Recognizing The Best Of The Past Year
Throughout the annals of Kentucky football, a 7-6 record and making a bowl game was a huge accomplishment. However, with the culture Mark Stoops has built recently 2022 seemed subpar. Especially when you consider the expectations heading into the year. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some really good things. Let’s hand out some hardware for both individuals and the team as we give out the 2022 Kentucky football awards. We’re going to break this into two parts, today it’s individual accomplishments.
Outstanding Achievement On Offense
The winner- Will Levis– Yes his stats were down somewhat from 2021. However, there’s no doubt when he wasn’t on the field the offense wasn’t the same. Despite a slew of injuries including turf toe and a bad shoulder the projected top-ten pick completed 65% of his passes for 2,406 yards and 19 touchdowns. In fact, his passer rating was higher this year (151.3) than in 2021 (148.3).
Levis finishes his career in Lexington with a 17-7 record as a starter, tying Terry Wilson for the second-most quarterback wins since 1993. Furthermore, he finished fifth in school history with 43 touchdowns. Levis’ 5,233 passing yards put him sixth on the career list and his six 300 yards games rank him fourth. As a result, he gets our offensive player of the year.
In addition to Levis three other Wildcats merited consideration for our offensive player of the year. Let’s count them down in alphabetical order.
Barion Brown, Dane Key, and Chris Rodriguez– Brown, a freshman receiver from Nashville, led the Wildcats with 50 receptions for 628 yards and four touchdowns. Those are both records for a Kentucky freshman. In addition, he was third in the SEC and eighth in the nation averaging 27.5 yards per kick return. That includes a touchdown in the season opener win over Miami-Ohio. Brown capped the season by being named a freshman All-American.
Key, another standout freshman, hauled in 37 passes for 519 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers led the team in touchdowns and third in receptions. The Lexington native’s high water mark came in Kentucky’s shutout win over Youngstown State with six receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown.
Despite missing five of the team’s 13 games Rodriguez still led Kentucky with 904 yards and six touchdowns. That was nearly four times the next-highest total of 278 by JuThan McClain. Rodriguez and Levis both skipped the Music City Bowl as they prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Continuing on with our 2022 Kentucky Football Individual Awards let’s move over to the defense.
Outstanding Achievement On Defense
With all the injuries and revolving door at times keeping players in the game it would be easy to give the award to defensive coordinator Brad White. Remember this squad held Georgia to 16 points, the same squad who lit up TCU for 65 in the championship game.
A testament of how good Kentucky’s defense was this season-Georgia had more points in the first quarter versus TCU (17) than the entire game versus Kentucky (16).
— Wesley Eversole ☮️ (@wesths05) January 10, 2023
However, this is for the players so we’re splitting it among several.
The winners are: D’Eryk Jackson, Jordan Lovett, DeAndre Square, Carrington Valentine, Trevin Wallace, and Jordan Wright. Let’s start with Jackson, who got a lot of playing time due to injuries to Square and Jacquez Jones, led the defense with 67 tackles. In addition, he had four tackles for a loss and two passes defended.
Square, a Super Senior, only appeared in nine games due to injuries. However, he made the most of his time finishing fourth on the team with 58 tackles to go along with a sack and an interception. Lovett and Valentine were two anchors of the secondary. As a freshman, Lovett finished second on the team with 62 tackles. In addition, he tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Valentine ended 2022 with 48 tackles, a sack, and an interception. He also led the team with 10 passes defended. However, he’s declared for the NFL Draft.
Wallace was fifth on the team with 54 tackles but was second with 2.5 sacks and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. With Jones and Square gone, he’ll be one of the anchors of the 2023 Cats. Another super senior Wright ended the year with 62 tackles, second on the team. In addition, he led the defense with 9,5 tackles for loss and third with two sacks.
If we were giving a defensive freshman MVP that honor goes to Deone Walker. During his first season, the Detroit native had 40 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. He was named SEC’s co-Defensive Lineman of the week for his performance against Louisville. In that contest, he made six tackles, had a half sack, and forced a fumble. Walker was also named a freshman All-American which put the Cats in some exclusive company.
Kentucky was the only school to produce a PFF Freshman All-American on both offense and defense (WR Barion Brown, DT Deone Walker).
— TheCatsPause247 (@TheCatsPause247) December 1, 2022
We’ve got one more trophy to hand out with our 2022 Kentucky Football Individual Awards and this is for special teams.
Special (Teams) Achievement
Most Outstanding Play- Colin Goodfellow versus Missouri- In a year where Kentucky’s special teams’ play was anything but, the punter made a potentially season-saving play.
Up 21-17 over the Tigers with 2:25 remaining he reacted quickly to a ball snapped over his head. He was able to punt the ball just before getting tackled by a Missouri defender. The resulting roughing the kicker penalty gave UK the ball back when they ran out the clock. Goodfellow suffered a leg injury that sidelined him for the year. However, his heads-up play helped the Cats get bowl eligible.
Thanks for checking out the 2022 Kentucky Football Individual Awards here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll focus on team awards.