Cats Need Replacements On Both Sides Of The Ball
A little over a week ago Kentucky had its first Spring football game in three years. In a contest played in weather more fitting of November the Blue Beat The White 32-0. Of course, if we’re being honest the score really didn’t matter that much. Now that spring practice is over we’re continuing our series looking at each position. Today it’s the big guys up front on both sides of the ball. Mark Stoops’ club lost major contributors on both offense and defense. Let’s look at the guys who could replace the departed players with our 2022 Kentucky Spring Review Linemen.
New Blocks Of The Big Blue Wall
For anyone who’s followed the Kentucky Football program over the last few years one of the strongest points of the team has been the offensive line. Led for years by the late John Schlarman the group is affectionately known as the “Big Blue Wall” and has become one of the best groups in the SEC year after year. However, for the first time in a while, the Cats head into 2022 with some questions. Darian Kinnard is a likely second-round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. Center Luke Fortner has been rapidly rising up draft lists including Mel Kiper Jr. A third lineman Dare Rosenthal had the fastest 40-yard time of all linemen.
As it stands right now the Cats are pretty set on the inside with Eli Cox, Kenneth Horsey, and Auburn transfer Tashawn Manning at center and guards. Although, the tackle positions are up for grabs. Another Auburn transfer Jeremy Flax was the expected starter but Rosenthal beat him out last year. In fact, Flax said he and former offensive line coach Eric Wolford never really saw eye to eye. After Spring practice he looks as if he’s locked up the right tackle spot.
All of it is really just speculation until we see it play out on the field but Jeremy Flax got a lot of positive buzz during spring ball. If he locks down RT, it really leaves just one worry on the OL. You can scheme around one iffy spot. Much harder to do that around two.
— Adam Luckett (@AdamLuckettKSR) April 12, 2022
That leaves the left tackle position where currently Deondre Buford looks like the guy. Meanwhile, an instant impact newcomer may have something to say about that.
True Freshman To The Rescue?
Long-time readers of Last Word know we’ve followed Kiyaunta Goodwin ever since he chose Kentucky over a year ago. The Charlestown, Indiana native comes in as the 38th best player in the nation. Standing six foot eight and 340 pounds he had the size for an SEC tackle. The question is do you throw him to the wolves right off the bat or let him ease into it. Also in the mix is David Wohlabaugh Jr. Kentucky made a big push for Vanderbilt transfer Tyler Steen only to lose out on him to Wolford and Alabama. They may go that route heading into the summer too.
Continuing our 2o22 Kentucky Spring Review Linemen let’s head to the other side of the ball.
An Entirely New Line
Much like on offense the defensive line needs a total overhaul from 2021. Josh Paschal is a likely second-day draft pick. Marquan McCall is projected as a late-round selection. A third starter Abule Abadi–Fitzgerald is now looking at a possible WWE career. As a result, the staff needs players to must step up. Heading the list is former top recruit Justin Rogers who had 17 tackles and 1.5 sacks at nose tackle. Along with him is redshirt freshman Josaih Hayes. In fact, coming out of the Spring they are platooning.
Octavious Oxendine was poised for a breakout season before a mid-season injury. He was unavailable for the Spring as he’s still rehabbing. Behind him on the depth chart is redshirt freshman Khalil Saunders who had two tackles in 2021. Another player turning heads is former four-star recruit Sam Anaele who had a sack in the Spring game.
Paschal and his 52 tackles, 15 for a loss, and five sacks are nearly impossible to fill. Meanwhile, defensive line coach Anwar Stewart thinks he’s got a couple of guys who can certainly try. Tre’vonn Rybka had 15 tackles in limited playing time last year and is first on the depth chart. Behind him is Ohio State transfer Darrion Henry-Young who has potential after never getting a chance up in Columbus.
Much like the wide receiver position Kentucky has a wealth of players who simply need experience. With so many players unavailable during the spring due to injuries, it’s hard to get a good grip on where things stand. But at the end of the day, the UK coaching staff thinks they have the horses who can make a run at Georgia this year.
Thanks for checking out our 2022 Kentucky Spring Review Linemen here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll look at one of the strongest positions on the squad. the linebackers. In addition, we’ll get you ready for the 2022 NFL Draft where as many as seven Cats should hear their name called.