August 31, 2018 – CASEY ALLEN – Bluegrass Sports Nation Special UK Football Columnist
The biggest question mark during the offseason was at quarterback for the Wildcats. That question was finally answered this week as Coach Stoops announced that Junior College transfer Terry Wilson was taking the reins. It’s fitting that this decision comes just days before the Wildcats first game.
Terry Wilson was a 4-star recruit out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He was highly touted as a dual threat quarterback. Ultimately, Wilson decided to take his talents to the University of Oregon. He would eventually redshirt his freshman year. After losing the starting job during spring practice Wilson decided to transfer. Where does a high-profile quarterback transfer? The answer was the Junior College route to Garden City, Kansas where Wilson would be featured on a Netflix series called “Last Chance U”, a documentary of a Junior College as they recruit NCAA Division 1 athletes who need a fresh start. After a season in which Wilson threw for over 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns, he chose the University of Kentucky over Nebraska.
Wilson brings dynamic playmaking ability to the Wildcats offense. Defenses will be forced to game plan his ability to run the ball, as well as throwing it. Wilson is known for his intangibles, the ability to scramble, avoiding pressure, and turning nothing into something. With junior left tackle, Landon Young, being sidelined with a knee injury for the entire 2018 season, Wilson’s athletic ability is exactly what the Wildcats need.
Taking pressure off the young quarterback is UK’s beast mode running back, Benny Snell, Jr. Benny carried the Wildcats offense last season, rushing 262 times for 1,333 yards and 19 touchdowns. Defenses will have nightmares game planning for UK’s backfield.
On the defensive side of the ball, former United States Army All-American, and Paintsville High School Alum, Kash Daniels will be trying to fill the void that Courtney Love left at middle linebacker. Love was the signal caller of the defense, and was a tackling machine racking up 76 tackles last season. Don’t worry though, Love has joined Coach Stoops’ coaching staff as a Graduate Assistant. Daniels has impressed throughout the offseason, stepping into the leadership role for the defense. UK’s defense has plenty of room for improvement as the unit allowed 332 yards per game last season. The season opens this Saturday when the Central Michigan Chippewas come to Kroger Field.
The Wildcats are coming into this Saturday having won all six matchups with the Chippewas. The Chippewas have a lot in common with this year’s Wildcats. They will be starting a sophomore quarterback by the name of Tony Poljan. Poljan isn’t a running threat however, standing in the pocket at 6’7, 237 pounds. The Chippewas won’t be asking Poljan to run the ball as they return leading rusher from last year’s team Johnathan Ward. Ward rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and has proven himself to be versatile as he caught 48 passes out of the backfield (according to Athlon Sports). Defensively Central Michigan is coming off a season in which it allowed 349 yards per game. They will need to improve that drastically if they want to hang with the Wildcats.
Coach Stoops believes this team is ready to take the next step. “As I move into year six, the biggest thing you look at Kentucky, the biggest thing I feel is the change in expectations, and that’s a good thing. We’re excited about that. We embrace those expectations. Really it starts with our coaches, our fan base, and most importantly our players. We expect more. We’ve been close. We’ve done some good things. I’m proud of the work that we’ve done, that we look forward to making a big jump this year. We return some players with experience. We returned some talent. We returned some players that decided to forego the NFL and come back to do more, to play with a chip on their shoulder, to win some football games.” (Lexington Herald-Leader)
If you are a part of Big Blue Nation you are used to looking ahead to basketball season. This isn’t a year to do that. The 2018 version of the Wildcats are looking to make noise in the SEC East. With a dynamic backfield, and weapons all over the field offensively, the true test of how good this team can be will be on the defensive side of the ball. Can the Kash Daniels lead defense be stiffer against the run? Can the secondary create a no-fly zone? These answers will soon be answered as kickoff is slated for 3:30 pm Saturday at Kroger Field. As all ways if you can’t attend the game, stay up to date with all things UK football on our Facebook page, or visit our website at www.bluegrasssportsnation.com!!!!