The losses of Lynn Bowden Jr., who may be the most dynamic player that has ever played in a Kentucky uniform, and offensive linemen Logan Stenberg, are specifically immense. Yet, even as Kentucky starts to lose NFL talent, the Mark Stoops staff has continued to build a roster that will produce even more professional players.
Kentucky football has a great amount of talent not only returning this coming season but also joining the squad.
Next season, UK may put the best defense on the field that the program has ever had, with talent at all three levels. Offensively, they return a quarterback in Terry Wilson who has a 12-3 career record, and also a consistent running attack.
Knowing what the roster will look like this coming season, here are my top five most important players that will make Kentucky a consistently difficult team to deal with in the SEC:
Due to his preseason injury and the success of the secondary even without him, many fans forget that DaVonte Robinson will also be a returner on next season’s roster.
While Robinson did not have any interceptions in the two seasons he played in, he was a consistent backup to now Tampa Bay safety Mike Edwards and Darius West. In those two seasons, he combined for 61 tackles, and from the first game on was mentally ready to play as he learned behind Edwards and West. Not to mention, he recovered the fumble at Florida in the 2018 season which sealed the biggest win of the Mark Stoops Era.
With his experience leading that secondary and overall consistency that he has shown before, barring a huge setback from injury, Robinson is due for a big season.
After Josh Allen graduated and was drafted into the NFL, the Kentucky defensive line became more of a force-by-committee with the absence of the pass-rushing superstar, and that they became as multiple weapons were developed along the line.
Even as pass rushing has continued to be key, and Kentucky will have extreme depth on the edge, Quinton Bohanna in his third season will be a force once again up the middle. His strength and girth leaves a big roadblock along the line that running backs will have to deal with, and his experience as an already two-season starter will grow even more important.
Leading the team in solo tackles last season (48), Square was a monster in the middle of the defense. His athletic ability and mental readiness during each play has made him throughout his career a valuable player. Even after week two of last season Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN named him one of the week’s top five performers in college football.
Now in his junior season adding two previous years of experience, Square will more than likely be one of, if not the, leader of the defense.
Ever since Jackson took over at the center position three seasons ago, he has been a rock in the middle of an efficient offensive line. So much so that Pro Football Focus named him the most valuable center going into next season.
Jackson’s importance is immense. Not just for holding his ground in the middle and swiftly moving to give the running back more space, but for helping the quarterback read the defense before the play even starts. Without him, UK would take a pretty good hit in the middle of the line especially in terms of experience.
Wilson was not the most prolific quarterback in the 2018-19 season as anyone that watched Kentucky that season would know, but the juco transfer led UK to a 10-3 record that season, and won his first two games this past season before going down with a season-ending knee injury.
In his career, Wilson has a 66.9% completion percentage with a QB rating of 134.3, which are pretty good numbers, but how he grew mentally and developed as an even larger role for the Cats is the most promising aspect of his game going into next season.
As the lead quarterback for this coming team, already known as the most important position in football, he is, to me, the most valuable player for Kentucky.
Those five players will play crucial roles in deciding the fate of next season’s team. With many other contributors, Kentucky has a roster that can make some noise once again in the SEC East division.