Identifying Kentucky redshirt candidates
For Kentucky to compete consistently and long term in the SEC, redshirt players must contribute when they return to the field. Among many reasons, it allows the Wildcats to account for late bloomers and add depth to close the talent gap with rivals.
Quarterbacks and offensive linemen are often the most logical candidates to redshirt as they digest the playbook and develop physically.
Last season, Kentucky had 18 players return from a redshirt season in 2014, including quarterback Drew Barker. It’s a philosophy Mark Stoops has employed consistently. Before the 2015 season, Kentucky redshirted every offensive lineman recruit signed under Stoops, the Herald-Leader reported.
So who are the candidates this season?
Linebacker Roland Walder, a three-star recruit from Ohio, is at a position lacking experience, but also one where transfers and redshirt players from last season are poised to step in. Walder’s connection to Kentucky is lengthy. He committed to the Wildcats following the Mississippi State game in 2014, and over offers from Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Toledo and Bowling Green.
Defensive end T.J. Carter didn’t commit until January, and was a relative unknown to recruiting services. The 6-foot-4, 245-pounder from Georgia’s Whitfield Academy is not expected to see much time early in his career. For perspective, Carter’s other offers came from Memphis, Samford and Mercer.
The offensive line group was the crown jewel of the 2016 class, but 6-foot-6 Luke Fortner was not among the most touted prospects. Fortner was a three-star recruit from Ohio by 247Sports.
Barring injury or utter disappointment at quarterback, Ohio native Gunnar Hoak should not see playing time in 2016.
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) February 3, 2016
Hoak was the first quarterback commit when former offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson took over. While Hoak was a mid-year enrollee, conventional wisdom says Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson II will have to fall on hard times for Hoak to see action.