Coming off the first 10 win season in 41 years True Blue Fans are waiting to see what Mark Stoops can do for an encore. While the 2019 season doesn’t kick off until August 31st, spring football will be here before you know it. It has been a relatively quiet off season so far but here are four things to watch before Kentucky begins spring football.
The Backup Quarterback Situation
There are rumblings Gunnar Hoak, the player Wilson beat out for the job last season, may leave as well. Hoak graduates in May and would be eligible to play immediately if he transfers out of Lexington. That leaves local product, Walker Wood as the only quarterback on the roster. Due to knee and shoulder injuries, Wood has never played a down in a game for the Cats. On paper at least, it seems Hoak’s best play would be to stay in Lexington through the spring and see what happens. He’s only one injury away from being the starter.
Kentucky does have two incoming signal callers in their 2019 recruiting class. Amani Gilmore is a dual threat player out of Louisiana whose team won the Class 2A championship. He reminds many of Wilson in the way he plays. The other quarterback is Nik Scalzo a drop back passer out of Florida. Like Gilmore Scalzo’s Cardinal Gibbons’ team won their state championship. However Scalzo torn his ACL in the state quarterfinals and is unlikely to play in 2019.
Looking For Immediate Help
As you can see, should Hoak decide to leave then the Cats are razor thin at the quarterback position. Short of an unforseen graduate transfer from another program look for Stoops, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterbacks coach Darrin Hinshaw to raid the junior college ranks.
A scan of the junior college rankings shows four of the top ten quarterbacks are still available. Kare’ Lyles out of Scottsdale Community College and Logan Byrd from Mississippi Gulf Coast are the top two ranked pro style players by Scout. Should the Cats want another dual threat player, then Rayvon Bartlett Jr. could be the guy. Out of Garden City Community College in Milwaukee Bartlett is the top unsigned dual threat signal caller.
Kentucky has had a great deal of success with junior college transfers. In 2016 the Cats picked up Stephen Johnson out of the College of the Desert in California. Johnson led the Cats to two straight bowl games and 14 wins. Of course last season the Cats signed Wilson who helped lead them to 10 wins and a Citrus Bowl victory.
Keeping The Coaching Staff Together
Every season since Stoops took over in 2013 the Wildcats have had some significant turnover in their coaching staff. So far this season only one member of the staff has moved on. EK Franks, Kentucky’s director of recruiting, left Lexington to take the assistant athletic director job at Troy. Franks had only been at Kentucky since August and previously worked at Arkansas and Florida.
However a much bigger story for Kentucky fans was the saga of Eddie Gran. The Kentucky offensive coordinator decided to stay at Kentucky after being offered the same position at Georgia.
I’m all in, #BBN! Let’s do this !
— Eddie Gran (@CoachGran) January 10, 2019
While Gran is often a target for criticism by many of the Big Blue Nation Stoops obviously thinks a great deal of him. Without Benny Snell in the backfield this year it will be interesting to see if the Cats open the offense up more. For Stoops to not lose any assistants coming off three straight bowls is a huge accomplishment. As we continue with four things to watch before Kentucky begins spring football our final focus is recruiting.
Finishing the 2019 Recruiting Class
Kentucky signed 21 players in the early signing period back in December. However that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking to add more players. One name in particular to watch is wide receiver Devonta Lee. The four star wide receiver plays on the same team as Gilmore and has already visited Lexington once. By his own account Lee was blown away by the visit.
— Devonta Lee (@DevontaleeLee) December 16, 2018
He is coming back this weekend as Kentucky hosts its annual recruiting weekend. The basketball Cats play host to Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. Long considered an LSU lean, getting the Under Armour All-American to Lexington would be one of Stoops’ greatest recruiting feats. Lee can come in and play from day one as a compliment to Lynn Bowden. That tandem could be as good as any in the league.
Another position to watch is the secondary as coach Steve Clinkscale must replace his entire starting unit from 2018. A name to watch is cornerback Jay Ward from Georgia. The three star player committed to Kentucky last June before backing out. He’s visiting Lexington on February 1st.
One other possibility is another Georgia cornerback Jammie Robinson. He visited Lexington back in December and is also considering Auburn, Tennessee and South Carolina. With a ton of momentum coming from the 10 win season Stoops looks to finish this year’s recruiting class strong.
Thanks for checking out four things to watch before Kentucky starts spring football here at Last Word On College Football. Keep checking back for more content as April grows closer.