As we preview the 2020 season, Kentucky isn’t usually talked about in football circles. Not in a positive way, anyhow. But, since Mark Stoops took over in 2013, the team has been trending upward.
A big reason is that defense. Stoops was a Defensive Coordinator at Arizona and Florida State before taking the Head Coach vacancy in Lexington. Since then the school has produced the likes of Bud Dupree, Josh Allen, Lonnie Johnson, Mike Edwards, and Za’Darius Smith.
That doesn’t mean the offense has been stagnant, just not as impressive. The offensive line has produced a couple of NFL guys in the last seven years, guard Larry Warford, and tackle George Asafo-Adjei. Running back Benny Snell, and now running back (but receiver/quarterback at Kentucky) Lynn Bowden, are also alums from that side of the ball. That last name is quite significant.
Bowden was forced into playing quarterback last year after injuries took out starter Terry Wilson, and backup Sawyer Smith. The wide receiver was the next best option to run the offense, pun intended.
Because that’s exactly what the team did. Run. And they did it well. Even when teams knew that’s what they were going to do. The backup, and injured Smith threw more passes than Bowden, even after only starting three games.
But Bowden led with his head, and his feet. Rushing for over 1400 yards, mostly from the quarterback position, and as I said before, when teams knew that’s what was going to happen.
Rose had over 800 yards, while Smoke had over 600 yards and matched Rose in touchdowns. Asim was mre active in the passing game too, which will no doubt bleed into this season.
With a healthy, new look Terry Wilson behind center, the team won’t be so one-dimensional. His dual-threat ability will be used, which will make them more of a balanced Kentucky offense heading to whatever type of football season the SEC will have.
Receivers Clevan Thomas, and Josh Ali highlight the corps that didn’t get a lot of action last year. When your leader in receptions and yards is your quarterback, that aspect of your game is left behind. Ali is still a guy with a lot to prove, but with a solid season from Wilson, he could be a darkhorse for next year’s NFL draft.
Last year’s team sack leader Calvin Taylor is gone, but linebacker Boogie Watson is back, and he brought a squad of killers with him. Defensive end/linebacker Josh Paschal is a name you will hear called on the first couple of days in next year’s draft, so watch him wreak havoc in the opposing offense’s backfield. Paschal was second on the team in tackles-for-loss with 9.5, just behind Watson who had 11.5.
The teams spiritual and emotional leader, linebacker Kash Daniel is gone now, but he left his mark. DeAndre Square steps in to fill the hole, and he’s no slouch. Jamin Davis will also be there in the middle linebacker position, and although he had a good season last year, he needs to step into the role he was meant to have.
Safety Yusuf Corker highlights this year’s secondary, but defensive backs Cedrick Dort and transfer Brandon Echols are guys to watch for. They’re not top conference talent, but the defense they run at UK will help them succeed.
2020 Season Outlook
This season may not even happen, and if it does, it won’t be like any before. No out-of-conference games, which means each game is a must-win in the SEC East. Kentucky travels to Alabama, Auburn, and Florida this year, which makes those games that much harder.
Georgia and Mississippi State look like the toughest games at home, but none of them will be easy wins. With it looking like no Bowl games this year, and no easier opponents to pad the win column, this could be the first losing season for Kentucky since 2015 (although they did have a losing conference record last year).
UK will be fighting for the East crown. But it won’t be easy. Georgia and Florida seem to have the upper hand there. But, Kentucky fans don’t let this football season get you down. There will be a lot of good football to watch, when they play.
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