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Big Blue Wall Poised For a Redemption Season

When Eddie Gran and Benny Snell arrived in Lexington in 2016, the Kentucky Football program took on a different attitude. At the beginning of the Stoops era, the Wildcats were looking to improve the "Air Raid" system under the direction of Neal Brown. Once Brown and one year wonder, Shannon Dawson, were gone, the run game became the point of emphasis for Kentucky. 2016-2021 saw a stretch where Kentucky's ground was the best the program had ever seen. This would ultimately come to a halt last season, and now there is work to do to get back to that point.

With a new system and attitude set in stone, the program's success began to take off. Benny Snell and "Boom" Williams would each run for over 1,000 yards in 2016. The success in the run game put a lot of media attention on the offensive line. This led to the nickname, the "Big Blue Wall." With John Schlarman leading the way, this group became the nastiest and most physically dominant group on Kentucky's roster year in and year out. Following the death of Coach Schlarman and the departure of key players, the Big Blue Wall took a major step backwards in 2022. Without Chris Rodriguez in the lineup, the run game became virtually nonexistent. With him in the lineup, the yardage gained was often more a product of Rodriguez's strength than the play of the offensive line. Pass blocking was no better as Will Levis spent much of the fall being planted into the turf. With a lot to prove in 2023, the Big Blue Wall looks to take a huge step forward.

Kentucky is returning key pieces of the line, such as Eli Cox, Kenneth Horsey, Deondre Buford, and Jager Burton. Meanwhile, Zach Yenser was able to go get big time transfers in Tanner Bowles from Alabama and Marques Cox from Northern Illinois. There are still a lot of questions as to where each guy will line up in the fall. One thing that is almost certain is that Kenneth Horsey will return to his natural left guard position after being forced to play left tackle last season. It would also be a safe bet to assume Marques Cox will take the role of left tackle. Eli Cox was Kentucky's primary center in 2022, but reports are indicating that the staff is testing out Jager Burton in this spot as well. Would this mean a return to right guard for Cox? Only time will tell. While we may not know where exactly these guys will be lined up, but we can likely expect them to be playing at a high level. Unlike last year, the system in place will setup the B.B.W. for success and will play to their strengths.

There are also plenty of guys who will be fighting to be in the rotation such as Jeremy Flax, Koby Keenum, Grant Bingham, and David Wohlabaugh. Flax and Wohlabaugh saw quite a bit of action in 2022 as they were involved in the 'revolving door' of tackles that the Wildcats tried out. Meanwhile, Keenum and Bingham will be looking to prove themselves early on in their Kentucky careers.

Long story short, the talent will be there and the competition will be healthy. With a disappointing 2022 in the rear view and a new scheme in place, the 2023 redemption tour will be a great one for the Big Blue Wall.



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