Football is on track to return this fall! If you are anything like me, when you received the news a couple of weeks back that the NCAA had approved a schedule for workouts and camps to start, you probably almost jumped through the roof of your office.
We get to start speculating on depth charts, what games will be like in this climate, and who we need to watch for in the coming years.
A buddy of mine asked me another great question. Who will be the breakout players this year?
I think there are three newcomers that are the answer.
The 6-1, 205 pound wideout from Columbus, Ohio made a name for himself as a multi-sport star from the Buckeye state. He was a four-year letterman in football, basketball, baseball and track & field, but the gridiron is really where he shined as a four-star prospect and one of Kentucky’s top recruits in the 2020 class.
As an early enrollee, Branham was able to get workouts earlier this spring, as well as get a couple spring practices under his belt before COVID-19 closed down campus.
With the Cats coming off of the Lynn Bowden experience, I think we all expect that Eddie Gran is going to open the passing game this season. This is exactly where I expect Branham to begin to separate himself and force the coaches to put him on the field periodically in the early weeks.
With the starting depth chart to feature the names like Josh Ali, Bryce Oliver, and Clevan Thomas in the slot, I’m a believer that those soft hands and work ethic we saw from Branham’s highlights are going to drive this kid to early playing time. Everyone keep and eye out once practices start in August.
A name that came up some during the few spring practices the Cats had was this one. Oxendine, the freshman from North Hardin in Elizabethtown, caught the attention of coaches early on, and I would expect that trend to continue as workouts and camps resume.
At 6-2 and 308 pounds, the defensive lineman is one of those that is caught in the middle of the position battle which has a lot of names running it. Phil Hoskins, Marquan McCall, Quinton Bohanna, and fellow freshman Justin Rogers are just a few names that pop up in that conversation.
I’m here to tell you to keep an eye out for the push that Oxendine will make.
If you watch his tape, you will see him not only use his frame to push through and overpower his blockers, but you also regularly see some speed from him around the end or even beating his blockers before they can get hands on him up the middle. I mean, this past year, he ended up with 62 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 14.5 sacks, which from the DT spot is quite impressive.
Keep an eye out as the summer continues because even if there is a crowded DL room, with the speed and instinct you see from his tape I think he might have to force Stoops and Brad Whites hands into getting him on the field early.
Michael Drennen II
Depending on who you talk to maybe one of the more important recruiting wins for the Cats in the last several seasons. The freshman from Dublin Coffman in Ohio fills a position the Cats would have missed greatly this season.
Drennen, recruited as an all-purpose back, fills the void that is going to be left by Lynn Bowden before he became QB. In today’s game, we all know that having that highly-instinctual and lateral-speed flex player is more important than ever.
With the way offensive coaches are starting to change around schemes and design more motion into their offenses like ever before. This is the void Drennen fills perfectly.
Look for Drennen to put this flexibility on showcase early and often once workouts and camps start. Impressing with his speed and IQ, I fully expect to see him lining up a lot at the slot and being used as a speed back maybe coming out of the Wildcat. I also fully expect him to make an impact on the return game.
If Drennen can stay healthy, he not only fills a need the Cats have but can slide right in day 1 and make an instant name for himself among BBN.
Although football might still be somewhat of a toss up, especially after several schools have suspended workouts due to players testing positive for the virus in recent weeks, what better time than now to get the BBN fired up about some potential impact players to watch out for and what could be another historic season in the Commonwealth.