Kentucky just recorded its second 10-win season since Bear Bryant coached the Wildcats to an 11-1 record in 1950, but it can’t get any respect.
The Wildcats were still alive in the SEC East race in November, but they were recently picked to finish sixth in the SEC East.
They just beat Florida for the first time since 1986, but head coach Mark Stoops was reminded at SEC Media Days that they haven’t beaten Florida back-to-back since 1977.
“I thought I didn’t have to answer that anymore,” Stoops said.
It’s fair to wonder whether Kentucky can keep it up after losing arguably its best offensive and defensive players of the last two decades in the same offseason. Outside linebacker Josh Allen had 17.0 sacks, 5.5 more than any other Power Five player, and running back Benny Snell never missed a game in three seasons while rushing for over 3,800 yards.
Wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. is one of the most versatile players in the conference despite having only played receiver for two years. He has good chemistry with Wilson and said he has seen great improvement from his quarterback this offseason.
“Right now he’s becoming one of the best quarterbacks I’ve ever played with,” Bowden said. “He’s becoming a complete quarterback and not just a running quarterback.”
Not many players return on the defense, but Stoops, a longtime defensive backs coach, said the secondary is more experienced than it appears. Redshirt sophomore cornerback Cedrick Dort Jr. returns after missing last season and Stoops said sophomore Jamari Brown is ready to bring his physical tools to the field.
The Wildcats ranked in the top 25 in several passing defense statistics en route to allowing the sixth-fewest points in the FBS.
“Let’s face it. That’s a position where they’re going to be on an island and you have to win some one-on-one battles,” Stoops said. “There’s just no getting around it. So there’s times you can protect and help and lean, but then there’s times when you have to win.”
2018 record: 10-3 (5-3 SEC/finished T-2nd in SEC East)
All-time SEC championships: 2
All-time bowl appearances: 18 (9-9)
Sept. 1 Central Michigan W 35-20
Sept. 8 at Florida W 27-16
Sept. 15 Murray State W 48-10
Sept. 22 Mississippi State W 28-7
Sept. 29 South Carolina W 24-10
Oct. 6 at Texas A&M L 20-14
Oct. 20 Vanderbilt W 14-7
Oct. 27 at Missouri W 15-14
Nov. 3 Georgia L 34-17
Nov. 10 at Tennessee L 24-7
Nov. 17 Middle Tennessee W 34-23
Nov. 24 Louisville W 56-10
Jan. 1 Penn State W 27-24
Starters returning: 10 Offense: 4 Defense: 4 Specialty: 2
Starters lost: 16 Offense: 7 Defense: 7 Specialty: 2
Returning offensive starters: Terry Wilson (QB, Jr.), Lynn Bowden Jr. (WR, Jr.), Drake Jackson (C, Jr.), Logan Stenberg (G, Sr.)
Returning defensive starters: Quinton Bohanna (NT, Jr.), Kash Daniel (LB, Sr.), Calvin Taylor Jr. (DE, Sr.), Boogie Watson (LB, Jr.)
Returning statistical leaders
Rushing Att Yards Avg TD
Terry Wilson 135 547 4.1 4
Passing Att Yards Avg TD
Terry Wilson 268 1889 7.0 11
Receiving Att Yards Avg TD
Lynn Bowden Jr. 67 745 11.1 5
Tackles Total Int Sack TFL
Kash Daniel 84 0 1 7.5
Aug. 31 Toledo
Sept. 7 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 14 Florida
Sept. 21 at Mississippi State
Sept. 28 at South Carolina
Oct. 12 Arkansas
Oct. 19 at Georgia
Oct. 26 Missouri
Nov. 9 Tennessee
Nov. 16 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 23 UT-Martin
Nov. 30 Louisville