It’s no secret that the Kentucky Wildcats’ Big Blue Wall, the offensive line unit that was a consistent force for the Wildcats over the last few years, was not at its normal strength last season.
Kentucky saw a new offensive line coach come in with Zach Yenser taking over the role, the Wildcats broke in several new pieces on the offensive line, and some players switched positions, ultimately leading to a group filled with youth and inexperience struggling for the vast majority of the season.
This year, the Big Blue Wall is looking to reclaim its reputation as one of the top offensive lines in the conference, and a key piece of that Big Blue Wall revival figures to be fifth-year senior Eli Cox.
- Position: Center
- Class: Senior
- Measurements: 6-foot-4, 311 lbs.
- Hometown: Nicholasville, Kentucky
- School: West Jessamine High School
- Recruiting Rankings: Was ranked as a three-star recruit by Rivals and 247 Sports and was the No. 14 prospect in Kentucky in the class of 2019.
Last year, Cox moved over to center, and while he fared well for the most part, the coaching staff believes he’s a more natural fit at guard, so Cox moved back to the right guard spot for most of the spring.
And from all accounts, that move seemed to play well, but there's been nothing definitive that this is a permanent move. However, it’s believed that Cox will move back to guard, and Jager Burton, who played guard last year, will move to center.
Cox opened up about the position change during a media availability this spring.
“That’s up to Coach Coen. It’s something he’s been looking at playing,” said Cox. “I know y’all have seen Jager Burton playing a little center. I played right guard in ’21 when Coach Coen was here. So I think there’s a little familiarity with him and me playing right guard in his offense. It’s something that’s gonna be beneficial for Jager.”
Starting at right guard as a sophomore in 2021 in Liam Coen’s offense, Cox thrived, starting in nine games before suffering a season-ending hand injury. Up to that point though, Cox was playing well, even being named a mid-season All-American by ESPN and the Associated Press.
The move back to guard should allow Cox to use his strength to his advantage more than he could at center, while Burton’s athleticism could be more favorable at the center position.
Cox figures to be a leader on Kentucky’s new-look offensive line, which includes three new transfers in tackles Marques Cox (NIU) and Courtland Ford (USC), as well as interior lineman Tanner Bowles (Alabama).
It seems like the coaching staff views Cox as a leader as well, selecting him to be one of three representatives to represent the University of Kentucky at SEC Media Days.
The Kentucky coaching staff has invested heavily in the offensive line this offseason to help improve the unit and get back to the level of play seen during the last few seasons.
If Kentucky’s offensive line is much improved this season, I think a lot of credit will go to the veteran guard from Nicholasville.