Most of Kentucky’s roster for the 2024 season is already determined as summer approaches, but there are still a few competitions for starting positions, including a notable one between Brock Vandagriff and Gavin Wimsatt for the starting quarterback role.

The Kentucky Wildcats aren’t expected to be top contenders in the competitive SEC this season, but Mark Stoops’s squad brings a wealth of veteran talent and stability into 2024 following a 7-6 record last year. Stoops has also effectively utilized the transfer portal, adding players such as wide receiver Ja’Mori Maclin, linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson, and several new quarterbacks.

As the summer approaches, many starting positions in Lexington are already determined, with players like left tackle Marques Cox, center Eli Cox, and D’Eryk Jackson taking full advantage of their remaining college eligibility. However, a few intriguing roster battles remain. The most significant competition is at quarterback, a position that until recently appeared to have a clear starter.


Kentucky's latest transfer target could signal a loss of faith in Brock Vandagriff

When Kentucky concluded its spring game, Brock Vandagriff, a transfer from Georgia, was firmly established as QB1 for the 2024 season, with Beau Allen from Georgia State as his clear backup. Despite the quarterback room being inexperienced, it was filled with promise, especially with Vandagriff, a former five-star recruit, leading the way. However, Coach Mark Stoops soon shook things up.

Gavin Wimsatt, a Kentucky native, entered the transfer portal after losing the starting quarterback job at Rutgers to Athan Kaliakmanis and subsequently signed with the Wildcats. Wimsatt brings with him 19 collegiate starts, whereas Vandagriff has only 21 career pass attempts since joining Georgia in 2021.

At Rutgers, Wimsatt didn’t excel as a passer, but his athleticism and ability to make plays with his legs could add a new dimension to Kentucky’s offense if Stoops and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan decide to start him. While it’s unlikely that Stoops will initiate a full-scale quarterback competition this summer, making Vandagriff the probable starter, Wimsatt’s presence certainly adds intrigue to the offseason in Lexington.


Kentucky quarterback Brock Vandagriff (12)

Gerald Mincey was a strategic addition to the roster through the transfer portal by Coach Stoops, given the importance of protecting the quarterback, whether it’s Vandagriff or Wimsatt. The recruitment of Mincey suggests there may be assurances of playing time that could preempt any offseason competition for the starting right tackle position. If not, Kentucky faces a challenging decision at right tackle.

Last season, Mincey played 578 snaps, with 430 at right tackle, allowing 17 pressures and two sacks. In 2022, as a left tackle for the Vols, he surrendered 12 pressures and one sack over 454 snaps. In contrast, Ford, who served as Kentucky’s swing tackle in 2023 after three seasons at USC (one as a starter), hasn’t been a full-time starter since 2021. That year, he allowed 20 pressures in 535 snaps at left tackle. Even in a limited role last year, Ford gave up 11 pressures in 204 snaps.

Given these stats, Mincey should begin the offseason as the frontrunner for the starting right tackle spot, though he’s not guaranteed to secure it by Week 1. While neither player is likely to deliver elite performance at right tackle, having two seasoned offensive linemen competing for the sole open position on the line is a favorable situation for the program.

Kentucky had four players selected in the 2024 NFL Draft, with cornerback Andru Phillips being the first, taken in the third round by the New York Giants. Phillips’ departure leaves a significant gap in Kentucky’s defense, as he played 710 snaps last season and led the team with six pass breakups.

On the opposite side of Phillips last season was Maxwell Hairston, who led the Wildcats in defensive snaps and recorded five interceptions. Hairston returns for his junior year, but the cornerback position opposite him is now up for grabs, with JQ Hardaway and Jantzen Dunn being the top contenders.

JQ Hardaway, who was CB3 last season, is poised to step into the role as a junior. Last season, Hardaway played 357 snaps, allowing 18 receptions on 26 targets with three breakups. Jantzen Dunn, on the other hand, played only 91 snaps but showed promise towards the end of his sophomore season, playing primarily as an outside corner in the Gator Bowl against Clemson.

Jordan Robinson, another potential candidate, transferred to Cincinnati during the spring portal window, narrowing the competition. While Hardaway’s experience makes him a strong candidate, Dunn’s late-season emergence suggests he will also be a significant competitor for the starting position.

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