Before we completely move on to next season with National Signing Day coverage, I’ll be looking back at the year that was in a position-by-position breakdown, starting with the best in the building, Kentucky’s offensive line.
2016 Production and Accolades
Rotating in nine players, the UK offensive line paved the way for two 1,000 yard rushers, the first time it’s been accomplished in school history and the only team in the power five to do so this season. The only player who never left the game was Jon Toth, who started in a nation-high 48 consecutive games. The national defensive player of the year, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, said the Cats were the most physical team they played in the trenches.
- Jon Toth was First Team All-SEC by the AP, All-SEC Second Team by the coaches, and an All-SEC selection by pretty much every other college football publication. Toth was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week following UK’s win over Vanderbilt.
- Logan Stenberg was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team
- Nick Haynes was ranked as one of the top two guards in the nation by Pro Football Focus (at least) twice.
- Finalists for the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s best offensive line.
The greatest surprise of the season, Kentucky’s offensive line was the most dominant unit on the team. Most offensive line coaches hope they can rotate in two, maybe three players off the bench on a regular basis. Kentucky platooned at every position except center. Their fresh legs helped Kentucky finish games late in the second half.
Their pass protection is the only reason they don’t get an A+. Kentucky allowed 28 sacks, ranked No. 71 in the country and tenth in the SEC. They struggled with Georgia Tech’s speed in the TaxSlayer Bwol and struggled to find continuity at the beginning of the season.
- C Jon Toth: The line loses their leader. The graduate will play in the Senior Bowl.
- OG Ramsey Meyers: The right guard will opt out of his final year of eligibility.
- C Drake Jackson: The high school All-American will compete for the starting center position after redshirting this season.
- OG Luke Fortner: Another redshirt, Fortner impressed the coaches in bowl practice. His versatility is comparable to Logan Stenberg.
- Tate Leavitt: The JUCO offensive tackle redshirted this season and will likely move down to guard, potentially playing a vital role if Bunchy Stallings moves to center.
- OT Naasir Watkins: A three-star 2017 prospect from Olney, Maryland.
- OT Austin Dotson: Belfry makes great offensive lineman and Dotson is one of the best.
- OG Sebastien Dolcine: One of Freddie Maggard’s favorites in the upcoming recruiting class, Dolcine, Dotson and Watkins are both expected to redshirt next season.
Kentucky’s offensive line should not miss a step in 2017. Nick Haynes, Kyle Meadows and Cole Mosier will be seniors with at least a year of full-time experience. Landon Young and Fortner should take a big step forward in their second year experiencing significant playing time.
The biggest question moving forward is who will replace Toth, the quarterback of the offensive line. We should know halfway through spring practice if Drake Jackson can seamlessly step in or if Stallings, this year’s No. 2 center, needs to permanently move over from right guard.