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Kentucky Offense Preparing to Face Deep, Talented Clemson

Photo: UK Athletics

Lexington, Ky – December 19, 2023 – Tim Letcher

In today’s college football world, bowl games are a bit of a wild card. Last season, Kentucky quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez, among others, opted not to play in the bowl game. There were also players who left via the transfer portal, leaving the Cats with a bit of a fluid roster.

This year, Kentucky appears to be in much better shape heading into the Dec. 29 Gator Bowl against Clemson. Almost all of UK’s key players will be playing against the Tigers in Jacksonville.

Meanwhile, the Clemson roster, especially on defense, has seen some players announce that they will not be playing in the bowl this season. That will make the Tigers a little bit more difficult to prepare for, but they will still pose a big challenge, according to UK offensive coordinator Liam Coen.

“They’re very much built like an SEC program. They’ve got a ton of depth up front,” Coen said. “They’ve got true freshmen who have played and played really well all year. They’re deep, they have a really deep front seven that’s going to be a challenge for us. On the perimeter, they do a play a lot of man coverage. They get a five-man rush with their talented front.”

How will Kentucky’s offense go about attacking Clemson?

“So, it’s going to be a challenge for us to win, to get open, to make contested catches, to throw the ball into small windows,” Coen said. “It’s a huge challenge for us to go play Clemson.”

One of the key factors for the Cats will be that running back Ray Davis has elected to play in the game. When he first announced that he was leaving for the NFL, it did not appear that Davis would be participating. But Davis recently announced that he would be playing against Clemson, much to Coen’s delight.

“Huge. Ray is a guy who has been extremely successful this year for us,” Coen said. “Dynamic with the ball in his hands. When you score 20 touchdowns and lead the SEC in total touchdowns, that’s a special feat. I’ve been really pleased with him making that decision to come when he doesn’t really have to. It gives us another playmaker to get the ball in his hands and go win this football game.”

The Cats also seem to be excited about the prospect of playing Clemson, a team that is ranked 22nd this season but also a program that has played in four national title games, winning two titles, in the last decade.

“I think that’s why everyone is playing in this game because Clemson is a big-time team, big-time name,” said UK tight end Brenden Bates. “I think everyone is really looking forward to it.”

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