As head coach Mark Stoops enters his fourth season in charge, there’s no doubt that the team has looked more competitive the last couple years under his leadership, but they are still waiting for that elusive bowl appearance for the first time in 6 years, including consecutive 5-7 finishes leaving them just short of a post-season berth. The team’s impact on the draft has been fairly minimal too, with just the 4 picks in 3 seasons during Stoops’ tenure, all of them defensive: a couple edge rushers and a couple linebackers. This time out, their top prospect to be drafted comes from the offensive side of the ball.
THE TOP 5
Jon Toth, rSr, C/OG, #72 – 6ft 5, 310 lbs
Toth absolutely is the top draft-eligible prospect on the Wildcats by some distance, and might end up as the only Kentucky player ultimately selected in the next draft (though it’s far too early to make that kind of prediction!). They have a fantastic offensive lineman in Toth though, that is for sure, whose name might not be too well known despite his excellent career so far. While the Kentucky football program has shown progress in the last couple years since Mark Stoops took over, they still don’t receiver a huge amount of recognition, and subsequently ditto with their players, especially a center prospect. With 35 straight starts already entering his senior year, Toth is vastly experienced. The size and length is built for the NFL as well, and surely offers potential versatility to cover at guard as well (maybe even at tackle?). Toth moves well at his size too, with quick feet and good movement in space when breaking onto the second level, as well as a fast transition into his stance and blocks after snapping the ball. The measurables are completed with his impressive work in the weight room and that resulting strength translates well to the field. Toth balances out being tough and aggressive, with being smart and aware in setting up his fellow linemen in their assignments, and in spotting and adjusting to late blitzers and to second blocking requirements. Given his smart play on the field, it’s no surprise that he has received academic honours off the field every year as well. A senior year in line with his previous seasons, and Toth should be near the top of center rankings on 2017 draft boards.
J.D. Harmon, rSr, CB, #11 – 6ft 1, 197 lbs
Potential draft picks on this team beyond their talented center are a bit uncertain, but one who caught my eye on film was Harmon. He’s got the size with a tall frame and an athletic build to go with it. The athleticism hoped for on top of that looks to be there sufficiently, moving well around the field, and although not used very often in the role, averaged an impressive 32 yards on 4 kick return attempts last year. In his primary role at corner, Harmon has a very convincing demeanour on the field, looking confident and in control. He trusts his eyes, showing good situational awareness, which led to picking off 3 interceptions in 2015, and 5 overall in his college career so far. There’s a number of likable traits in his game that could translate to the NFL level. I haven’t heard his name mentioned much anywhere, so not sure how much on the radar as a potential draft pick he might be, but he looks a player worthy of a look at least.
Garrett Johnson, Jr, WR, #9 – 5ft 11, 182 lbs
He’s only entering his junior season, but I had to include Johnson in the top 5. In part due to there not being that many stand outs, but also because he is absolutely impossible to ignore. There’s a definite flair to Johnson and the way he plays the game of football; a bit of a swagger to his style, but not in a negative way. Johnson made some spectacular receptions on multiple levels of the field last year while leading the team in receiving yardage. As well as seeing targets both short and deep, his athletic traits were put to use for maximum versatility, getting some carries via backfield reverses as well. He may not be the biggest, but he’s a big personality, with fight and intensity, along with that confidence. Most importantly though he is a talented overall receiver with fantastic hands. Maybe not one for the next draft, given his two years of eligibility remaining, but you never know, and at least is a name to get to know and enjoy watching. He finished his 2015 sophomore season with 46 receptions for 694 yards (15.1 yards per catch) and 2 touchdowns.
Marcus McWilson, Sr, S, #15 – 6ft 0, 208 lbs
After the departure of the productive A.J. Stamps, McWilson becomes one of the more veteran leaders in the secondary. While he has good measurables and quickness, and flashes with the occasional good play, those are rare. Too often McWIlson is just a close proximity observer of the action. He sprints around the field and gets into nice positions from which to watch a completion or see a teammate make the tackle. There’s not enough attacking of the ball in the air or closing in on the ball carrier rather than waiting for the ball carrier to come to him to make the tackle. His wrap up technique isn’t too great either, letting his target slip through his grasp on occasions. It can be a bit frustrating to watch, especially as he has the potential to contribute more. Still, he did manage to total a perfectly respectable 66 tackles (32 solo), along with 1.5 tackles for loss including 1 sack, a pair of pass breakups and a force fumble. Plenty room for improvement though for his final year. With a bit more consistency, including with his motor, and he could get himself noticed.
Blake McClain, Sr, CB/S, #24 – 5ft 11, 195 lbs
McClain is a bit of a wildcard in the Wildcats’ secondary, playing as a nickel corner over the slot for the most part, but as a versatile player both in the box and deeper as well, on top of special teams contributions too. He’s got the energy to chase around the field all game long. He’s yet to top his true freshman season production from back in 2013 however, where he had 59 tackles – the total he’s had for the past two years combined. Whether he’s a versatile hybrid player, or one without a clear fit at the next level is a question, and one McClain would hope to be able to provide an answer to his senior year. He’d certainly like to increase his numbers on the stat sheet after 31 tackles last season, with 1 TFL, 5 pass breakups and a forced fumble, perhaps with some big plays thrown in having yet to record a career interception during his time in college.
OTHER PROSPECTS TO WATCH
Ryan Timmons, Sr, WR, #1 – 5ft 10, 192
Though having seniority over many of his fellow wide receivers, Timmons has been surpassed by several teammates that saw him go from Kentucky’s leading receiver in both receptions and yards in 2014 to just seventh best in both those categories last year. His 12 catches went for just 114 yards at 9.5 yards per reception and a single touchdown. He needs to get back to the contributions he had earlier in his career to have a shot at the NFL, which is already not helped by his lack of ideal size at under 5ft 10.
Jojo Kemp, Sr, RB, #3 – 5ft 10, 200 lbs
After leading the team in rushing as a true freshman in 2013, Kemp has continued to be a steady if functional contributor in the ground game since. While he shows decent enough vision and decision making to take the yardage that’s there, he lacks much in the way of acceleration, quick-twitch, lateral movements and change of direction to be more than a very long shot for the next level.
Courtney Miggins, Sr, DL, #94 – 6ft 4, 264 lbs
Miggins is built more like an edge rusher but with the skills more suited to playing on the defensive line from a three-point stance, making him an uncertain fit. The junior college transfer had minimal impact in his first season at the FBS level with 12 tackles and a half TFL in 2015.
JUNIORS TO KEEP AN EYE ON
Jeff Badet, rJr, WR, #13 – 6ft 0, 182 lbs
As the team’s third leading receiver, Badet was quite a way behind the top two, but his game really stands out despite the lesser production. He has legitimate playing speed and athleticism, with dangerous breakaway ability. He backs it up with more than just that, showing good situational and positional awareness, runs nice routes, and attacks the ball well in the air showing good hands. There’s a lot of promise, and I’m interested to see if he can build on last year after missing all of 2014 with an injury. He’ll have to do so with a new quarterback though, after Patrick Towles moved on to Boston College. Badet finished his sophomore season with 29 receptions for 430 yards (14.8 yards per catch) and 2 touchdowns.
Ramsey Meyers, rJr, OG, #69 – 6ft 4, 320 lbs
The heavily built interior lineman has been starting since his redshirt freshman season and has built a reputation for his physical run blocking. The pass protection part of the game is still a work in progress though and needs to show improvement going into his junior year.
Kyle Meadows, rJr, OT, #73 – 6ft 5, 298 lbs
Starting at right tackle, Meadows is a good looking athlete who moves very naturally with smooth consistent footwork. He was suspended for the 2015 season opener for a violation of team rules; hopefully that is a one off incident.
Stanley “Boom” Williams, Jr, RB, #18 – 5ft 8, 196 lbs
Despite the attention-seeking nickname, the small back’s top end speed is a bit questionable. That said, he still managed to break a number of big plays that have led to an impressive yards per carry average, including over 7 yards per carry in 2015. What I like most about Williams’ game is his balance, making himself very difficult to bring down, frequently ducking out of challenges and slipping through traffic. He missed a couple games last year and hasn’t had a huge number of carries to this point in his career, with less than 200 rush attempts over two seasons.
Nick Haynes, rJr, OG, #68 – 6ft 3, 308 lbs
Haynes was late to the game, having only started playing football his junior year of high school. Despite that though, he’s been highly praised for his football IQ, and can certainly see that in his play, rarely making any mistakes. He plays with good physicality, which he needs as a he can lose ground early after engaging contact but generally holds his own and is a battler. His lack of ideal length could be limiting.
Reggie Meant, rJr, DL, #96 – 6ft 4, 302 lbs
There’s decent size on offer with Meant, even if it looks as if some of the bulk he is carrying is bad weight. It doesn’t affect his speed too much though, with good initial burst and quickness off the snap. He contributed solidly as part of the defensive line rotation in 2015 but without much of an interior pass rush to get overly excited about. He finished the year with 31 tackles, 1.5 TFLs and a sack.
Cole Mosier, rJr, OG/OT, #74 – 6ft 5, 335
The former walk-on has been a great asset to the Wildcats, as a versatile lineman over his career so far, filling in at every offensive line spot except for center – perhaps that is something that will be seen this year! As a result, he’s been highly praised for his work ethic and adaptability, along with his improvements having not been a scholarship athlete when he joined the team. Mosier brings intriguing size, even if he’s a bit slow moving that would likely limit any future to an interior position.
Dorian Baker, Jr, WR, #2 – 6ft 2, 208 lbs
Kentucky spread the ball around to quite a number of targets last year, with Baker another and actually led the team in number of receptions, though not in yards. While he has a solid build, his game lacks polish all round right now. There’s a lot to clean up, but his 55 catches for 608 yards (11.05 per reception) and 2 scores were a decent return in what was a bit of a breakout season.
Matt Elam, Jr, DL, #69 – 6ft 6, 360 lbs
Elam has length but that heavy listed weight is not good weight, sporting a sloppy un-toned build. As a result, Elam doesn’t move well and doesn’t offer a great deal outside of taking up space to try and open opportunities for teammates. He’s a very low impact player right now.