Top players for the Cats’ 2018 football season


Kentucky wide receiver Lynn Bowden Jr. reacts after a kickoff return during the game against the Florida Gators on Saturday, September 23, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky was defeated 28-27. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

With the 2017 UK football season in the books, it’s time for the coaching staff to put the past behind them and start preparing for next season.

However, next year’s team will look drastically different than the one that played in the Music City Bowl. Several key players will be leaving due to graduation, such as Stephen Johnson, Courtney Love and Austin MacGinnis.

So, who will be the players who lead the Cats next season at Kroger Field? Many holes will need to be filled, so here are some of the players who could be vital to Kentucky’s success next season.

Joshua Paschal

Paschal already had a considerable role for the Cats in his freshman season, and an offseason of training with the UK coaching staff will only make him better.

In his bowl game announcement press conference, Love said he expects Paschal to be one of the better players on the defense next year. Look for him to provide depth and talent in an area that struggled to stop the run in the second half of the 2017 season.

Tavin Richardson

The Cats will lose three wide receivers in the offseason due to graduation, so someone has to step-up. Richardson proved to be a reliable receiver whenever Johnson needed one last season, and projects to be a top pass-catcher for the Cats next season.

Drake Jackson

UK’s offensive line struggled last season until Jackson was inserted into the lineup, and fortunately for the Cats, the redshirt freshman will be around Kentucky for a while.

Jackson’s emergence allowed Benny Snell to be the SEC’s top regular season running back at the time when Johnson struggled with his passing. With a quarterback change upcoming for the Cats, a strong offensive line, led by Jackson, will help the Cats overcome the introduction of a new quarterback.

Chance Poore

UK saw opponents such as South Carolina and Missouri struggle with field goal kicking, and the Cats could be in a similar boat with the departure of MacGinnis.

Kentucky will attempt to replace him with Poore, a 6-foot-3 high school kicker from South Carolina. Poore likely won’t be as reliable as MacGinnis to start, but the three-star prospect will need to learn quickly on a team that tends to play a lot of close games.

Lynn Bowden

Bowden showed flashes of potential in his freshman season, but never really broke out like the way fans hoped he would.

Bowden projects to have a breakout sophomore season with the departure of three receivers, including Charles Walker who manned punt return duties.

Bowden also missed the entire summer training session, and a week of training camp before the start of last season, so a full offseason with Kentucky’s staff should help the electric playmaker make a big impact for the Cats next season.