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Kentucky Without Top Players For Bowl

Kentucky Without Top Players For Bowl

Levis And Rodriguez To Skip Final Game

Last Sunday the Kentucky football team accepted a bid to play in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. By the way that’s the game Last Word projected for the Cats. For Mark Stoops’ club, it extends their school-record seventh straight bowl berth. However, since then it’s been a whirlwind with two assistant coaches departing and now the loss of arguably the two most important players on the squad. Let’s break it and see where they go next as Kentucky will be without top players for Music City Bowl.

Projected First-Round Pick

Earlier this week UK signal caller Will Levis announced he was not only declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft but also skip the game in Nashville.

After starting his career backing up Sean Clifford at Penn State, Levis transferred to Kentucky before the 2021 season. In two years at Kentucky Levis completed nearly 67 percent of his passes for 5,232 yards. That puts him sixth on the school’s all-time list in only two years. In addition, he threw for 43 touchdowns with 23 interceptions. He also ran for 376 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior.

Unfortunately under new (and now gone) offensive coordinator, Rich Scangarello Levis’ running ability wasn’t showcased in 2022. It wasn’t until the last couple of games where he looked more like himself. Of course, the fact he spent much of the year injured certainly didn’t help. He suffered a foot injury in the loss to Ole Miss and was unable to play the next week against South Carolina. He also dealt with a nagging shoulder issue.

As it stands right now Levis is a consensus first-round pick. In fact, Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him as the third best prospect  and top overall quarterback, jumping ahead of Bryce Young. He’ll now get healthy before the Senior Bowl in early February.

Kentucky will be without two top players for their bowl game. Let’s take a look at the second dose of bad news the BBN received this week.

Onto The Next Level

The next day all-SEC running back Chris Rodriguez announced he was also passing on the game against Iowa on December 31st. Much like Levis will prepare for the NFL Draft.

During his stint in Lexington C-Rod goes down as one of the best running backs in school history. Rodriguez finishes his career with 3,644 yards and 32 touchdowns. His yards gained puts him third all-time behind Benny Snell’s 3,873 and Sonny Collins with 3,835. The 32 touchdowns put him second in school history behind Snell’s 48. However, he did break Benny’s record of 20 100-yard games.

He sat out the first four games of 2022 due to suspension. However, he still ran for 904 yards and six touchdowns. Despite missing a quarter of the year Rodriguez still placed sixth in the SEC in rushing yards.

A look at some of the early NFL Draft projections shows him as a fifth-round pick next year.

There’s still a game to be played even though Kentucky will be without two top players for their bowl. What options do Stoops and his staff have?

Where To Turn Next?

With Levis opting out of the Music City Bowl all signs point to Kaiya Sheron getting his second career start. Against South Carolina, the Somerset, Kentucky native threw for 178 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in a 24-14 loss. Backing up Sheron is freshman Destin Wade. The former Tennessee Mr. Football hasn’t played in 2022 but this could be a great time to see what he can do.

Of course, the “Hollywood Story” would have Deuce Hogan leading the Cats to a victory over his former school. For those that may not remember a negative comment from Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz which led Hogan to transfer.

As far as the running game goes the Cats have a few options. However, it’s not as many as during the season. With Rodriguez out Kavosiey Smoke would get the nod. Unfortunately for Cat fans he and his 1,500 career yards entered the transfer portal on December 1st.

JuThan McClain  is next man up for the Wildcats. The junior rushed for 238 yards on the season and also hauled in 15 passes. Behind him is La’Vell Wright who has 114 yards in 2022 but only has nine carries since September 24th. Another possibility is former Tennessee transfer Dee Beckwith.

At the end of the day, Kentucky may start as many as six freshmen against Iowa. With the Hawkeyes sporting one of the top defenses in the nation points could be hard to come by on both ends.

Again Kentucky will be without two top players for the Music City Bowl as Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez opted out of the game. Stay with Last Word On College Football as we’ll get you ready for the Music City Bowl and all the interesting coaching changes happening with Stoops’ staff.

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