After coming off of back to back 7-win seasons and bowl appearances, the Kentucky Wildcats are really hoping to take the next step forward with the football program.
With a new quarterback, a tough schedule, and some big shoes to fill on the roster, that next step is not exactly going to be a walk in the park. This will be a challenging season with many questions remaining to be answered.
Regardless, there is a lot to be excited about. This has the potential to be a special season with records being broken and, if a few things happen to fall in line, the opportunity to pick up that elusive eighth win.
Here are three reasons you should be excited for Kentucky football to get going.
The Kentucky football program often goes years without having a player selected in the NFL Draft. Last year’s Kentucky defensive unit had multiple players that had a legitimate shot of being selected in the draft, yet they all elected to come back for a senior season.
Linebackers Josh Allen and Jordan Jones, as well as safety Mike Edwards, are keys to the impact the defense can have this season. And they returned to Kentucky with a purpose.
“I think I still have a lot to prove,” Allen said about returning. “I feel like the beginning of the season I came on a hot start. Toward the end, I kinda slowed down a little bit. I feel like next year, once I improve on my stamina, my strength, my speed and all that, I can last more and play more.”
While the overall defense may not have exceeded expectations a year ago, many of these guys did. And now that they are the leaders of the defense, a chip on their shoulder can go a long way toward improving the overall performance of the group.
Ever since Mark Stoops arrived in Lexington, fans have been waiting for him to implement his system with his players. Last year was really the first time that you could say the majority of the talent was from Stoops recruiting class. And even then, injuries called for young guys to step up earlier than expected.
In every year, it seems, there was at least one young player that the team must rely on to be successful. First it was Drew Barker and Matt Elam, neither of which produced the results Big Blue Nation had hoped for.
The last two years, underclassman Benny Snell has carried the load and last season freshman Lynn Bowden came in with high expectations.
For the first time since Stoops arrived, this team is primarily being asked to rely on veteran players. Eight of the expected starters on offense are juniors and seniors, and the same can be said about the defense.
Not a single freshman is expected to start on this year’s squad, and that should be music to every fan’s ears.
Kentucky has not been national power in college football in most of our lifetimes. Even so, there have often been players that have become bigger than the game in some ways.
Tim Couch, Craig Yeast, Jared Lorenzen, Randall Cobb, Bud Dupree. These guys made Kentucky football worth the price of admission on their own. The 2018 Kentucky Wildcats roster has three guys with that kind of potential.
Josh Allen could have potentially been a first-round draft pick last season, and he has high hopes of being an All-SEC defensive player and potential All-American this year. He is playing with a chip on his shoulder, and he is prepared to take the Kentucky defense to the next level.
CJ Conrad has always had the skills to be a top-tier tight end, but due to injuries and other personnel issues he has yet to make his mark. With the potential of a new quarterback and another year of development under his belt, Conrad truly believes he is the best tight end in the SEC. Many expect him to be an NFL player for a long time.
Last but not least is Benny Snell. By the end of this season, he could own every Kentucky rushing record there is. He also claims to have added a larger receiving skill set to his repertoire.
When it is all said and done, Snell could be a dark horse Heisman candidate and the best running to ever suit up in Lexington. Watching him play at Kroger Field could be something you want to tell your grandchildren about.
There really is a lot to be excited about for this coming season. Even if that eighth win never comes, some special things can come from this Kentucky Wildcats team. But if they are able to get over the eight-win hump, you want to make sure you are a part of as many games as possible.
What gets you most excited about the upcoming football season?