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Five Kentucky players who must step up against Auburn

Kentucky's 2020 football team appears to have capable players at almost every position. The key will be for some of those players to step up with big performances when matchups demand it.

Here are five Kentucky players who need to step up for the 'Cats against Auburn.

Quarterback Terry Wilson

This almost goes without saying but Wilson has to be at the top of this list. It has been a full year since Wilson has played in a college football game. How's he going to handle taking that first hit? How much hesitation will there be when the defense is bearing down on him in the pocket? Will he have happy feet or stand in there and step into a 300-pound defender to make a throw downfield?

These are tough circumstances for a quarterback to begin what should be his final season of college football but that's the hand Wilson has been dealt.

Auburn has some turnover to deal with on defense and Wilson will benefit from working behind a very good offensive line but the Tigers have a lot of speed at every level so his margin for error will be small.

Running back A.J. Rose

Kentucky's senior running back is coming into the season with a lot of positive momentum. The coaches have mentioned that he has taken his game to another level.

It's no secret Kentucky is going to lean hard on its running game particularly as Wilson gets his feet under him and shakes off any remaining rust from an extended offseason for him.

While other backs will get carries, this is a moment that calls for a veteran to step up.

Rose was solid against Florida and Georgia last season, the two most talented defensive teams that the Wildcats saw in 2019. But he's still looking for a signature game against a marquee opponent. This would be a perfect opportunity for that.

Kentucky may be able to move the chains against Auburn through methodical execution but to win the contest they will need some big plays. Rose has proven he's capable of producing those. Obviously ball security and pass protection will also be key. There can't be many miscues in those areas on the road.

Offensive guard Kenneth Horsey

Horsey is the great unknown on Kentucky's offensive line, at least to those of us who haven't watched him practice every single day.

All four of Kentucky's other starters on the offensive line ranked among the top 14 offensive linemen in the SEC last year, according to PFF grades.

Collectively this is the Wildcats' best position unit and it's hard to imagine there being many offensive lines in the country that are safer bets as quality units.

But this is Horsey's first real test as a college player. He played 38 snaps all of last season and could play close to twice that amount against Auburn, a team with inexperience but plenty of athleticism up front.

Defensive end Josh Paschal

Auburn is breaking in four new starters on the offensive line. Josh Paschal, a third team preseason All-SEC selection, is Kentucky's best hope of generating a strong pass rush from the trenches and he has a prime opportunity here on a big stage to cause problems for Bo Nix against the inexperience Tiger front.

Kicker Matt Ruffolo

If Kentucky sends Ruffolo out for field goal attempts too many times that's probably not a good sign. But when Ruffolo's number is called he needs to convert.

Because of the way both teams play there probably won't be too many possessions in this game so it will be important to come away with points every time the ball is inside the Auburn 30-yard line.

Ruffolo has worked on adding some power to his kicks this offseason and there have been indications that it has paid off through camp.

The first game for a team is often full of blunders. Penalties, mental miscues, special teams woes. If Kentucky can find a solid placekicking game right up front to pair with Max Duffy, it would increase the chances of an upset.