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A “Way Too Early” Look At The Kentucky Football Depth Chart

With the February Signing Day just two weeks away, what better time to take a way too early look at the Kentucky Wildcats Football depth chart for the 2023 season?


The Wildcats return a lot of starting experience on both sides of the ball. Defensive coordinator Brad White gets back eight starters. Offensive coordinator Liam Coen's return has excited the Big Blue Nation, but it is even more exciting when you see what offensive weapons he has returning. Coen also has eight returning starters, including all three wide receivers and both tight ends. Keep in mind that this depth chart projection is just that: speculation. Anything can change between now and when see the first official depth chart, prior to the matchup with Ball State on September 2nd.

*The players experience is in parentheses.



OFFENSE


Quarterback

Starter: Devin Leary (6th Yr)

Bench: Deuce Hogan (RJr.), Kaiya Sheron (RSo.), Destin Wade (RFr.)


The transfer portal provided Kentucky with its quarterback for the last two seasons. It will provide it for at least one more. Devin Leary had a great career at NC State, throwing for 6,800+ yards, with 62 touchdowns and just 16 interceptions. If Devin Leary does not start, Kentucky will not have a good season. The lack of a viable backup is worrisome.


Running Back

Starter: Ray Davis (RSr.)

Bench: Ramon Jefferson (6th Yr), JuTahn McClain (Sr.), Dee Beckwith (RJr.), La’Vell Wright (RSo.), Jamarion Wilcox (Fr.)


If you were worried about the departure of Chris Rodriguez Jr., you had every right to be. However, the transfer portal has provided a proven answer to the question "who will be RB1?" Ray Davis ran for 1,042 yards and five touchdowns at Vanderbilt last year. He will have similar success at Kentucky. There is a ton of talented depth in this group behind Davis.


Wide Receiver

Starters: Tayvion Robinson (6th), Barion Brown (So.), Dane Key (So.)

Bench: Dekel Crowdus (RSo.), Jordan Anthony (RFr.), Brandon White (RFr.), Ardell Banks (Fr.), Anthony Brown (Fr.), Shamar Porter (Fr.)


The Wildcats return all three starters at wide receiver. Brown, Key and Robinson had a good collective season in 2022. They caught 13 touchdowns and had over 1,300 yards together. Devin Leary has nice weapons to work with in his lone season at Kentucky. Anthony Brown and Shamar Porter are immediate impact players as freshman.


Tight End

Starters: Brenden Bates (Super), Jordan Dingle (RSo.)

Bench: Izayah Cummings (Sr.), Josh Kattus (So.), Khamari Anderson (Fr.), Jakob Dixon (Fr.), Tanner Lemaster (Fr.)


Brendan Bates returns for a super senior season and will pair with Jordan Dingle to give Vince Marrow a vicious one-two punch at tight end. Isayah Cummings and Josh Kattus have both caught touchdowns for the Wildcats. Khamari Anderson is a walking mismatch and may play as a freshman.


Center

Starter: Eli Cox (RSr.)

Bench: Koby Keenum (Fr.)


Eli Cox will be the starter, following a successful transition to the position last year. Koby Keenum will get plenty of snaps and will serve as a more than competent backup.


Guards

Starters: Kenneth Horsey (6th Yr), Tanner Bowles (RSr.)

Bench: Jager Burton (RSo.), Paul Rodriguez (RSo.), Grant Bingham (RFr.), Austin Ramsey (Fr.)


Kenneth Horsey kicks back inside and wows NFL scouts at left guard, while Alabama transfer Tanner Bowles mans the right guard spot. Jager Burton is a super-sub and Grant Bingham looks to make an impression.


Tackles

Starters: Marques Cox (6th Yr), Jeremy Flax (RSr.)

Bench: Deondre Buford (RJr.), Josh Jones (RJr.), David Wohlabaugh Jr. (RSo.), Nikolas Hall (RFr.), Malachi Wood (Fr.)


Marques Cox solves the left tackle problem for Zach Yenser. His presence alone improves the Big Blue Wall. His presence also allows Kenneth Horsey to go back to his natural position. Jeremy Flax and Deondre Buford both started at right tackle last year, but Flax has a year of experience over Buford. Wohlabaugh and Malachi Wood are interesting rotational players.



DEFENSE


Defensive Line

Starters: Deone Walker (So.), Tre’vonn Rybka (RJr.), Keeshawn Silver (RSo.)

Bench: Sam Anaele (RJr.), Darrion Henry-Young (RJr.), Octavious Oxendine (RJr.), Jamarius Dinkins (RSo.), Kahlil Saunders (RSo.), Josaih Hayes (Sr.), Tomiwa Durojaiye (RFr.), Tavion Gadson (Fr.)


Anwar Stewart has a wealth of talent to work with on the defensive line. Deone Walker was an All-American and Tre'Vonn Rybka has been quietly solid for a while. The change is the upgrade at nose guard, following Justin Rogers departure. Keeshawn Silver was a highly rated 5-star, who transferred in from North Carolina. He is an immediate plug-and-play replacement for Rogers.


Edge/Outside Linebacker

Starters: J.J. Weaver (RSr.), Keaten Wade (So.), Bench: Tyreese Fearbry (RFr.), Noah Matthews (RFr.), Grant Godfrey (Fr.), Tommy Ziesmer (Fr.)


J.J. Weaver gives the Wildcats an experienced leader at outside linebacker. Keaton Wade will likely replace the departing Jordan Wright at strong side linebacker. Wade performed well in Wright's absence to start the 2022 campaign. Grant Godfrey will be called upon to provide quality depth for the Wildcats.


Inside Linebacker

Starters: D’Eryk Jackson (RJr.), Trevin Wallace (Jr.)

Luke Fulton (RSr.), Martez Thrower (Jr.), Jayvant Brown (Fr.)


One of the best things that happened to Brad White were the injuries to Jacquez Jones and Deandre Square. While it hurt the on-the-field product, it allowed D'Eryk Jackson and Trevin Wallace to gain invaluable experience at the middle linebacker and weakside linebacker spots. Both Jackson and Wallace performed well and look to be solid starters in 2023.


Cornerback

Starters: Jantzen Dunn (RSo.), JQ Hardaway (So.)

Bench: Andru Phillips (RJr.), Maxwell Hairston (RSo.), Jordan Robinson (RSo.), Elijah Reed (RFr.), Andre Stewart (RFr.), Nasir Addison (Fr.), Avery Stuart (Fr.)


The departure of Carrington Valentine was unexpected, but Mark Stoops used the transfer portal to address this need. Stoops added Ohio State defensive back Jantzen Dunn and Cincinnati cornerback J.Q. Hardaway. Both of them project to start at cornerback for Stoops, but Dru Phillips also played well in Valentine's absence. There is a lot of good depth in this group.


Safety

Starters: Jalen Geiger (RSr.), Zion Childress (Sr.)

Bench: Vito Tisdale (RJr.), Jordan Lovett (RSo.), Alex Afari (So.), Taj Dodson (RSr.), Jaremiah Anglin (Fr.), Ty Bryant (Fr.)


Jalen Geiger will be returning from an injury that ended what was supposed to be breakout season in 2022. He will look to prove himself again in 2023, joining Zion Childress at safety. Childress was a pleasant surprise for the Wildcats. Vito Tisdale also returns from injury, but will likely play a lot at the nickel position.


Nickel

Starter: Vito Tisdale (RJr.)

Bench: Jordan Lovett (RSo.), Alex Afari (So.)


Speaking of Tisdale, this is the position he was made to play. He can cover in obvious passing situations, while laying the hits on ball carriers when the offense runs the ball. Jordan Lovett and Alex Afari will also see time here, especially when Tisdale is at the safety spot.



SPECIAL TEAMS


Kicker

Starter: Jackson Smith (RFr.)

Bench: Chance Poore (RSr.)


Smith was ranked the top kicker/punter in the 2022 class by ProKicker.com. He redshirted behind Matt Ruffalo in 2022.


Punter

Starter: Wilson Berry

Bench: Chance Poore (RSr.)


Berry is the brother of NFL punter Jordan Berry. Shared time with Colin Goodfellow last season, taking over the job when Goodfellow went down for the season.


While a lot could change between now and September, Wildcats fans should be excited about the experience and talent that the 2023 football team has on it. While the schedule includes some tough home games, as well as some challenging road games, a Liam Coen offense paired with a Brad White defense could make for a special year in Lexington.

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