The Kentucky football roster: Who’s here, who’s coming and who’s gone?

·6 min read
Jacob Noger/UK Athletics

Kentucky football was a poster child last season for the positives of the transfer portal. If not for it, then Wan’Dale Robinson would have wasted another season in Nebraska and Will Levis might have risen up draft boards as a Nittany Lion instead of a Wildcat.

Just in the last month, UK has added three defensive backs — Zion Childress, Jordan Robinson and Keidron Smith — from the portal in hopes of bolstering its secondary depth. Over that same time period, it has lost a few players whose careers in Lexington never truly got started.

Here’s a look at how every position on UK’s football team looks heading into the summer. (Where applicable, a player’s current school is listed in parentheses. Unless noted, walk-ons are not included.)

QUARTERBACK

Here: Will Levis, Beau Allen, Kaiya Sheron, Deuce Hogan.

Coming: Destin Wade.

Gone: Nik Scalzo (Samford).

Quick notes: Levis is the definitive starter and a current darling of mock-draft assemblers. Allen and Sheron likely will vie for backup responsibilities but don’t count out Hogan, a former four-star recruit for Iowa who’s now a walk-on with the Cats.

RUNNING BACK

Here: Chris Rodriguez, Kavosiey Smoke, JuTahn McClain, La’Vell Wright, Mike Drennen.

Coming: Nobody.

Gone: Torrance Davis, Travis Tisdale (Valdosta State).

Quick notes: Rodriguez is on pace to break the school’s career rushing record but might miss time due to a legal matter. Smoke previously has been his immediate backup but McClain came on strong at the end of last season and offers more versatility. All three likely will factor. Wright is a bruiser who will be heard from sooner rather than later. Drennen, formerly a wide receiver, looked better than anticipated in the spring game.

WIDE RECEIVER

Here: Dekel Crowdus, Tae Tae Crumes, Demarcus Harris, Dane Key, Chris Lewis, Rahsaan Lewis, Chauncey Magwood, Tayvion Robinson.

Coming: Jordan Anthony, Javon Baker, Barion Brown, Brandon White.

Gone: Josh Ali, Isaiah Epps, Tre’Von Morgan (Miami, Ohio), Wan’Dale Robinson, Earnest Sanders, Clevan Thomas.

Notes: Tayvion Robinson came from Virginia Tech and figures to take the snaps left behind the second-round pick who shares his surname. Harris is the lone returning wideout who has caught a touchdown and along with Robinson and Rahsaan Lewis, a walk-on who was in the rotation last season before an injury curbed that, will be called upon to lead a group of talented but unproven guys. Dane Key was as good as advertised in the spring.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Here: Grant Bingham, Deondre Buford, Jager Burton, Eli Cox, Jeremy Flax, Kiyaunta Goodwin, Kenneth Horsey, Josh Jones, Tashawn Manning, Paul Rodriguez, David Wohlabaugh, John Young.

Coming: RJ Adams (Georgia Tech), Nikolas Hall, Naasir Watkins (Liberty).

Gone: Luke Fortner, Darian Kinnard, Jake Pope, Dare Rosenthal.

Notes: Coming out of spring it appears the first five will be Buford (LT), Horsey (LG), Cox (C), Manning (RG) and Flax (RT). Only Cox and Horsey played significant snaps for Kentucky last year, but Manning, an Auburn transfer, adds further experience. Expect Burton, Goodwin and Wohlabaugh to contribute as well.

TIGHT END

Here: Brenden Bates, Izayah Cummings, Jordan Dingle, Keaton Upshaw, Justice Dingle (fullback).

Coming: Josh Kattus.

Gone: Justin Rigg.

Notes: Two intriguing pieces added to the mix this year in Upshaw, coming off an upper-body injury that sidelined him all of last season, and Dingle, who played linebacker last year and is thriving in a new role introduced by offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello. Bates played a lot of snaps alongside Rigg last year. Cummings and Dingle are tantalizing prospects, especially as pass-catchers.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Here: Sam Anaele, Jamarius Dinkins, Tomiwa Durojaiye, Josaih Hayes, Justin Rogers, Darrion Henry-Young, Octavious Oxendine, Tre’Vonn Rybka, Kahlil Saunders

Coming: Quentel Jones, Noah Matthews, Deone Walker

Gone: Isaiah Gibson (Marshall), Marquan McCall, Josh Paschal.

Notes: Rogers had the edge over Hayes at nose coming out of spring but they’ll both play there a lot; they fared well with that arrangement in place of McCall when he was injured for a month last year. Rybka steps in for Paschal at end and Oxendine, if healthy, is a shoe-in at the other tackle spot. Henry-Young was highly regarded before transferring from Ohio State, but he’s still a young guy in a room full of them.

INSIDE LINEBACKER

Here: Luke Fulton, D’Eryk Jackson, Jacquez Jones, DeAndre Square, Martez Thrower, Trevin Wallace.

Coming: Nobody.

Gone: Jared Casey (Indiana), Marquez Bembry (UConn).

Notes: Jones and Square, both super seniors, lead a group that quickly went from being one of the thinnest to one of the deepest on the roster. Wallace is a future star. Jackson late last season looked more spry than a guy coming off an Achilles tear ever should. Thrower has potential. Fulton, at worst, will be a special-teams standout.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKER

Here: Jordan Wright, J.J. Weaver.

Coming: Tyrese Fearbry, Keaten Wade.

Gone: KD McDaniel (Central Florida).

Notes: Wright, a super senior, and Weaver, a budding star, are two of the best players at this position in the SEC. If UK finds itself in a pinch, however, with either of the two, it’ll need a true freshman to step up. Fearbry and Wade are both four-star prospects and among the highest-ranked players to ever sign with Kentucky, but neither was around for spring practice. They’re starting from a good place, physically – both are about 6-4 and 225 pounds – but they’ll need to be quick studies.

DEFENSIVE BACK

Here: Ty Ajian, Taj Dodson, Jalen Geiger, Maxwell Hairston, Adrian Huey, Jordan Lovett, Andru Phillips, Elijah Reed, Andre Stewart, Vito Tisdale, Carrington Valentine, Joel Williams.

Coming: Alex Afari, Ja’Kobi Albert, Zion Childress, Jordan Robinson, Keidron Smith.

Gone: Yusuf Corker, Cedric Dort (Wisconsin), Moses Douglass, Rickey Hyatt, Quandre Mosely.

Notes: Smith and Childress weren’t committed until after spring camp but both could start – Smith at corner opposite Valentine and Childress at nickel back when it’s called for. Robinson hails from a Division II program but brings depth at corner. Having Ajian back is significant; he played his best at UK last year. Geiger and Lovett are your free safeties. Tisdale’s probably out for the season, hence the need to further shore things up through the portal.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Here: Wilson Berry, Chance Poore, Matt Ruffolo.

Coming: Jackson Smith.

Gone: Colin Goodfellow.

Notes: Ruffolo returning for a fifth year of eligibility under the COVID-19 waiver; otherwise, most duties would have fallen on Poore (who was usurped by Ruffolo, a walk-on) or Smith, a true freshman. Berry gives Kentucky another former Australian rules footballer at punter.

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