Updated: Aug 27
With fall camp wrapping up and game prep for Miami (OH) getting underway, we now have a better understanding of who we can expect to see on the field this season. Kentucky's offense is looking to build off arguably its best output in the Mark Stoops era. The Wildcats will have to do this without key contributors to that offense such as Wan'Dale Robinson, Josh Ali and offensive coordinator, Liam Coen. Coach Stoops went on a similar route in finding his new offensive coordinator this season by hiring Rich Scangarello from the San Francisco 49ers. The emergence of national praise surrounding Will Levis, along with a highly touted wide receiver class, has led to lofty expectations for Kentucky's offense. Mix those two things with the depth at tight end and running back and you have the perfect storm for a lot of high hopes in Lexington. With that, there are a select few players who are vital to Rich Scangarello and this offense to meet such high expectations this fall.
Honorable Mention: Tayvion Robinson
Let me be clear. This group of wide receivers is easily the most talented Kentucky has had in years. With that said, talent is just stars on paper until proven otherwise. Robinson brings experience and maturity to a room that is extremely raw and still has a lot of freshman woes to go through. The Virginia Tech transfer is expected to be WR1 on the week one depth chart and it has been that way since the day he stepped foot in Lexington. Robinson provides speed and versatility to go up and get a ball from time to time. That is not saying he is an elite possession receiver, but opportunities may present themselves for Tayvion to go up and get one, which is something Will Levis did not have the confidence to do so with Wan'Dale's different frame and ability. Will he reach Wan'Dale's 2021 numbers? No, but Tayvion's presence alone will take some pressure off of Kentucky's extremely young, but talented core of receivers.
3: Jeremy Flax
Notice how I did not mention the Big Blue Wall when describing the hype surrounding this offense? In an odd change of events, it's the offensive line that leaves the most question marks for Kentucky's offense this season. The further you get away from the football, the bigger the concern gets for Zach Yenser. Jeremy Flax is the one tackle that it seems like the staff has supreme confidence in. Meanwhile on the left side, there has been an open competition between David Wohlabaugh, Deondre Buford, and Kiyaunta Goodwin for that starting spot. It seems as if Wohlabaugh is beginning to separate himself from the pack, but there will most certainly be some growing pains for the redshirt freshman early on in the season. Therefore, you need to have a guy you feel comfortable with on the right side. Flax seems to be that guy, but after Flax the questions start flying again. Buford is likely to slide over to that side as Goodwin is being groomed to be the left tackle of the future. That would leave a lot of young and inexperienced players blocking on the outside for Will Levis against these elite SEC pass rushers.
2: Eli Cox
People are very quick to forget that Eli Cox was a Midseason All-American at guard last season. Cox now makes the move of sliding down to the center position, similar to what Luke Fortner did last season. Considering what the reports are out of the Jacksonville Jaguars' camp, it's fair to say that was a good move for Fortner. We could be in similar territory here with Cox, as all indications out of camp are that he is thriving in his new role as the leader of the offensive line. Seasoned veteran, Quintin Wilson, is expected relieve Cox in the rotation. While Wilson is a very capable backup and a smart kid, he has spent his career in Lexington as a rotational player and has yet to breakthrough as a consistent starter in the SEC. Long story short, the Big Blue Wall can reach its potential, as long as Cox is the one snapping the ball. He is the most proven player on the line and is very much respected by the staff and media.
1: Will Levis
Kentucky's success begins and ends with the play of Will Levis. Without Levis, this team is projected to win six to seven games. With Levis, Mark Stoops and company could be looking at the best season in program history. The high draft projections and preseason accolades did not just appear out of thin air. The senior quarterback has been scouted by the NFL and national media as a guy who has all the makings of an elite college quarterback. He is built like a linebacker, but still has the ability to get out of the pocket and make plays with his legs, whether it be making a defender miss in open space or simply plowing into someone. Don't believe me? Go ask LSU and Louisville. Furthermore, the Penn State transfer has a cannon for an arm and is making strides in the short and intermediate passing game. Simply put, he can make every throw that you would ever ask a quarterback to make. With all due respect, there's not another quarterback on campus who can do all of these things. Levis is a talent that we rarely have in Lexington, so the Wildcats need to strike while the iron is hot and pray he stays healthy all season. If not, the aspirations of making it to Atlanta are way out of question.
Realistically speaking, football is the most team-oriented sport there is. Every player on the field will play a big role in the success or demise of Kentucky's play this season. However, the aforementioned players will have an inflated level of impact on whether Kentucky is playing in the Liberty Bowl or the Sugar Bowl when December rolls around. If these guys can stay healthy, and the exciting mix of young talent and seasoned veterans can mesh together well, there will be a lot of points put on the board this season.