Kentucky Wildcats' scouting report

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun
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The Gators travel to Lexington, Ky., for Saturday's 6 p.m. game (ESPN) game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field.

Last Week: The Wildcats went on the road and beat South Carolina 16-10, almost despite themselves. They dominated statistically but three turnovers kept the Gamecocks in the game. That continued a trend coach Mark Stoops is losing his hair over. He brought in a new offensive coordinator, Liam Coen, to juice up the passing game. It’s working, but quarterback Will Levis has thrown five interceptions and the Wildcats have fumbled 14 times, losing six of them. Though they’re 4-0 and ranked No. 23, the Wildcats have been living on the edge. They’ve won three straight games by seven or fewer points.

More:Florida returns to Top 10 in coaches rankings

Best Offensive Player: Running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. is averaging 128 yards rushing a game and is arguably the best back in the SEC. He’s strong enough to run over defenders but has the burst needed to break big plays. He had 144 yards rushing against South Carolina, but also contributed to Kentucky’s turnovers woes with two fumbles. Also keep an eye on receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, a transfer from Nebraska who opened the season with three 100-yard receiving games.

More:Gators notebook: Sprained right knee keeps Elam out

Best Defensive Player: Linebacker Jacquez Jones transferred from Ole Miss and has solidified a pretty good defense. He leads the team with 24 tackles and has helped make up for the absence of fellow linebacker Jordan Wright, who’s been hampered the past couple of games with injuries. Stoops is known as a defensive coach, and this year’s unit has continually had to bail out the offense after it has committed turnovers.

Fun Fact: Kentucky coach Mark Stoops got his college coaching career started as the defensive backs coach for the first USF football team in 1996. He’d been a high school coach in Macedonia, Ohio. He was FSU’s defensive coordinator from 2010-2012, then was hired by Kentucky. He’s 53-51 with the Wildcats, which places him only eight games away from tying Bear Bryant as the football program’s all-time winningest coach. When/if he passes Bryant, Stoops would still be 815 wins behind UK basketball coach Adolph Rupp. At his current pace of 6.2 wins per season, Stoops would pass Rupp as the school’s all-time winningest coach in 2152.

Series: Florida leads 53-18 overall, a mark that includes a 31-game UF winning streak from 1986-2017. It ended when the Wildcats upset the 25th-ranked Gators 27-16 at The Swamp three years ago.

Quote: “It’s obviously something that we need to get fixed. But it goes to show that we can still go and win games like that. It goes to show how much potential we have left with this team.” — QB Will Levis on Kentucky’s turnover problems.

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