After Coach Mark Stoops and his 2018 Wildcats came up with a remarkable 10-3 campaign, including a winning appearance at a New Year’s Day bowl, will Kentucky continue its winning ways this fall?
Yes, but the Wildcats likely will regress some after losing mega stars Josh Allen and Benny Snell Jr. UK won’t win 10 games this time, but it should remain respectable with a forgiving schedule that has eight home matchups.
Kentucky -- which opens its first three games at home, beginning with a formidable Toledo squad on August 31 – still has enough talent and depth to compete in the SEC and that’s why the Wildcats should be okay in 2019.
The new college football yearbooks – Athlon Sports, Lindy’s Sports and Street & Smith’s -- are cautiously optimistic about the Wildcats but the colorful publications have them slotted at either No. 5 or No. 6 in the seven-team SEC East Division. And Athlon has Kentucky attending a post-season Music City Bowl party in Nashville, while Street & Smith’s has UK going to the Independence Bowl.
Athlon has a nice feature story about UK’s Josh Paschal, a sophomore defensive end from Maryland who has been battling cancer. Lindy’s All-Decade Team of the 2010s (with one season left) has Josh Allen on the list.
Street & Smith’s includes an interesting article about the future of postseason bowl games, many of which have suffered low TV ratings and small crowds.
For preseason All-SEC honors, UK has several of them. They are center Drake Jackson, all-purpose standout Lynn Bowden Jr., offensive lineman Logan Stenberg, linebacker Kash Daniel, offensive lineman Landon Young and defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna.
By the way, it was 6-6, 322-pound Stenberg who blocked for Snell, the school’s all-time leading rusher who became the first player in UK history to rush for 1,000 yards in three straight seasons. Coach Stoops -- who had five players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft – believes UK will continue to produce future NFL players and has a high praise for Stenberg, a senior from Madison, Ala.
"Yeah, I definitely think there are guys that will continue to move forward. A guy that jumps out at me is a guy like Logan Stenberg,” said Stoops in late April. “He is a guy that could have come out this year but he is definitely coming back and has that mentality that many of these guys did to concentrate on some of the areas that he needs to improve. I am sure there are a lot of guys that will continue to have an opportunity."
UK’s five NFL draft picks this past spring was the most since 1979 when Coach Fran Curci’s Kentucky squad had eight players (James Ramsey, Jim Kovach, Kelly Kirchbaum, Rod Stewart, Bob Winkel, Robert Hawkins, Dan Fowler and David Stephens) chosen.
As for national rankings, all three publications, which also have pro football editions, have same four SEC teams – Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Florida -- in the preseason Top 10 with the Crimson Tide either at No. 1 or No. 2. In addition, Texas A&M ranked No. 10 in Athlon.
It should be another exciting SEC campaign for the Big Blue faithful.
Jamie H. Vaught, a longtime columnist in Kentucky, is the author of four books about UK basketball. He is the editor and founder of KySportsStyle.com magazine and a professor at Southeast Kentucky Community and Technical College in Middlesboro. You can follow him on Twitter @KySportsStyle or reach him via e-mail at KySportsStyle@gmail.com.