As Kentucky has moved out of the basement of the SEC, one trend has emerged — Mark Stoops and Co. have a penchant for turning under-the-radar guys into SEC stars. While 2018 Nagurski Award winner Josh Allen is perhaps the best example, last season featured unknown DL Calvin Taylor — who ended up among the SEC’s sack leaders.

Kentucky has plenty of make-the-jump candidates in 2020, even if more of them are 4-star guys than 2-star guys this time. Even if none of them turns into Josh Allen 2.0, odds are there are some stars and potential All-Americans in this group. If you’ve missed out on them so far, might as well start learning about them now.

Boogie Watson, LB

Watson is the player who most resembles Allen — both are linebackers, neither came from football recruiting hotbeds (Allen was from New Jersey, Watson is from Maryland), and both have posted solid stats that show the building blocks for explosive senior seasons. Allen had 19 tackles for loss and 14 sacks between his sophomore and junior seasons, while Watson posted 16.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. Watson has the same explosive edge-rushing speed as Allen, and at 244 pounds, he has grown into a legitimate SEC linebacker. Does Watson have a final act like Allen’s 2018 season? Wait and see.

Yusuf Corker, S

Corker was a Tennessee commit who flipped to Kentucky leading up to Signing Day in 2017. After a redshirt season and a little time as a backup in 2018, he led Kentucky in tackles last season (74), and displayed a nose for the football, breaking up 4 passes, posting an interception, and even scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery. Kentucky’s secondary posted some of the top pass defense numbers in the nation last year (fewest passing yards allowed in the SEC, at 167.8 yards per game), and as UK’s top tackler, Corker isn’t really that under the radar. It’s safe to say that opponents recognize how good he is, but this season, the rest of the nation might catch on in his junior season.

Kelvin Joseph, DB

So if Kentucky did indeed have one of the nation’s top secondaries, and then added a big-time transfer in former LSU Tiger Kelvin Joseph … well, Joseph has a chance to shine for sure. Joseph showed flashes of big-time ability as a true freshman at LSU in 2018, and then sat out last season after transferring to Kentucky. A former 4-star recruit from 247sports, Joseph is a rangy (6-1, 192 pounds) defender who figures to see time somewhere in Kentucky’s defensive backfield. If the word from the grapevine from his new teammates is any indication, Joseph might be the surprise player of UK’s 2020 season.

Josh Paschal, DL

Paschal has had quite a time of it in Lexington, being diagnosed with melanoma on his foot that caused him to miss almost the entire 2018 season. He did bounce back with a solid 2019 campaign (34 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss), but has bounced around between the defensive line (270 pounds) and linebacker (6-4, with the speed to cover a tight end). Paschal is settling in on the defensive line, and given his combination of size and speed, he could certainly help Kentucky’s front 4 succeed in 2020.

Landon Young, OT

How good is Young? Well, he missed 1 assignment in 754 plays last season. So obviously, improvement is a difficult concept. An in-state recruit, Young was a big-name signee for Mark Stoops back in 2016. A 4-star prospect and a U.S. Army All-American pick, Young has slowly built his reputation in Lexington. He did miss the 2018 season with a knee injury, but the 6-7, 321-pound mountain of a tackle has become the wise old man of the UK offensive line. A 2019 graduate, Young has the size and athleticism to stand out even on Kentucky’s line — and if he can keep Terry Wilson upright, the Wildcats could surprise plenty of teams in 2020.