football Edit

Five UK players in the spotlight against Toledo

Each week leading up to Kentucky's next football game Cats Illustrated will highlight several Wildcats who will be in the spotlight more than others for various reasons.

Here are five to watch, with rationale, for Kentucky's season opener against Toledo on August 31st.

Terry Wilson, quarterback ... Everyone is wondering about Wilson's improvement from his first to his second year as Kentucky's starter. Wilson will be watched closely not only for interest in his advances, but to find out how Darin Hinshaw and Eddie Gran will employ him in the context of the offense. If Wilson really does air the ball out 40 times in the opener, as Hinshaw indicated he would like to do in games this fall, that would force us to think about the Cats' offense differently. Will there be a lot of designed runs? How reluctant will Wilson be to tuck it versus keep his head up and go through his reads? Has his deep ball improved? There's so much to look forward to in Wilson's 2019 debut.

Josh Ali, receiver ... Ali is intriguing going into the opener for some of the same reasons that Wilson is. He's one of the main reasons to hope that the passing game can take a step forward during Wilson's evolution as a more experienced SEC quarterback. When Kentucky's coaches were asked about the wide receivers, dating back to last year, it never took long for them to mention Ali. But doing it in a game, even against a MAC opponent, is a different story.

Landon Young, offensive tackle ... It has been almost a year and a half since Kentucky fans have seen the program's highest-rated signee in live game action. Fully healthy and ready to man the all-important left tackle position, which EJ Price and Naasir Watkins held down in his absence last season, Young's play will have a big say in UK's offensive success or lack thereof this season. That's a lot of pressure for someone who undoubtedly has some rust to shake off but the coaches haven't expressed anything less than full confidence in the Lexington native. Wilson needs his blindside protected and if Young gives him plenty of time, it will make UK's junior quarterback that much better.

Jamari Brown, cornerback ... Brandin Echols was the player most had probably penciled in as the starting cornerback opposite Cedrick Dort after the spring, but Brown won the offseason competition and gets his spot with the first team in the season opener. Long and physical, Brown has many of the same attributes as some of the corners who just exited the program. But he's inexperienced and has a lot to learn. Toledo had plenty of turnover at receiver but with quality quarterback Mitchell Guadagni behind center this will be a nice test for the redshirt freshman.

Chance Poore, kicker ... Poore booted a 56-yarder in practice recently and Mark Stoops has seemed to be happy with his offseason. The difference between a good and great special teams unit for Kentucky in 2019 might be the place kicking situation but we all know a coach's trust is gained slowly and lost quickly when it comes to this part of the game. He'll need a strong start for his confidence as much as anything.