The transfer portal giveth and the transfer portal taketh away; for Kentucky, incoming personnel significantly outweighs the outgoing following the signing of former Ole Miss starting linebacker Jacquez Jones.
The 6’0, 235-pound Jones is a former 3-star prospect from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He signed with Ole Miss and later went on be named a Freshman All-SEC performer for the Rebels after posting 36 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss. 2019 saw the linebacker start 12 games while accumulating 71 stops including 7.5 tackles for loss. Jones registered seven tackles against the Wildcats a year ago and finished the season with as Ole Miss’s leader with 75.
Kentucky was thin at inside linebacker following Jamin Davis’ early departure to the NFL and Chris Oats’ absence. D’Eryk Jackson was projected to start alongside DeAndre Square but the second-year defender sustained a season-ending injury during spring practice. Former 4-star recruit Jared Casey and Michigan State transfer Luke Fulton competed during spring practice as the Cats awaited the arrival of the ultra-talented athlete Trevin Wallace. Out of necessity, UK reached out to Jones after he entered the portal. Jones reciprocated the interest that eventually developed into a commitment and signing.
What Does All This Mean?
Kentucky has experienced players utilizing the transfer portal to exit the program. Most departures won’t influence the Wildcats’ 2021 win/loss column; however, former starting quarterback Terry Wilson is now at New Mexico which opened the competition up for Penn State transfer Will Levis, former Auburn signal caller Joey Gatewood, and Beau Allen.
Cornerback Jamari Brown transferred to Purdue. Fellow defensive back MJ Devonshire is now a Pitt Panther. Both secondary members were expected to compete for starting roles and will be missed. But, Mark Stoops’ incoming transactions are significantly more essential than the majority of the outgoing.
Former Western Hills star and Nebraska receiver Wan’Dale Robinson came home. Two potential starting quarterbacks came from football powerhouse programs. Outside linebacker Justice Dingle transferred in from Georgia Tech. The aforementioned linebacker Luke Fulton provides quality depth at a position of need. Same can be said of fellow Spartan turned Wildcat receiver Tre’Von Morgan. So yes, UK got better through the portal.
Much like Robinson, Jones is a high producing starter that fills an immediate need at a critical position. Furthermore, Jones’ presence could lead to Jon Sumrall easing Trevin Wallace into the rotation. With Jones now all in, additional linebackers can be freed up to provide quality depth at both inside positions.
Gaining a starting linebacker that led his team in tackles has to be considered substantial. Jacquez Jones’ addition to the Wildcat defense could have the same dynamic effect as Wan’Dale Robinson and Will Levis are to the offense. Time will tell. Regardless, Kentucky has won round one of the transfer portal fistfight.
Hurry up, football season.