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Why Terry Wilson is Kentucky’s most important player

Kentucky was able to overcome the loss of Wilson last year thanks to a magical season from Lynn Bowden. But now, it’s Wilson or bust for the Cats.

Jason Marcum - Sea of Blue

The Kentucky Wildcats were reeling from back-to-back losses and plunging headfirst into a third straight loss this time last season. While the Cats lost but played admirably against the Florida Gators, they were completed gutted by the Mississippi St. Bulldogs and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The reason for the losses is now clear: Sawyer Smith wasn’t very good. Whether he was injured or healthy, the fact remains that the Cats weren’t winning with him at the helm.

The loss of Terry Wilson due to a devastating knee injury in Week 2 could have tanked the season if not for Lynn Bowden becoming a college football star.

But what would have happened if Bowden had never started at quarterback for Kentucky? If that had been the case then we would probably would have been stuck with a three or four win season. Yes, the defense is stacked and we all feel pretty good about the offensive line along with the running backs, but we saw how important it is to have a field general in the shotgun for UK.

With the depth chart being released yesterday we saw that the offensive coaching staff trusts true freshman Beau Allen more than they do Sawyer Smith. I was a little surprised that he was named Wilson’s backup considering the experience Smith has in the system but I suppose the coaches believe that in this instance talent trumps experience.

Joey Gatewood is a wildcard here, but let’s not forget that we’ve never really seen him play and the reason he is at Kentucky is because he lost the starting job to Bo Nix of the Auburn Tigers. Plus, we don’t really know if/when Gatewood is going to be eligible.

That leaves me with the thought that Terry Wilson is the most important player on the team and I’m not sure if it’s even close. The other positions on the field are filled with depth and experience almost across the board. The quarterback room is filled with questions and those questions do include Wilson.

While I was confident last season that he was ready to “take the next step” in his maturation as the starting quarterback for Kentucky. I’m still holding onto that belief but I’m a little wary. The injury he suffered was bad. And sometimes it takes players longer to recover mentally than physically from an injury of that nature. While I think Terry Wilson has the physical tools to do the job, I do wonder if he is mentally prepared to bounce back.

The prospect of losing him to another injury or him not being very good doesn’t leave me with a great deal of confidence in this team’s ability to succeed in a season where they play only SEC teams. There are no gimme games and there is nowhere to hide. We are going to find out a great deal about where Kentucky football is in regards to the pecking order of the conference.

While Beau Allen may have the arm and all of the tangible things to be great, I’d rather not rely on a true freshman to navigate this team through the SEC. I’ve seen enough of Sawyer Smith to know that he just doesn’t have what it takes to be even a mid-level SEC quarterback. And I really don’t know what to expect out of Joey Gatewood even if he is cleared to play.

The Lynn Bowden offense was a masterstroke of genius orchestrated by Eddie Gran. The Cats don’t have that wrinkle this season. It looks like there’s little room to pivot if Wilson goes down or doesn’t take the next step.

While this post sounds doom and gloom, I do believe in Terry Wilson. While he had some dips in his first season at Kentucky, he more often than not provided the Cats with a steady presence at quarterback and had some truly bright moments, including the first win over Florida in three decades, as well as Kentucky’s first 10-win season since 1977.

The numbers below actually compare Nix and Wilson’s numbers. While they are quite comparable, Wilson edges him out, yet it’s Nix who’s drawn significantly more preseason hype.

As long as Terry Wilson can stay healthy and overcome any mental blocks, I think Kentucky football can have a special season.

But if things go the wrong way, it’s going to take a Lynn Bowden like tweak to get the Cats back on track.

But I’m not sure there is a tweak. It may be Terry Wilson or bust.

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