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Josh Ali’s growth will be critical for Kentucky’s offense

The Cats need more threats on the outside, and Ali could be the answer.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

Benny Snell right, Benny Snell left, Lynn Bowden screen. That was pretty much the 2018 game plan for Kentucky Football. Now that Benny is gone, you can expect the Kentucky offense to look much different.

There is elite speed at every position, and it is expected that the ball will be in the air a lot more this season. In order for that scheme to be successful, however, the wide receiving corps really needs to step up. That is especially true for junior Josh Ali.

Josh Ali

  • Position: Wild receiver
  • Measurements: 6’0”, 188 lbs.
  • Hometown: Hollywood, Florida
  • School: Chaminade-Madonna High School
  • Recruit Rankings: No. 32 wide receiver in Florida in 2017

Ali came to Kentucky as a three star wide receiver from Florida, which is a very strong recruiting victory for the Wildcats. Although a bit undersized, Ali’s speed and skill set are the perfect fit for the type of offense that Eddie Gran ran at Cincinnati a few years ago.

Ali caught three passes as a freshman and played in nine games, and took a major step forward in his sophomore campaign with ten catches and his first touchdown, which came during the dismantling of Louisville.

Given the strength of the running game last season, and the fact that Lynn Bowden, David Bouvier, and Dorian Baker were primary targets from the receiver position, Ali did not get a lot of action as a sophomore even though he played in 12 of the team’s 13 games.

But with the offensive scheme expected to open up in 2019, much more will be expected from Josh Ali. Yes, Bowden will be the No. 1 option for Terry Wilson the majority of the time. But with CJ Conrad and Dorian Baker out of the equation, there has to be a secondary option off the edge on pass plays.

Besides Bowden, Ali has the most experience of anyone in the group. There may be some younger guys with more talent, but Ali has to take a leadership role with the wide receivers both in the locker room and on the field.

“Josh Ali is a really good wide receiver,” Kentucky wide receivers coach Michael Smith told the Herald-Leader. “I mean, he has the total package. He has got unbelievable feet, catches the ball well, has great hips, can run. I am excited to see what he does this season.”

A “total package” kind of wide receiver is what Kentucky has really needed to put beside Lynn Bowdens electric speed. I am sure that is exactly what Terry Wilson would like to have as well, and he has publicly stated that Ali has become one of his favorite targets this fall.

Will Ali be ready to take the next step forward? Can he be the guy this team needs to make the offense a real threat?

“I am used to the speed now, but everything is slowing down and getting easier.” Ali said after an early fall practice. “I know what I can do. I’m just waiting on the right moment to show it.”

He will certainly get his chance to show it as the Wildcats will host Toledo on August 31st at Kroger Field.