Kentucky finished with a 7-5 regular season record last year, before losing 21-0 to Iowa in its bowl. Sportsbooks seem to expect a similar result this season. FanDuel Sportsbook currently gives Kentucky a 6.5-win total juiced to -162 on the over. However, they also come in with +10000 odds to win the SEC. Can they improve on last season’s success without Will Levis? Let’s dive into Kentucky football predictions, futures, win total prediction and roster overview to find out.
Kentucky Football Predictions, Futures & Roster Overview
From a coaching perspective, Kentucky should be in good hands for 2023. Mark Stoops comes back as the head coach after seven straight bowl appearances. He also returns defensive coordinator Brad White, who has been with the program since 2019. Stoops brought back Liam Coen for 2023 after a stop in the NFL last year. Coen previously coordinated Kentucky’s offense in 2021 when it finished 10-3. That offense saw stars Wan’Dale Robinson and Will Levis hear their names called during the NFL Draft.
Kentucky Football Offense
At quarterback, Kentucky replaced Levis with North Carolina State transfer Devin Leary. Leary ended up injured last year, but he completed 118 of 193 passes (61.1%) for 1,265 yards (6.9 yards per attempt), 11 touchdowns and four interceptions. Leary does not have much mobility, but he provides a veteran presence as he enters his fifth collegiate season. Last year, he finished as the 10th-highest-graded quarterback in the ACC, per PFF. In 2021, he was the seventh-highest-graded quarterback in the conference, with a 65.6% completion percentage and 8.0 yards per attempt. Behind Leary, Kentucky still has Destin Wade and Kaiya Sheron. Wade threw 30 passes last year, while Sheron threw 29. Wade came in as a 4-star recruit from 2022 and the 418th overall prospect in that class. Kentucky took another transfer in Shane Hamm from Dayton. He doesn’t project to play here but at least deserves mention.
At running back, Kentucky lost Chris Rodriguez and Kavosiey Smoke. However, this should still be a position of strength, with Ray Davis coming over from Vanderbilt. Davis is 5-foot-9, 205 pounds and enters his fifth college season. Last year, he rushed 233 times for 1,044 yards and five touchdowns for Vanderbilt. He also caught 29 of 37 targets for another 169 yards. Davis averaged a solid 3.16 yards after contact per attempt and forced a missed tackle on 23.6% of his attempts. Behind him, Kentucky retains JuTahn McClain and Lavell Wright. However, Kentucky added another transfer in the spring, with Demie Sumo-Karngbaye coming over from North Carolina State. Sumo-Karngbaye is 6-foot-0, 210 pounds and rushed 55 times for 305 yards and three touchdowns last year. He only played in eight games before injury, but he also caught 12 passes for 148 yards. His 3.19 yards after contact and 36.4% forced missed tackles rank well in all of college football. McClain enters his fourth season after rushing 58 times for 266 yards last year. He also caught 19 passes for another 112 yards. Wright is 5-foot-11, 202 pounds and enters his third year. He rushed 39 times last year for an inefficient 120 yards. Sumo-Karngbaye should factor into this rotation, but the others look like depth pieces.
Kentucky returns all three of its top receivers in Tayvion Robinson, Dane Key and Barion Brown. Brown and Key each enter their sophomore seasons after playing immediately as 4-star true freshmen recruits. Brown is 6-foot-1, 166 pounds and caught 51 passes for 625 yards last year. He only played in the slot on 29% of his routes, but he ranked 15th in the SEC in yards per route with 2.19. Key is 6-foot-3, 194 pounds and caught 37 passes for 519 yards and six touchdowns. He lined up in the slot 89.4% of the time and ranked 36th in yards per route with 1.62. Injury limited Robinson last year; he logged 41 catches for 502 yards and three touchdowns. He lined up in the slot on 27.1% of his routes, ranking 30th in yards per route at 1.80. Jordan Anthony is another former 4-star recruit from the 2022 class and a highly touted track athlete. Anthony Brown is a 3-star recruit from this incoming class. He is the 448th-ranked player in the country. The team also has incoming 4-star recruit Shamar Porter, who ranks 302nd in this class. Neither has made it to campus, but Kentucky has shown no fear when it comes to playing young receivers.
Jordan Dingle returns as Kentucky’s top tight end. However, this will be a timeshare like it was last year with Josh Kattus and Brenden Bates. Dingle is 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and caught 20 passes for 220 yards. He is now entering his third year. Kattus is 6-foot-4, 232 pounds and caught seven passes for 125 yards. Bates is 6-foot-5, 255 pounds and caught 10 passes for 99 yards. Bates will now enter his fifth season and functions primarily as a blocker. Going back to Coen’s system in 2021, tight ends served primarily as blockers, with the occasional reception in the receiving game.
Kentucky only lost right guard Tashawn Manning from its main starters. At right tackle, the team returns Jeremy Flax, who allowed a modest 22 quarterback pressures last year. He now enters his fourth year after starting for the first time last season. Jager Burton returns at left guard after 790 snaps. Burton was atrocious as a first-time starter, but he now enters his third year with the program. Eli Cox comes back at center at center after 836 snaps. Like Flax, Cox was much better in pass pro, allowing just 18 pressures. He enters his fifth season and third year as a full-time starter. Kenneth Horsey returns at left tackle after posting strong pass blocking numbers (18 pressures allowed). Horsey enters his fourth season as full-time starter and fifth season with the team in total.
To replace Manning at right guard, Kentucky could mix up this starting group. It added a few transfers, who could also usurp a starter or just mix up this unit. Marques Cox comes over from Northern Illinois. He got hurt last year, but he played 1,008 snaps in 2021. Kentucky also added former Alabama 4-star recruit Tanner Bowles. Bowles has been with the Tide for three years now but only played 86 total snaps. At lesser programs this would be a concern. Former USC Trojan Courtland Ford transferred in after an injury-riddled 2022. He previously played 535 snaps in 2021. West Virginia guard Dylan Ray and Ohio State guard Ben Christman also enter the program. Neither played much at their first stop. Ray projects more as depth, but Christman comes in as a former 4-star recruit. Ultimately, this unit is a work in progress, but added depth and talent should help improve the overall offensive line play.
Editor Note: Our Kentucky Football win total prediction post not enough? Looking for more college football futures?
- Arkansas Razorbacks Football Futures, Predictions And More
- Mississippi State Bulldogs Football Futures, Predictions And More
- Ole Miss Rebels Football Futures, Predictions And More
- Alabama Crimson Tide Football Futures, Predictions And More
Kentucky Football Defense
On defense, Kentucky ranked 35th in 2022. This included the 73rd-ranked run defense, 65th-ranked pass rush and ninth-ranked pass coverage. Kentucky lost three starters in its secondary and a few other veterans. With that said, Kentucky brought in five defensive transfers and another five 4-star recruits on defense.
Along the defensive line, Kentucky lost Justin Rogers and Jordan Wright. Fortunately, both Octavious Oxendine and J.J. Weaver played 391 and 493 snaps along the edges. Weaver notched 17 quarterback pressures and should be relied upon heavily this year. On the interior Deone Walker played 536 snaps himself with 24 quarterback pressures at 330 pounds. The other interior starter could be Josaih Hayes or North Carolina transfer Keeshawn Silver. Hayes only played 148 snaps last year and Silver logged just 25. Ultimately, this group does not have as much proven depth as some others.
At linebacker, Kentucky lost veteran DeAndre Square. However, it returns D’Eryk Jackson and Trevin Wallace, who both played at least 398 snaps last year. Both played quality football when on the field, leaving little weakness. For depth purposes, Kentucky added Daveren Rayner from Northern Illinois. Rayner logged 449 snaps last year and could be asked to play in a pinch. Luckily, two of Kentucky’s 4-star defensive recruits play the linebacker position. Grant Godfrey is the 328th-ranked player in this class and Jayvant Brown comes in as the 415th recruit.
The secondary could be the biggest question here after losing Keidron Smith, Carrington Valentine and Tyrell Ajian. Safety looks like the easier position to project at first glance. Full time starter Jordan Lovett returns after 613 snaps. Projected starter Zion Childress also found his way onto the field for 347 snaps last year behind Ajian. Childress really impressed on these snaps, allowing just two catches on eight targets. Corner looks like a much bigger question mark. Andru Phillips does return after 363 snaps last year. He only allowed 120 yards into his coverage, which can hopefully be extrapolated into a larger role this season. Alex Afari also played well on 266 snaps last year, which means he could be asked to do more as well. If one of these players cannot step up, Kentucky added three transfers in the secondary. J.Q. Hardaway comes over from Cincinnati after 95 snaps last year. However, he is a former top 200 recruit in the country. Jantzen Dunn comes over from Ohio State after originally entering college as a high 4-star recruit. Kevin Larkins Jr. enters the program after spending a season with Livingston College. Overall, this position lacks the proven production of others on this defense, making it the biggest risk.
Kentucky Football Schedule
While Kentucky plays in the SEC East, it draws one of the tougher schedules among its division counterparts. Its non-conference features Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, Akron and Louisville. While that should result in three easy wins, Louisville is not any pushover. In its crossover to the SEC West, it draws Alabama and Mississippi State. Within the SEC East, it travels to Georgia and South Carolina, but it hosts Tennessee. Overall, this schedule comes with its highs and lows.
Kentucky Football Win Total Prediction: Kentucky should find three easy wins on this schedule. However, coming in with the same odds to win the SEC as Missouri and Vanderbilt is not a great look. This puts Kentucky close to a pick-’em five other games and clear underdogs in at least three. With the under coming in at +132, this looks like the sharpest play regarding Kentucky this offseason.