Kentucky welcomes ten new Wildcats to campus. This list includes six players from the state of Kentucky and is highlighted by Nebraska transfer Wan’Dale Robinson and Frederick Douglass offensive lineman Jager Burton. Lots have changed since the December 16th Signing Day. Liam Coen was named as the Wildcat’s new offensive coordinator. Eric Wolford is now the leader of the Big Blue Wall and Jemal Singleton is Chris Rodriguez Jr.’s new position coach.
The most significant offseason news materialized when the Wildcats welcomed back All American offensive tackle Darian Kinnard and a host of other key contributors. Then, former Western Hill’s star Wan’Dale Robinson announced his return to the bluegrass. The Cat’s did lose junior linebacker Jamin Davis to the NFL Draft. However, today’s depth chart appears quite a bit different than was projected prior to the Gator Bowl. Let’s take a look at the January newcomers:
I want to clarify an ongoing debate about the Frankfort native. Wan’Dale Robinson is a receiver, not a running back. While he will be used in a plethora of ways, Wan’Dale is a receiver first and foremost and will immediately become the Cat’s top pass catching target. Robinson is explosive and a chunk play waiting to happen and will likely spend one season in Lexington prior to entering the NFL Draft. Kentucky badly failed to stretch opposing defenses in 2020. Robinson’s arrival means the defensive box will be unloaded. His production at Nebraska was dynamic. Robinson accumulated 91 receptions for 914 yards and 3 touchdowns. Misused at Nebrasaka, Wan’Dale is a plug and play starter at the slot receiver position and will be a regarded piece for Liam Coen to build around in 2021.
Jager Burton is the highest ranked Wildcat in the Class of 2021. A generational talent, the high school All American can play multiple positions along the line-of-scrimmage but is projected as a guard. However, he could easily be kicked out to tackle in Coen’s outside zone scheme. Burton was labeled as the most athletic offensive lineman in the nation. The Lexington product also possesses a nasty streak that will fit in nicely at Kentucky. Listed at 275 pounds, the extra semester in the weight room will benefit Burton more so than any other early enrollee. He should be near or around 300 by fall camp and is poised to compete for immediate clock.
Wan’Dale Robinson is justifiably getting all the attention in the transfer world. However, Justice Dingle may be equally as impactful. The only question I have is that is he a defensive end or outside linebacker? The former 4-star outside linebacker from Bowling Green signed with Georgia Tech. He was moved to a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in the Yellowjacket’s 4-3 scheme. But, he could move into the Jack linebacker role due to the departure of Boogie Watson. Like Jager Burton, an additional season with the strength and conditioning staff will benefit Dingle if the intentions are to play him as a stand-up OLB. But, he’s currently the same size as Josh Paschal and may play defensive end as well. Tracking Dingle’s positional assignment will be a significant story during spring practice. Regardless of where, Dingle is another plug and play transfer.
Known as “Greedy”, Hairston possesses the size and speed that Mark Stoops covets at cornerback. The 6’1, 180-pound defensive back turns and burns against vertical routes. Hairston is a press man coverage corner that competes on every snap. The tough, physical football player should develop nicely under Coach Steve Clinkscale. Kentucky lost three cornerbacks in Kelvin Joseph, MJ Devonshire, and Brandin Echols. Hairston will get additional reps during spring practice will be invaluable in his development.
Lovett is a pure free safety that intercepted 15 passes in his junior season at North Hardin High School. Listed at 6’2, 195-pounds, he possesses the preferred measuarables for the safety position in the Southeastern Conference. He will play at 200-plus. Excellent range and instincts. Lovett can cover a great deal of green space in a hurry to make a play on the football. He processes and diagnoses the game in a rapid manner. It’s obvious that he was extremely well coached in high school. Yusuf Corker and Devonte Robinson’s decision to return and current depth at the safety position will allow Lovett time to develop.
Not highly ranked, but Magwood is one of the best players in UK’s Class of 2021. Elite, crisp route runner that has proven to make contested, difficult catches. Finishes explosive plays in the end zone. Magwood’s film showed a Swiss Army Knife athlete that is intensely competitive. Viewed as the ultimate team player, Magwood was moved from receiver to quarterback out of necessity. Also played defense. Started 56 consecutive games on a team that is a 6A powerhouse in Georgia. He’s not a burner on the clock but is so on the football field. Chauncey Magwood is a prototypical slot receiver that’s listed at 6’0, 190-pounds.
Wan’Dale Robinson’s transfer and Josh Ali’s decision to return for an additional senior season lessen the pressure for Magwood to play immediately. However, he’s talented enough to see the field as a true freshman and will provide quality depth at the slot receiver position.
Sheron is a mobile, athletic quarterback that led his team to a state championship as a junior. Also played defense which highlights his toughness and willingness to be a team-first player. Adequate arm strength with a quick release. Sheron is an instinctual passer that can make all throws in the passing tree. Sheron will greatly benefit from a redshirt season in order to learn and develop in Liam Coen’s system.
Wohlabaugh played left tackle in high school. The 6’6, 280-pounder has the frame, feet, and power to also play guard in the Southeastern Conference. Good feet, strong skip step to pull as well as quick pass blocking set up. He possesses a high football IQ that identified twists and stunts at the high school level. Strong hands and heavy initial punch. Film showed an offensive lineman that collapsed the line-of-scrimmage while down blocking. Wohlabaugh will benefit from time with the strength and conditioning staff. Luke Fortner and Darian Kinnard’s decision to return will benefit his development. Offensive linemen are slow cookers; a redshirt season will benefit.
Production matters at the running back position. Wright accounted for over 4,000 yards at North Hardin High School. Wright is a patient runner with top-level vision which fits in well in a zone blocking scheme. His 6’0, 205-pound frame is somewhat reminiscent of AJ Rose. Runs behind his pads and through arm tackles. He’ll also be effective out of the backfield as a pass catcher. Wright’s unique running style fits perfectly in Coen’s outside zone scheme. Kentucky has current depth at the running back position which includes All SEC performer Chris Rodriquez and a proven entity in Smoke. Need to play immediately is not there. However, Wright’s style matches Coen’s intent.
Punter Max Duffy’s successor is fellow Australian Wilson Berry. The brother of Pittsburg Steeler’s punter Jordan. He comes to Lexington ranked as the seventh best punter in the Class of 2021 as per 247. UK is counting on Berry to continue the same efficiency that was established by Duffy.
What does all this mean?
Kentucky’s surprisingly high number of players that decided to return for an additional season drastically changed the 2021 depth chart. Immediate needs are not as pressing as projected on the December Signing Day. Stoops has a difference maker in Wan’Dale Robinson. He’s a much needed playmaker for the Wildcat offense. Justice Dingle will also provide immediate help. Which position will Dingle play in 2021? Stay tuned. Offensive lineman Jager Burton will compete for playing time as a true freshman. He possesses unique athletic ability and fits perfectly in the system that Coen will bring from the Los Angeles Rams.
Early enrollment is important and can be highly beneficial for incoming freshman and transfers. Winter workouts are vital in player development. This doesn’t just apply to the bench press and vertical jump. Locker room acceptance and experiencing college as well as community life can enhance a certain level of comfort for when the games start to count in September.
With a new offensive scheme to be implemented, spring practice is of the upmost importance. The SEC is changing right in front of our eyes. This applies to offensive schemes and head coaches. An early start for these Cats will be beneficial in the big picture.