Power ranking every QB Kentucky will face in 2019
When it comes to the opposing QB battle, Kentucky looks to have gotten fairly lucky in 2019. Sure, this list isn’t without its fair share of talent … but there’s no Tua, there’s no Lamar Jackson out of conference, and the SEC West trade of Kellen Mond (off the schedule) for Nick Starkel/Ben Hines (coming on) is a good one.
The only passer UK will face who threw for 3,000 yards in 2018 is … wait for it … Jake Bentley from South Carolina.
This passing game respite couldn’t have come at a better time for the Wildcats, as UK stands to replace pretty much its entire secondary. So who should the Wildcats fear? We power rank the 12 passers UK will face.
12. Dresser Winn (UT-Martin)
Winn is a capable FCS passer, throwing for 1,601 yards and 12 touchdowns last year for UTM before suffering a season-ending injury after 7 games. He passed for 355 yards and 4 scores against Sun Belt foe Middle Tennessee, so he could be a handful.
11. Riley Neal (Vanderbilt)
It’s kind of a theme on this list to have grad transfers (4 in total), and those guys are somewhere between difficult and impossible to assess. Neal started at Ball State for 3 years and passed for over 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. That said, he still has to win the job — Vandy won’t announce the winner before its opener — and it’s hard to imagine Neal or Deuce Wallace being an upgrade over Kyle Shurmur at Vandy, and Kentucky is 4-1 in the past 5 against the Commodores. Neal is surrounded by skill talent on offense, but adjusting to life in the SEC might not go all that smoothly.
10. Javon Pass (Louisville)
Pass didn’t see the field against Kentucky last year, and Louisville lost by 46 points without him. He completed 54% of his passes with 8 touchdowns and 12 picks for a morbid Louisville team (although he did play well at times, for instance, against Florida State). The Cards can’t help but get better, but there’s not a handful of SEC level players on Louisville’s roster right now. And Pass isn’t one of those.
9. Mitchell Guadagni (Toledo)
Guadagni is a senior dual-threat guy who played well for Toledo when he wasn’t hurt in 2018. He passed for 1,063 yards and 13 touchdowns and added 428 rushing yards and 3 scores, although he missed about half the snaps due to injury, in which case pocket passer Eli Peters (an Illinois transfer) played. He’s a solid, if kind of unexceptional player. Toledo was picked to win the MAC West.
8. Mike Glass (Eastern Michigan)
Glass is similar to Guadagni — he passed for 1,024 yards and 9 scores and rushed for 412 yards and 6 scores while splitting snaps last year. Both guys helped get their teams in bowl games, both are solid, but neither should strike fear into Kentucky’s heart.
7. Tommy Stevens (Mississippi State)
Assuming that Joe Moorhead didn’t bring Stevens in to sit behind Keytaon Thompson, Kentucky will face a guy who is kind of a question mark. Yes, Stevens has massive talent, but the senior transfer didn’t get the snaps at Penn State to convince us that he’s a ready-made star. He’ll probably be a better passer than Nick Fitzgerald was, but not in the top half of the passers UK will face in 2019.
6. Jake Bentley (South Carolina)
Bentley might be the most frustrating QB in the SEC to project. The numbers are good (almost 62% completions, 3,171 yards, 27 touchdowns in 2018) but the results are incredibly uneven. Frankly, he can’t be ranked too high because he’s been the man at the helm while Kentucky has built a 5-game winning streak over the Gamecocks. He could well throw for 300 yards in Lexington, but he could also make a costly mistake to lose the game.
5. Ben Hicks/Nick Starkel (Arkansas)
This is probably the hardest spot on the list to judge. Hicks was a star at SMU (over 9,000 passing yards at 71 touchdowns), but he did it against weaker competition and with plenty of offensive talent alongside. Yes, Arkansas will be better in 2019 than in 2018, but Hicks (or A&M transfer Nick Starkel) isn’t likely to put up those PlayStation like numbers in the SEC.
4. Jarrett Guarantano (Tennessee)
Yes, his first season as a regular starter was far from smooth (1,907 yards and 12 touchdowns passing), but Guarantano played very well against Kentucky in UT’s upset of the Wildcats, and given the improved talent and depth around him (UT returns basically its entire offense), it’s not a stretch to put him solidly in the top half of this list.
3. Feleipe Franks (Florida)
Sure, Kentucky took down the Gators last fall, and Franks struggled mightily in that game. But as the season went, he got more comfortable, and his 2,457 yards and 24 scores attest to the fact that the guy UK saw in Week 2 isn’t really who Franks is, or at least who he became. His 350 rushing yards and 7 scores on the ground won’t hurt either.
2. Kelly Bryant (Missouri)
Is Kelly Bryant this good? He showed flashes of it at Clemson (3,338 career passing yards and 16 TDs), before giving way to Trevor Lawrence. That said, Bryant won’t be a better passer than Drew Lock, but he will add a legitimate rushing threat that Lock didn’t. Expectations are high in Columbia for Bryant, and they probably should be.
1. Jake Fromm (Georgia)
He was sharp last year as a sophomore, completing 67% of his passes for 2,761 yards and 30 scores. While UGA basically ran the ball down UK’s throat in their showdown to decide the SEC East, Fromm made any throw he needed to make last season in Lexington. Stopping him in Athens is an imposing task, to say the least.