After struggling last season protecting quarterback Will Levis and opening up running lines for running backs, Kentucky’s offensive line entered the spring focused on rebuilding its “Great Blue Wall” moniker, and the coaches the Wildcats aren’t done yet.
After losing a couple of expected bookings on the NCAA transfer portal at the end of April, UK head coach Mark Stoops dived back into the portal for possible replacements and immediately came out in greater depth.
Ben Christman, a former four-star prospect. he committed to the Ohio State Wildcats on Sunday, joining Southern California transfer Courtland Ford on the incoming Cats roster.
The new duo, both standing 6-foot-6 and weighing at least 300 pounds, will help fill the gaps created when David Wohlabaugh and Deondre Buford entered the portal in April.
So where does that leave the UK offensive line?
The Cats left spring practice confident in their growth, especially after reshuffling several players to their natural positions.
With the addition of Marques Cox, a transfer from northern Illinois, he allowed Stoops to move him at left tackle. Kenneth Horsey is the projected starter at left guard, Jager Burton moved to center for the first time this spring and Eli Cox returned to right guard.
Now the only question mark left is right tackle, and it remains to be seen if it’s someone currently on the breakout list or if another newcomer takes the job.
However, Stoops would be the first person to say that nothing is set in stone.
Ford played in 20 games over three seasons at USC and recorded 12 starts, mostly at left tackle. The expectation is for him to step into the available right tackle role, but he’s also going to face a lot of competition.
Jeremy Flax started 12 games at right tackle in 2022, but hasn’t shown enough promise yet to clinch the job. Christman, who was expected to be a backup guard for the Buckeyes next season, could also slide into that spot. At the same time, the UK has a large number of reserves: Grant Bingham, Alabama transfer to Tanner Bowles, Nik Hall,
Josh Jones and Paul Rodriguez: That could come up over the summer and fall.
If nothing else, the Cats’ willingness to continue adding pieces up front shows the priority Stoops and his staff are giving to rebuilding an offensive line that had been the calling card of the program for several seasons.
Kentucky has thrived on adding players from the transfer portal since its inception, and the Cats clearly aren’t afraid of adding — or losing — talented players.
After all, competition breeds excellence and there’s no reason to settle when the UK has a chance to improve.
At this point, nothing should be guaranteed.
Last year’s performance, in which the UK offensive line allowed a staggering 47 sacks, should give the Cats incentive to revisit that group as much as necessary. Places must be earned, and for a program that prides itself as much on physique and toughness as the UK, managers must be ready to go to great lengths to meet that expectation in 2023.
If that means bringing in more talent, and potentially losing others along the way, so be it.
Clearly UK trainers are still not satisfied with what they have, which should be an encouraging sign as they continue to add pieces.