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Kentucky Kernel

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ANALYSIS: Kentucky football will have revitalized offense for new coordinator

Abbey Cutrer
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops walks through the Cat Walk before the Kentucky vs. Alabama football game on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo Abbey Cutrer | Staff

With the news that Kentucky football has a new offensive coordinator, Bush Hamdan, many will find it hard not to get excited for the potential of the Cats’ 2024 offense.

After returning core receivers, dipping into the transfer portal, and bringing back offensive coordinator Liam Coen in the 2023 off-season, Kentucky football had major expectations for last season that it simply did not meet.

With returning names like Barion Brown, Dane Key and Tayvion Robinson, plus new transfers like Ray Davis and Devin Leary, fans expected more than a 7-5 overall record.

Now going into 2024, the Cats lost several of those players to the draft including Davis, Robinson and Leary.

In response, Kentucky dipped into the portal and brewed a new quarterback-running-back duo for the 2024 season by picking up former Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Brock Vandagriff and former Ohio State Buckeyes running back Chip Trayanum.

Kentucky wide receiver Barion Brown (7) runs towards the end zone, returning a Louisville kick-off for a touchdown, during the Kentucky vs. Louisville football game on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 38-31. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

Vandagriff played the backup role this past season and took command for the Bulldogs in the dying minutes of seven games and over the course of those games he completed 12 of 18 attempted passes and threw for 165 passing yards while throwing two touchdown passes.

Trayanum, who will have big shoes to fill after Davis’ departure, got the second most carries for the Buckeyes last campaign with 85 as he starred behind junior TreVeyon Henderson, who carried the ball 137 times. Trayanum rushed for 373 total yards and found the endzone three times for Ohio State.

When Trayanum isn’t marching the ball down-field himself, Kentucky will turn to its receivers.

With Brown and Key returning, one part of the offense the Wildcats don’t necessarily have to worry about juicing up is the receiving core, but they still went shopping for talent on the outside to help Vandagriff as Stoops and his staff were able to solicit North Texas transfer Ja’Mori Maclin and Texas A&M transfer Raymond Cottrell.

While Brown and Key put up 992 combined yards and eight combined touchdowns for the Wildcats this past season, Maclin individually earned 12 more receiving yards than the two combined as he achieved 1,004 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns through 12 games with the Mean Green.

Cottrell’s stats weren’t as eye-popping as Maclin’s though, as he starred in one game with the Aggies where he put up 13 receiving yards while grabbing one touchdown.

Kentucky’s bolstering didn’t stop there as it also added wide receiver Fred Farrier II from UAB and offensive lineman Gerald Mincey from Tennessee.

While less likely to make an immediate impact, the Cats also added offensive depth with their annual signing day.

Starting at the helm of the offense, the Wildcats were able to obtain freshman four-star and No. 14 overall ranked quarterback in the 2024 class Cutter Boley.

The Kentucky native completed his high school career throwing for 8,331 total passing yards along with 82 scores for Larue County and Lexington Christian. Boley chose to stay close to home by choosing Kentucky over Florida State, Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee.

The Cats also added two more running backs in Tovani Mizell and Jason Patterson.

Mizzell is a three-star recruit and was listed in the top 100 overall players from Florida this year while choosing the Wildcats over Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and others.

Patterson is also a three-star recruit from Florida and played quarterback, running back and linebacker at Sneads High School, where he averaged 13.1 yards per carry and earned First-Team All State honors while also playing basketball and running track.

Kentucky wide receiver Dane Key (6) celebrates after the Kentucky vs. Louisville football game on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. Kentucky won 38-31. Photo by Samuel Colmar | Staff (Samuel Colmar)

Patterson was still recruited by Cincinnati, Georgia Tech, West Virginia and others.

The Cats also added more offensive lineman in Jalen Farmer, Hayes Johnson, Marc Nave Jr. and Aba Selm.

Kentucky also recruited wide receivers Hardley Gilmore IV and David Washington Jr.

Gilmore is a four-star, who is rated as one of the top receivers in the class of 2024. The Florida native chose Kentucky over Penn State and Central Florida.

Washington Jr. is a three-star, who is ranked as the No. 16 best player in Pennsylvania. He is also from Florida and received offers from Virginia, Tennessee, Penn State, Ole Miss, Louisville and Michigan State.

The Wildcats also got one freshman tight end to join the squad in Willie Rodriguez, a 6-foot, 3-inch, three-star from Covington, Kentucky. The homegrown kid is ranked as the No. 4 best player in the state of Kentucky.

While there seems to be an eternity before the next football season, new signings and a new coordinator have fans excited and ready to see Mark Stoops and co. take the field once again.

Kentucky football will begin its 2024 season on Saturday, August 31, when it faces off against Southern Miss.

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Samuel Colmar, Assistant Photo Editor
Abbey Cutrer, Managing/Photo Editor

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