Kentucky football prepares for future ahead of Citrus Bowl


Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) is lifted into the air by guard Austin Dotson (61) after a Levis 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

Cole Parke

Despite their regular season ending at the end of November, there’s still plenty of work to be done by head coach Mark Stoops and players alike to prepare for the future of the program ahead of the Citrus Bowl against No. 15 Iowa.

Stoops returned to Lexington today after being on the road recruiting. On top of that, there’s still plenty left to be decided, including news regarding the transfer portal.

“There’s a lot of moving pieces,” Stoops said. “Each individual will handle it how they want. I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t sat down with guys [enough] to declare. I have a pretty good idea [of what everyone is going to do], but I need to sit down and have some conversations with some people and I haven’t had a chance to do that.”

Stoops wasn’t the only one to carry that mentality regarding transfers. Starting quarterback and Penn State transfer Will Levis shared his thoughts on any possible out-going transfers as well.

“I think everyone has their own personal situation and they don’t have to give their reasoning to anybody else,” Levis said. “I think it’s very necessary for [anyone thinking of leaving] to do their due diligence and assess their current situation. If they think it’s the right decision, that’s the only opinion that matters.”

Levis himself has been thrown around in the media regarding who will return and who won’t. 

“I’ve had a gut feeling all of this season that I’m leaning toward coming back,” Levis said. “But at the same time, I want to go through that process and make sure that I’m not making a rash decision too early. I don’t know where it is, but I’m sure there’s a point where they could tell me I’ll get drafted high and I’d leave.” Levis’ draft status remains in the air.

Despite having a lot to think about transfer and draft wise, the team also has another football game to prepare for, as they take on Iowa in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1.

Kentucky football has had a long-standing precedent of not having any opt outs for their bowl games, though Stoops commented that this does not have to be the case.

“I would never put pressure on a young man to guilt him into coming back [for the bowl game],” Stoops said. “That has got to be a personal decision and I’ll respect it either way. We have been fortunate that the precedent has been set a long time ago. [With Josh Allen] we were going around the country to every award ceremony and he was definitely a top 10 pick [prior to the draft]. He was busy and tired, so I told him ‘Josh you do not have to come back. Your legacy is set forever. You do not need to play this game.’ 

Allen told Stoops that he was set on playing, stating it’s important to finish, according to Stoops. He believes that set the precedent but reiterated that is each individual’s decision.

Though it can’t be said for certain, the attitude from most players does appear to be that of a team that is ready to play one more game.

“We still have a lot to prove,” Kentucky linebacker Josh Paschal said. “We’re 9-3 and we want to hit that ten-win [mark]. We’re focused on our next game and this next game just happens to be the last. Everyone always says you’re only as good as your last game, so we’re going to go get that [win].”

The Citrus Bowl is set to kickoff on Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. from Orlando, which will be UK’s second Citrus Bowl appearance in four seasons.