Kentucky Wildcats


Kentucky Wildcats Insiders

2022-2023 TEAM LEADERS

Kentucky Wildcats Football Team News and Picks

Kentucky wasn’t a very good football team last year, failing to finish above .500 for the first time in five years. A decent recruiting class and some changes in coaching and philosophy could help them return to their winning ways, but they’ll need to fill a lot of holes, with only nine starters returning from the 2020 team.

Kentucky Wildcats Standings

The Kentucky Wildcats have been a surprising standout in the NCAAF. With a solid all-around game, they have managed to climb the standings and are now a force to be reckoned with. The latest stats show that the Wildcats are having a strong season, with a current record of 6-4. They are proving to be a formidable opponent and could make a serious push for the top in the coming games.

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2020 Summary

Despite a sub-.500 record of 4-6 in the Covid induced strangeness of 2020; the Wildcats were able to qualify for a bowl game, their fifth in a row under head coach Mark Stoops, tying for the longest streak in their long football history. Kentucky defeated N.C. State 23-21 in the Gator Bowl to finish with back-to-back victories heading into 2021.

The Wildcats struggled mightily on offense in 2020, held to less than 14 points in five of their six losses, and failing to reach the end zone against Georgia and Alabama but getting a field goal in each game to avoid the shutouts. Even though they ranked 34th in the nation in rushing yards per game with 196.5, Kentucky’s offense was ranked last in the SEC and 115th in the FBS in total yards per contest.

Key Players

Junior Chris Rodriguez shared duties with departed Asim Rose last season but still finished fifth in the SEC at 87.2 yards a game while averaging 6.6 yards a carry and scoring 11 touchdowns. With the job primarily his and experience back on the offensive line could result in a big year for Rodriguez, something that could greatly improve Kentucky’s prospects.

The defense doesn’t return much experience, but senior defensive end Josh Paschal is looking to bounce back from injury to bring the Wildcats much-needed talent to the unit. As a team, Kentucky lacked an effective pass rush, finishing last in the conference in sacks per game, so it will be incumbent on Paschal to make enough plays to change that statistic.

New Additions

Penn State transfer quarterback Will Lewis is the likely starter for the Wildcats and should be an upgrade over Terry Wilson, who left for New Mexico after a lackluster 2020 season. Lewis was the backup for the Nittany Lions, throwing for 421 yards and running for another 260, bringing another dimension to the position.

Lewis will need offensive weapons which weren’t on display in 2020, but the addition of four-star recruit Christian Lewis at wide receiver could be a big move. With only one returning player with more than 16 catches a year ago, Kentucky needs all the help they can get at the receiver position, so Lewis and a couple of other incoming freshmen will get a lot of looks in camp.

Key Subtractions

Even though Terry Wilson was probably encouraged to transfer, his departure after going 17-8 as a starter without a suitable replacement in place leaves a question mark on an offense that wasn’t that good to begin with. The quarterback position is a key to the scheme that offensive coordinator Liam Coen likes to incorporate, so Wilson might not be as easy to replace the Wildcats had hoped.

Although three-fifths of the offensive line returns, center Drake Jackson isn’t one of them. For a team that will still need to rely on the running game for much of their offensive output, filling the hole left by a second-team All-SEC selection will pose a big challenge.

Divisional Outlook

The 2020 SEC East champion Florida Gators and perennial contender Georgia will again dominate the top of the division standings, with the Bulldogs having an edge if for no other reason than the schedule, which has them taking on Auburn and Arkansas from the SEC West. Florida plays Alabama and LSU, both of which are picked to finish ahead of the Tigers and Razorbacks in the division.

Kentucky and Missouri will be looking to feast on the teams below them in the standings to compete for third in the division, but Tennessee should be better if they can solve quarterback issues and take advantage of a strong recruiting class. South Carolina and Vanderbilt will continue to struggle to get out of the bottom two spots in the SEC East standings.

Kentucky Wildcats Offense

A 115th national ranking in 2020, uncertainty at quarterback, a lack of depth at wide receiver and a reshuffled offensive line isn’t exactly recipes for offensive success in college football. Unfortunately for Kentucky, that’s what the Wildcats face as they enter the 2021 season.

Five starters return, although that figure is really six, with Rodriguez bringing back the most rushing yards on the team in 2020. The running back is the one bright spot on the offense, but without other threats, opposing defenses will be able to take that away, especially with a new quarterback behind center.

If the offensive line gels with senior Darian Kinnard moving to left tackle to replace departed All-SEC Landon Young and they can get consistent play from center Quintin Wilson, there certainly is hope for improvement. They’ll also need to get better output from the quarterback and receiving corps to compete with the athletic SEC defenses to give them an outside shot at a division title.

Kentucky Wildcats Defense

The Wildcats led the SEC in passing defense in 2020, but that was still 54th nationally and overall, they were fourth in the conference and 45th in the nation, a decent place from which to build. Only four starters are back from last year, but two of them are at the safety positions and one of the cornerbacks, Cedrick Dort, Jr. was a starter in 2019.

Kentucky will need to find replacements up the middle at linebacker and nose guard. They have a solid group of sophomores and juniors to rely on, which appears capable of stepping in as starters, especially if Paschal and returning senior linebacker DeAndre Square can provide much-needed leadership for an untested squad.


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