Quarterback Will Levis has suddenly found himself in a familiar position as the Kentucky Wildcats get one step closer to spring practice.
For the second straight year, Levis will be forced to learn a new offense as Liam Coen takes his innovative play-calling back to the NFL as the new offensive coordinator for the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams.
On Friday, UK coach Mark Stoops hired San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello as the new OC as he reconnects with new Kentucky offensive line coach Zach Yenser, a former 49ers assistant.
Scangarello, who served as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos in 2019, is a widely respected member of the Sean McVay/Kyle Shanahan coaching tree and is expected to build upon the same concepts that Coen implemented in 2021.
That’s certainly good news for Levis who will have to prove himself again in 2022 despite a breakout first season as the Penn State transfer threw for 2,827 yards and 24 touchdowns to help lead the Wildcats to a 10-win season for only the fourth time in school history. He also rushed for 376 yards and nine touchdowns and became just the seventh player in school history to reach 3,000 yards total offense in a season.
But despite all that Levis did on the field in his first season, the 6-foot-3 team captain is already getting some tough love as Brad Crawford of 247 Sports recently ranked the Kentucky quarterback No. 9 among projected SEC starting quarterbacks for 2022.
All 14 SEC quarterbacks were ranked based on most recent statistics, projected coordinator changes, leadership ability, and overall talent on the field for 2022. That specific formula most likely hurt Levis with Coen jumping ship after a single season and Wan’Dale Robinson set to enter the draft after a record-breaking season at wide receiver.
Crawford’s top five consists of Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young (Alabama), K.J. Jefferson (Arkansas), Hendon Hooker (Tennessee), Will Rogers (Mississippi State) and Spencer Rattler (South Carolina). Stetson Bennett (Georgia), who led the Bulldogs to the National Championship over conference-foe Alabama, comes in at No. 6.
A pair of incoming transfers are also projected ahead of Levis as former LSU quarterback Max Johnson (Texas A&M) comes in at No. 7 while Jaxson Dart (Ole Miss) is at No. 8 as the USC transfer is expected to take over for Matt Corral.
Levis comes in at No. 9 followed by Myles Brennan (LSU), Anthony Richardson (Florida), Zach Calzada (Auburn), Brady Cook (Missouri), and Ken Seals (Vanderbilt).
Crawford had the following take on Levis:
“Kentucky knew its offense would improve when Will Levis arrived on campus as a transfer from Penn State ahead of the 2021 season and he delivered in a big way — managing 33 touchdowns and just over 3,000 yards of total offense. Levis was able to get the ball out to the Wildcats’ playmakers, which is something quarterbacks before him in Lexington in recent years have struggled to do. He’s a tough player and leader of the huddle, just like another quarterback in this list, and his return to Kentucky in 2022 will give the Wildcats another crack at finishing the year inside the top 25.”
Crawford missed the fact that Levis has a rocket arm, is a punishing ball carrier, and possesses a football IQ that will most likely get him a shot at the next level. He is also a marketing genius who has taken advantage of social media and branding strategies to secure numerous NIL opportunities, including a recent six-figure deal with Grand Slam Collectibles, the largest current collectibles deal by an NCAA student-athlete.
The Madison, Connecticut native played his best late in the year, rushing for four touchdowns in a 52-21 route of rival Louisville before leading a game-winning drive in Kentucky’s 20-17 win over Iowa in the closing minutes of the Citrus Bowl.
Levis and a new-look Kentucky offense will kick off the season on September 3rd against Miami (Ohio) at Kroger Field.