his honest assessment, and Lindley rejected it.
"I really advised Trevard that I thought he should go," Brooks said. "He was evaluated by the NFL committee as a mid second-round pick. Simply put, I don't think there is a better corner in the nation returning than Trevard Lindley. "
Lindley came back to get bigger and already has, weighing 190 pounds after playing at 175 last year when he was a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist. He also returned to help the Wildcats to a fourth consecutive bowl, which would be a program first, and to make more big plays.
Ever since intercepting Matthew Stafford at Commonwealth Stadium to seal a 24-20 upset of Georgia in 2006, Lindley has been among the biggest game-changers in the Southeastern Conference.
He had a 33-yard interception return to set up the first touchdown in the 2007 upset of Louisville, and his 24-yard interception return led to the first score last season as the Wildcats beat the Cardinals again. Lindley's 66-yard fumble return for a touchdown ignited a victory at Arkansas in '07, and he made fourth-quarter interceptions that season against LSU and Tennessee, memorable games Kentucky would split in multiple overtimes.
Lindley is pitted against the best receivers in the league, which meant Alabama's Julio Jones and Georgia's A.J. Green last season, but it hasn't always been fun.
"My freshman year, they put me on Tennessee's Robert Meachem the whole game, and that was pretty tough," he said of Meachem's six-catch, 116-yard performance. "I knew he was big, but I didn't know he was that fast."
Lindley is among just four defensive starters back from a team that went 2-6 in league games after opening with wins over Louisville, Norfolk State, Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. Defense was the team's stronger suit a year ago, ranking 40th nationally even as the offense sputtered to 106th.
Kentucky scored 14 or fewer points in half its league games last year, when the Wildcats used Randall Cobb as a running quarterback and Mike Hartline as the passer. Hartline started just one of the last five games but is the clear No. 1 now, though Brooks said there still will be packages for Cobb.
"Mike Hartline should show marked improvement, and I believe he will," Brooks said. "All I have to do is think back about three years ago and Andre' Woodson's sophomore season, and then what he accomplished his junior season. It was significantly improved.
"I think Mike Hartline will see a lot of that same type of improvement. The people around him will be more experienced and better as well."
Left tackle Zipp Duncan, center Jorge Gonzalez and right tackle Justin Jeffries give the Wildcats three returning starters up front, and they are joined by tight end T.C. Drake. All four are seniors, so they share Lindley's goal of making a fourth straight bowl trip.
When this senior class signed, the Wildcats were finishing a stretch of six straight years without one.
"Growing up a Kentucky boy, I take a lot of pride in how far this program has come," Duncan said. "We've set the expectations high with the younger guys, and that's really what I signed on to do -- to turn this program around."