The Kentucky Wildcats sit at 5-1 as they head into their week seven bye.
With wins over Mississippi State and South Carolina, as well at Florida, the Wildcats are coming off a narrow defeat at Texas A&M. With six games down and six remaining, here are the teams’ mid-term grades.
Best Unit: Front Seven
Senior linebacker Josh Allen plays a major role in the grading of Kentucky’s front seven. However, sophomore nose guard Quinton Bohanna and sophomore edge rusher Jamar “Boogie” Watson have had a coming out party to start the season. Jordan Jones has had a stellar first half to his senior season and Kash Daniel hasn’t missed a beat while filling Courtney Love’s shoes. Defense has been the key part of Kentucky’s success and it all starts with the front seven.
Worst Unit: Quarterbacks
It’s hard to throw shade at a quarterback who is 5-1 as a starter in his first season with the team. However, Terry Wilson’s one loss came on Saturday at Texas A&M of which (discounting the handoff to Lynn Bowden that was counted as a pass) he completed 12/19 passes for just 54 yards. His QBR of 9.2 was his worst of the season and just .1% worse than his debut of which he tossed two interceptions and coughed up a fumble. Wilson will need to drastically improve if he wants to hold off backup QB Gunnar Hoak.
Best Player: Benny Snell
Josh Allen has cemented himself as one of the best, if not the best, defensive players in the country. However, despite only 13 carries in Saturday’s loss, running back Benny Snell Jr. is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate.
Snell currently leads the SEC in rushing and is on pace for his best season in Kentucky blue. He’s also carried a majority of the offensive weight, yet managing to shine brighter than ever despite sub-par play from UK’s quarterback.
Most Underrated: Darius West
When talking about Kentucky’s secondary, Mike Edwards being an NFL safety is the most obvious observation. However, while injuries riddled the start to his career at Kentucky, fellow safety Darius West is having by far his best season as a Wildcat.
West has totaled eight or more tackles in five of his six games this season. He’s also added three interceptions with two coming in his last two games. West compliments Edwards as Edwards compliments West, making them one of the best tandems in the SEC.
Most Improved: Bunchy Stallings
After making the transition from center to right guard last season, the senior has been an impact piece of Kentucky’s offensive line. With his “pancake” block at Florida making national highlights, Stallings has also twice already received SEC offensive linemen of the week honors.
When star left tackle Landon Young went down with a knee injury just before the season opener, many thought Kentucky’s line would struggle. However, with much to due to the play of Stallings, their line hasn’t missed a beat.
Best Rookie: Max Duffy
He may be 25 years of age but Duffy is also a rookie for the Wildcats. The psychology major and Australian punter has been a miracle worker for the Wildcats in terms of flipping the field with his boot. Duffy has relieved his defense by amounting pressure on the opposing offense, which in turn has gifted the offense favorable field position.
Comeback Player: Jordan Jones
After a 13-game sophomore season that featured 74 tackles, four sacks and as many pass defenses, Jordan Jones only appeared in nine games for the Wildcats last season. As a junior, Jones was nicked by injuries and couldn’t ever really find momentum.
However, after a positive offseason, the senior linebacker is having his best all-around season as a Wildcat. Jones is producing on the field but is also (for the most part) erasing the negative mentality that cast a cloud around him in years past. Jones has been an underrated contributor to Kentucky’s success.
Fan Favorite: Kash Daniel
Filling Courtney Love’s shoes was no easy task but Daniel has done just that. He’s also become the fan favorite in the bluegrass, aiding in even marketing sellout crowds for home games. It’s no question that Big Blue Nation has played a key role in disrupting opposing offenses at Kroger Field, making life a bit easier on Daniel & company. Daniel is just a junior, which could mean fans very well might enjoy his presence for another season.
Offensive Player: Benny Snell
Snell’s personal numbers not only speak for them-self but also for the success of his team. However, his teammates will tell you that he’s also one of the offense’s top leaders. Snell has received some undeserved criticism to start the year from opposing teams. However, he’s bottled up any response and let it all out on the field. Head coach Mark Stoop has a rare tool many teams can only dream of, and that’s having his best player as his best leader.
Defensive Player: Mike Edwards
You’ll struggle to find a football player with more intelligence than Edwards. His football IQ is second to none and his play on the field certainly backs that up. As a former defensive back and defensive backs coach, having Edwards to lead his secondary is a dream come true for Stoops. Add in Edwards is one of the top safeties in the SEC, along with his veteran presence as a senior, and Kentucky has a benefit most teams don’t.
The Wildcats are in their bye week as they prep for a home matchup against the Vanderbilt Commodores on October 20th. Kickoff is set for 7:30 PM EDT.