Three questions Kentucky needs answered at Blue White spring game


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) celebrates scoring his third touchdown during the UK vs. Louisville Governor’s Cup football game on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at Cardinal Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky. UK won 52-21. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

On Saturday, April 9, Kentucky football will give Big Blue Nation a glimpse at the 2022 roster, as the Wildcats will square off against one another in the annual Blue White Game.

Coming off of the fourth 10-win season in program history that ended with their second Citrus Bowl trophy, the Cats are no longer the best kept secret in the SEC. Head coach Mark Stoops has built the program from the ground up and now has to maintain the expectations that UK has set for itself.

The Blue White Game isn’t meant to set the depth chart in stone, as the opening game of the 2022 season against Miami Ohio is over four-and-a-half months away. However, fans will get to see their Cats in action for the first time since New Year’s Day, with a bevy of new faces ready to make an impact in a Kentucky uniform.

With this year’s team bringing many uncertainties, here are the three big questions that Stoops and his troops should hope to get answered on Saturday:

Who is going to be Will Levis’ main target?

For the first time in many years, Kentucky knows who its starting quarterback will be well before September. After a positive first season in Lexington, Will Levis is back for one more go-round with the Cats.

Last year, Levis developed a special connection on the field with top wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson. The Second Team All-American tallied 104 receptions for a staggering 1,334 yards and seven touchdowns. Robinson has since declared for the NFL Draft, leaving a gaping hole in the WR1 spot.

It’s unlikely that Levis will find another target this season that can produce the way that Robinson did in 2021, but UK is hopeful that a couple of options could emerge as top contenders.

Tayvion Robinson, a transfer from Virginia Tech, has been tabbed by some as the man for the job. Last season for the Hokies, Robinson collected 44 passes for 559 yards and five touchdowns. In his three years at Blacksburg, the 5-foot-10 wideout caught 113 balls.

Another option for Levis will be tight end Keaton Upshaw. After suffering a season-ending injury in fall camp last season, Upshaw is back for his senior campaign. The Lima, Ohio, native will be tasked with being Levis’ security blanket, especially with an offensive line that has more questions than answers.

Young receivers such as Dekel Crowdus and Dane Key will look to make impacts early, though it’s unclear to what capacity they will see the field.

How will the offensive line shape out?

Not every piece to this puzzle may figure itself out on Saturday, but everyone will get an opportunity to see how the Big Blue Wall will operate without its top three linemen from last season.

Darian Kinnard, Dare Rosenthal and Luke Fortner have all taken the next step to the NFL Draft, while former offensive line coach Eric Wolford sneakily made his way out of Lexington to take a job under Nick Saban at Alabama.

Stoops brought in San Francisco 49ers coach Zach Yenser to take over, but there are still many holes that need to be filled in the line ahead of September. One major piece that the Cats landed in the transfer portal is former Auburn guard Tashawn Manning. He brings in 26 games of o-line experience, something the Wildcats need in bulk.

Nicholasville, Kentucky, native Eli Cox and senior guard Kenneth Horsey are both expected to slide into major starting roles, attempting to maintain the All-American standard that the likes of Kinnard upheld for multiple seasons. As for depth, that’s something that Yenser will have to figure out in the lead up to the Fall.

Will the secondary be able to hold up?

Despite defense and the secondary being a strong suit of Stoops’ coaching ability, it has been lackluster as of late for Kentucky.

Ahead of the spring game, it’s thought that the corners and safeties will once again be weaker parts of the Wildcat defense. With Yusuf Corker gone to the draft and Cedrick Dort Jr. transferring, the position was already weak, as the pair accounted for 101 tackles last season.

Injuries have already gotten a hold of some of UK’s defensive backs as well. Taj Dodson has missed time this spring, while expected starter Vito Tisdale has been ruled out for the 2022 season due to a torn ACL.

There is a hole in the DB’s room that Stoops will look to find an answer for in the transfer portal. If he is unable to do so, it will be the main concern for a Kentucky team that is hoping to reign atop the SEC East.

Plenty of eyes will be on Lexington on Saturday, as Kentucky looks to fully usher in a new era of excellence into its football program. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. EST inside Kroger Field.