Position Preview for 2023 in Kentucky: quarterbacks

It’s hard to believe but we are only a couple of weeks from the 2023 season getting underway. After a disappointing 7-6 year last season, expectations are high for Mark Stoops’ 11th club. To get you ready for the season opener against Ball State we’re going position by position looking at the Wildcats. As we start our 2023 Kentucky Position Preview: Quarterbacks by looking at the signal callers.

Big Time Add Through The Portal

After two years in Lexington, Will Levis is now competing for the starting job with the Tennessee Titans. As a result Stoops and returning offensive coordinator Liam Coen had to look for a new starter. Naturally, they did what most schools do these days, look to the portal. They quickly found their guy in Devin Leary, the top-ranked quarterback in the transfer portal. 

A season ago at North Carolina State Leary appeared in only six games due to a torn pectoral muscle. During that time he threw for 1,166 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kentucky is hoping for a return to his 2021 form where he threw for 3,433 yards, 35 touchdowns, and only five interceptions. As a result, he was a finalist for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award for the nation’s top quarterback. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett won the trophy.

Leary begins 2023 on the watch list for both the Maxwell Award for the top player in college football and the Davey O’Brien Award for the top quarterback.

While Leary says he’s healthy and ready to go in 2023 durability is a question. With the issues the offensive line had in 2022 it’s a valid point, “What if something happens and Leary misses time?” As we continue our 2023 Kentucky Position Preview: Quarterbacks let’s look at the other players vying for playing time.

Who’s the Next in Line?

The first player battling for the second-string quarterback job is Kaiya Sheron, a junior from Somerset, Kentucky. When Levis was out due to injury Sheron got the start against South Carolina. He completed 17 of 28 passes for 178 yards and two touchdowns. However, he did have one interception as the Gamecocks picked up a 24-14 win.  

During the spring Sheron took most of the second-team reps. However, that was mainly due to his familiarity with Coen’s system.

Redshirt freshman Destin Wade is the other player competing to back up Leary. The Spring Hill, Tennessee native didn’t take an in-game snap until the Music City Bowl. He was thrown to the wolves so to speak against one of the top defenses in the country in Iowa. Wade completed 16 of 30 passes for 98 yards and two interceptions. Unfortunately, both were pick-sixes for the Hawkeyes.

The third quarterback battling for the job behind Leary is Deuce Hogan. The former Iowa transfer started the 2022 season as the backup to Levis but was quickly passed by the other players. He played a clean-up role against his old squad in the bowl game completing six of seven passes for 19 yards.

UK also has Shane Hamm, a transfer from Dayton. In seven games last season for the Flyers Hamm threw for 701 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions.

Final Thoughts

Leary begins 2023 as the leader of the Wildcat offense. However who serves as the primary backup remains a question. Kentucky has lost its last six games started by a backup quarterback. In fact, you have to go back to November 19, 2016, for the last time that happened.

Luke Wright started in place of Stephen Johnson against Austin Peay. However, the Governors jumped out to a 13-0 lead and Johnson quickly entered and rallied the Cats.

Under Coen’s system and with the receiving corps UK Leary has the potential for a huge season. In fact, in a league filled with great signal callers, he has All-SEC potential. He just needs to stay healthy.

Thanks for checking out our 2023 Kentucky Position Preview: Quarterbacks here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back soon with a look at the running backs and receivers.

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