Kentucky’s football season isn’t finished, but for all intents and purposes the offseason kicked off Monday when two players entered the NCAA’s transfer portal.
Quarterback Nik Scalzo and offensive lineman Jake Pope both intend to transfer from UK. Scalzo announced his decision on Twitter; Pope’s entry into the portal was confirmed to the Herald-Leader by the school. Both players are redshirt sophomores who have up to three years of eligibility remaining at their next school because of the NCAA’s COVID-19 waiver.
Scalzo appeared in one game as a Wildcat. He took his first snaps in the final series of UK’s 56-16 win over New Mexico State on Nov. 20 but did not rush or attempt a pass.
“That was awesome,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said of Scalzo after that game. “I mean, everyone on the team works just as hard as the guy next to them and a lot of it goes unnoticed. But it’s great when you get to see those guys on the field and play.”
Scalzo, who’s from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and has undergone ACL surgeries twice since committing to UK, briefly entered the portal once before in January. Stoops offered to hold his scholarship if he changed his mind then; once an athlete enters the portal, the school is under no obligation to continue offering him or her a scholarship if they remove their name from the portal.
He arrived at Kentucky as something of a celebrity after appearing on the Netflix series “QB1: Beyond the Lights.” Scalzo was one of three quarterbacks highlighted in the third season of the show, along with Lance Legendre and Spencer Rattler.
“Through numerous ups and downs, I have learned many valuable lessons,” Scalzo wrote in a social media graphic posted Monday. “Through these moments, I have learned the power of resilience and the importance of being a team player. I would like to thank Coach Stoops for treating me like a son and all of the coaches for helping mold me into the player and person I am today. I am blessed to be able to say I am leaving this university as a better overall player both mentally and physically.”
Pope, an offensive lineman from Florida, never appeared in a game for the Wildcats. He’s also from Fort Lauderdale. Both he and Scalzo were considered three-star prospects in the 2019 recruiting class. Six players in the class have previously transferred: defensive tackle Cavon Butler (now at Toledo), defensive back M.J. Devonshire (Pittsburgh), quarterback Amani Gilmore (North Texas), linebacker Shawnkel Knight-Goff, tight end Nik Ognenovic (Akron) and linebacker Tra Wilkins (now at Buffalo after transferring to a junior college).