As the Kentucky Wildcats get set to host EKU on Saturday, here are five players to watch for the battle of Bluegrass programs.
#1. Devin Leary
In his first game as a Kentucky Wildcat, Devin Leary was 18/31 for 241 with a touchdown and an interception.
Early in the game, Leary seemed a little rusty, which is to be expected in a season opener after missing half the season last year. He missed on some early throws but began to look more comfortable and more in rhythm as the game went on.
On Saturday, it will be interesting to see how long Leary stays in the game, especially if Kentucky builds a comfortable lead. That is no guarantee, however, with Kentucky’s history against EKU in recent years.
Leary’s comfort in the Kentucky system will only continue to grow, and this game should serve as an opportunity for Leary to show why he was one of the top quarterbacks in the transfer portal this offseason.
#2. Kahlil Saunders
The sophomore defensive lineman from Huntsville, Alabama, flashed his potential on Saturday, finishing tied for a team-high with 1.5 sacks.
While his play wasn’t perfect, Saunders was able to cause some disruptions along the defensive line and has all the tools needed to become a key piece for the Kentucky defense.
I’m interested to see if he can continue to be a pass-rush threat this week.
#3. Dylan Ray
Ray stepped into the left guard spot following the injury to Kenneth Horsey and performed pretty well, although he faced a few struggles in pass protection.
With Horsey seemingly out for the next couple of weeks, it looks like Ray is going to be the guy the Kentucky coaching staff looks to in order to help fill the void.
The West Virginia transfer will need to perform well this week in order to maintain his spot on the depth chart.
#4. Alex Afari
Afari graded the highest of all Kentucky players, according to PFF, with a grade of 79.7, including an 82.5 tackling grade.
The sophomore from Cincinnati was expected to take a big leap this season with an expanded role, and in Week 1, he was all over the field, finishing with 8 total tackles on the day and forcing the fumble that led to the scoop-and-score.
Afari is a great piece to the Kentucky defense that can line up in multiple positions and make plays all over the field.
The sophomore will only continue to improve, so keep an eye on #3.
#5. Jeremy Flax
Flax graded out pretty well in last Saturday's game against Ball State, earning a PFF grade of 58.7 while playing 44 snaps compared to 10 for USC transfer Courtland Ford.
The two have been battling it out this offseason for the starting right tackle spot, and for now, at least, it seems Flax is the main guy at right tackle.
Flax had his ups and downs last season but seemed to grow more comfortable as the season went on and continued that into the offseason.
It will be interesting to see if Flax continues to get the bulk of snaps at tackle this week and how well he performs.