Cats Have What It Takes Up Front To Win
Hello everyone and welcome to our third installment previewing the 2020 Kentucky Football team. In case you missed the first two you can catch up at the following links. How Terry Wilson’s return makes the Cats much better on offense and why UK has possibly the best running backs in the SEC. As we begin previewing Kentucky’s offensive and defensive lines we’ll look at another group who ranks high in the SEC rankings.
The “Big Blue Wall”
Mark Stoops’ Cats have had a 1,000-yard rusher in four straight seasons. In 2019 Kentucky became a totally run oriented team when injuries to Terry Wilson and Sawyer Smith forced receiver Lynn Bowden to return to his high school position.
Even though teams knew what the Cats were going to go they still couldn’t stop them. As a result Kentucky finished fourth in the country averaging 278 yards per game and second in the country with a whopping 6.32 yards per carry. Kentucky lost All-SEC guard Logan Stenberg who went to Detroit in the fourth round of this year’s draft. However they return four starters and it begins with the center.
Big Man In The Middle
Senior Drake Jackson thought about entering the 2020 NFL Draft but ultimately decided to return to Lexington. The Woodford Country product has started every game over the last two seasons. Recently named first team pre-season All-SEC, one of the network’s analysts ranks him as the best center in the league.
MY top 5 SEC centers for 2020: pic.twitter.com/bm7PcjCJ7s
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) June 9, 2020
Even More All-SEC Players
Lining up along side Jackson are guards Luke Fortner and Kenneth Horsey. The 6-6 Fortner likely moves from left guard last season to right guard this year, replacing Stenberg. As a result look for Horsey to slide in at left guard.
Moving further up the line tackle Landon Young returns for his senior season. Like Jackson the Lexington Lafayette standout thought about the draft but came back to school. The 6-11, 321 pound Young started every game a year ago after missing 2018 with a torn ACL.
The other tackle may be the best lineman of them in all junior Darrian Kinnard. In a group filled with All-SEC caliber players the 6-5, 324 pound Kinnard graded out higher than anyone on the line.
Highest graded returning power-five OTs:
1. Penei Sewell, Oregon – 95.8
2. Rashawn Slater, Northwestern – 89.9
3. Darian Kinnard, Kentucky – 89.2
4. Jordan McFadden, Clemson – 88.3 pic.twitter.com/mJgQ1UbfcQ
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 28, 2020
The Big Blue Nation isn’t used to seeing many Kentucky players on pre-season watch lists. However that’s where the Wildcats stand in 2020. However it shows how far Mark Stoops’ has moved this program forward. That includes Jackson and Kinnard on the list for the Outland Trophy as the nation’s best lineman.
Best interior lineman in #CollegeFootball
— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) July 21, 2020
If we’re being honest, Young should be on this list as well and it’s a shame he isn’t.
The Cats start three seniors and could lose a fourth in Kinnard after the season. However with a group of really talented younger players the “Big Blue Wall” is set for years to come.
As we continue previewing Kentucky’s Offensive and Defensive lines it’s time to move across the ball and look at the defense.
Better Up Front In 2020?
A season ago Kentucky ranked fourth in the SEC and 14th nationally in scoring defense. However they struggled against the run finishing 64th in the nation giving up 157 yards per game and allowed 21 touchdowns. If they are going to improve on that number then it’s going to start up front.
Senior nose guard Quinton Bohanna had 18 tackles, three for a loss and one sack a season ago. He’s flanked on the ends by the returning Phil Hoskins and Josh Paschal. The 6-5, 310 pound Hoskins was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA after missing all of 2019. He sat out the first two games due to academic suspension then suffered a knee injury during pregame warm ups in his first game back. In 2018 Hoskins recorded 21 tackles with three and a half for a loss. In addition he sacked the quarterback three times.
True Blue Fans know Paschal’s story but for the uninitiated here’s a recap. As a freshman the six foot three Paschal played in eight games, recording 16 tackles and three and a half sacks. However before the 2018 season he was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in his foot. A season ago he moved to linebacker where he had 34 tackles with 9.5 coming for a loss. Furthermore he had 3.5 sacks. The UK coaching staff thinks any of the three could be All-SEC players.
Strength In Reserve
The Cats are well stocked up front which makes defensive coordinator Brad White very happy. Behind the starters you have several other players with game experience. Those include Kordell Looney, Abule Adadi-Fitzgerald and Marquan McCall. Between the three they accounted for 34 tackles and a sack.
If that wasn’t enough that Cats should be good on the defensive line for years to come. Kentucky’s 2020 class includes five defensive linemen who were all ranked four star players and above. It’s headed by five star Justin Rogers the highest rated player ever to commit to Kentucky since Rivals started their rankings in 2002.
Kentucky's 2020 defensive line class:
Top-5 DT Justin Rogers (6-3, 311)
Top-10 DE Samuel Anaele (6-4, 243)
Top-25 DT Josaih Hayes (6-2, 308)
Top-40 DT Tre'vonn Rybka (6-4, 281)
Top-50 DT Octavious Oxendine (6-2, 308)
— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) December 18, 2019
Thanks for previewing Kentucky’s offensive and defensive lines with us here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll finish things up with the linebackers, secondary and kicking game. From there there’ll be a schedule rundown and finally picks for the 2020 season. Of course we don’t know how the 2020 season is going to shake out as of yet. However we do know expectations in Lexington are as high as they’ve ever been.