Former Glasgow High School star Tanner Bowles kick-starts UK football’s OL makeover

Vasha Hunt/AP

Mark Stoops’ quest to boost Kentucky football’s much-maligned offensive line in the transfer portal has started with a former Bluegrass State high school star.

Alabama offensive lineman Tanner Bowles, a graduate of Glasgow High School, committed to Kentucky on Thursday, making his announcement on the air on Kentucky Sports Radio. Bowles announced plans to enter the transfer portal last week after playing in all 12 regular-season games as a reserve lineman for the Crimson Tide.

As a four-star recruit in the high school class of 2019, Bowles committed to Alabama over Kentucky, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Louisville.

Bowles appeared in 19 games across four seasons at Alabama. As a fourth-year junior in 2022, Bowles played primarily on the field goal units and as a reserve guard. He was coached this season by former UK offensive line coach Eric Wolford.

A rebuilt Kentucky offensive line that lost three starters, including two NFL Draft picks from 2021, struggled for much of the season, ranking 124th of 131 teams nationally in sacks allowed (42).

“Obviously, there were some times where we underperformed,” Stoops said on his radio show last week when asked by a caller if he would look for offensive line transfers this offseason. “I felt like they got a lot better as the year went on. I felt like some of that is on us. As I mentioned all year, some of that is on us as a coaching staff. … Need some help at a couple positions, but yes, a little bit of depth there from the portal would definitely help.”

Stoops praised the progress of junior center Eli Cox, who is set to return for Kentucky next season. The Wildcats must replace starting right guard Tashawn Manning, who exhausted his eligibility this season, but left tackle Kenneth Horsey could use his pandemic season of eligibility to return to Kentucky next year. In that case, Horsey is likely to move back to his natural position of guard after being forced to play tackle in 2022 because of depth issues.

Redshirt freshman left guard Jager Burton should return after his first season as a starter, adding more competition for Bowles at Kentucky.