The biggest question that needs answering is who will be the QB for the Cats this fall? Stephen Johnson had plenty of flaws but what’s the old saying, “the devil you know is better than the devil ya don’t?” The thing that makes this really interesting is that the two players that are vying for the job have two pretty different skill sets. Gunnar Hoak is a 6’4” and 206 pound rSO. His biggest advantage in this arms race is that he is more familiar with the offensive system. His competition, Terry Wilson, is a 6’3” and 205 pound rSO that was the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the junior college ranks. Hoak is more of a pocket passer while Wilson is a very gifted athlete that originally committed to Oregon to play QB for them. Kentucky’s OC, Eddie Gran, is adaptable to the talent on his roster. That being said, he will likely need to be, depending on which guy wins the job. Wilson likely carries a bit more value for CFF due to his running ability while Hoak likely provides a bit of a bump for the pass catchers. Neither QB has inspired much confidence in the staff thus far and this scrimmage will be important in deciding whether or not a guy has a leg up heading into the summer. Important note to self: QBs prob won’t be live which greatly hinders Wilson.
The focal point of this offense is JR RB Benny Snell. How’s this for historical comps?
Players in SEC history with at least 2,409 career rushing yards and at least 31 career rushing touchdowns prior to their junior season: Herschel Walker, Georgia (1980-1981); Leonard Fournette, LSU (2014-2015); Benny Snell, Kentucky (2016-2017)
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) November 26, 2017
Snell finished last season as the CFF RB11. He is the high-value CFF and Devy target on this team. Snell is the known quantity and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is held out of the scrimmage on Friday as a precaution. Behind him, both Sihiem King and AJ Rose return. King finished last season with 79-364-2 rushing and 15 catches for 86 yards. He is a slippery player that provides a change of pace from the mauler that is Snell. AJ Rose is a player that I expected to play a larger role than he did last season. He possesses great size and blends that with incredible athleticism. In 2017, he only had 15-37-0 rushing and had one catch for one yard. I believe that Rose could see a lot of extended work during the scrimmage and I’m looking forward to seeing how he handles it. Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez were both running back signees from this most recent recruiting cycle. Rodriguez is made in the mold of Snell as a power back. Aside from having the best name in college football, Kavosiey (“kah-VAH-see-ay” – as in, pass the Courvoisier!) Smoke is another player that I believe has far superior athleticism than what is indicated by his high school testing numbers. This is a good group and Kentucky should have a good offensive line to help pave the way for them this fall.
At WR, my favorite player is SO Lynn Bowden. He has some of the most impressive high school tape that I’ve watched in the past couple years. Bowden got some work as a Wildcat QB last year, and he’s athletic enough to start at five positions, but his future is likely as an inside WR. He’s excellent with the ball in his hands and while he doesn’t have great size, he can still get up and win in contested catch situations. An opposing coach, Jeff Gough of Hudson High School had this to say about Bowden, “He’s the most athletic player I’ve ever seen on film and that our coaching staff has ever seen. We were able to make it to the final four the last three years and we were able to see a bunch of great players. He was hands down the biggest game changer we ever had to face.” Here are some comments from his former high school coach, “I’ve been here 29 years. I’ve seen them all come through here from Mario Manningham, Maurice Clarett and Daniel “Boom” Herron. Lynn is at the top of that class… (Which would be his best position in college?) “Anywhere he wants to play. I say that tongue-in-cheek but I’m serious. He was our best defensive back but we didn’t put him there unless we had to because he was too valuable to us offensively. He returned punts and kickoffs. I’ll give you a great story. As a junior, we have a chance to win a game late, it’s like five seconds to go. We call a timeout as the opposing team was kicking a field goal. Lynn had never practiced this all year. I said, ‘Lynn, I want you to come off the left edge and go block the kick.’ You know what he did? He blocked the kick. That’s what he brings to the table. That’s the ‘it’ factor. As a junior, it’s fourth and 5. We’re playing at Cleveland Heights, a huge game. We had the lead and we can seal the deal here. Called timeout and said: ‘What do you think, Lynn? What do you want to run?’ He said, ‘coach, run quarterback draw and let me get the first down.’ He took it 45 yards and scored.” It is unlikely that any of Kentucky’s WRs are going to be high-value targets for CFF but Bowden is a player that I have on a Devy Roster. Dorian Baker, Tavin Richardson, and Kayaune Ross are three older players that should contribute this season and Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps and Clevan Thomas are three sophomores with lots of unproven potential. I am looking forward to seeing who emerges from this group heading into the summer.
Kentucky has one of my favorite TEs in college football, CJ Conrad. He debated going to the NFL last year but a foot injury last November would have prevented him from showing his stuff to teams so he elected to come back for one last season. He is a vicious blocker that can play H-Back or line up as a traditional TE and be very effective. The area of the game where he has been extremely underutilized is as a pass catcher. He only has 50-697-9 through three seasons. In reality, he should have that type of production every single season. Eddie Gran recognized that he needs to be more involved and recently indicated that he will be this fall. Conrad is rehabbing his foot injury this spring and won’t participate in the scrimmage.
Along with the running game, the defense should be the strength of the Wildcats’ team this fall. They have NFL players at all three levels. Josh Allen is an OLB that is a nightmare as a pass rusher. Mike Edwards is versatile and roams around in the secondary and is a terrific player as well. He plays next to a corner, Derrick Baity, that will intrigue teams with his length and playmaking ability. LBs Jordan Jones and Denzil Ware have tons of ability but injuries and some minor off-field incidents likely contributed to both returning to this stout defense in 2018. Incoming freshman LBs Chris Oats and DeAndre Square could be one of the top duos in the conference in the not so distant future.