Meet Kaiya Sheron, the Kentucky football QB who could play Saturday if Will Levis is out

Brett Dawson
Louisville Courier Journal

LEXINGTON — If quarterback Will Levis can’t play Saturday, when the No. 13-ranked Kentucky football team hosts South Carolina, the Wildcats likely will turn to backup Kaiya Sheron. 

And though UK coach Mark Stoops has expressed his faith in backups Sheron and Deuce Hogan, this isn’t a move Kentucky (4-1, 1-1 SEC) hoped to have to make this season. 

See the QB:How to watch Kentucky vs South Carolina football: Kickoff time, TV channel, livestream

Levis is a top NFL draft prospect with nearly a season and a half as a starter under his belt. He's taken every meaningful snap for UK in 2022.

Sheron, on the other hand, is a redshirt freshman who hasn’t thrown a collegiate pass.

But while Stoops said Thursday that Levis has not been ruled out for Saturday's game, speculation about his status has significantly altered the betting line, dropping Kentucky from a 10-point favorite to a 6.5-point favorite in the span of less than a day.

So who is Sheron, Kentucky’s likely QB2? 

Here are some things to know about the Wildcats’ potential starter:

Kaiya Sheron was QB3 to start the season

UK freshman quarterback Kaiya Sheron at the UK media day. Aug. 6, 2021

Hogan — who transferred from Iowa after last season — technically won the No. 2 spot entering UK’s season opener against Miami (Ohio). 

But this week’s depth chart listed Sheron and Hogan both as potential second-stringers, with Sheron’s name listed first. And Sheron is the only one of the backups to appear in a game this season. He got in late against Youngstown State on Sept. 17 but didn't record any statistics.

More:Kentucky football vs. South Carolina: Betting line, 3 things to know before picking

It’s no surprise that the backup race has been back and forth. Stoops said prior to the season opener that Hogan’s “consistency” won him the spot but that both quarterbacks had “done a lot of good things throughout camp.” 

“Kaiya (Sheron) really showed some flashes that excites us,” Stoops said then. “So, you never know where that’s going to go and how it’ll end up as the season plays out. We have confidence in both of the backup quarterbacks and we’ll see where it goes.”

Kaiya Sheron has a dramatic win at Kroger Field

Quarterback Kaiya Sheron led Somerset to the Class 2A state football championship in 2019 and has committed to the University of Kentucky.

Though he’s never played for Kentucky, Sheron led Somerset High School to the 2019 Class 2A state title game at Kroger Field. 

He did it in dramatic fashion. 

With time expired and one untimed down remaining in the game, Sheron threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Tate Madden for a game-winning score. 

That Somerset team went 14-1 en route to the state title.

The championship was the team highlight of Sheron's high school career, but he posted big numbers at Somerset, where he was named Class 2A Player of the Year by the Kentucky Football Coaches Association in 2019 and 2020.

As a senior, he threw for 2,016 yards and 15 touchdowns. His junior year, Sheron threw for 3,218 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Liam Coen saw good things in Kaiya Sheron

Though he was always a long shot, Sheron was a potential starter last season, when Levis was an incoming transfer from Penn State who hadn't claimed the starting job or made his name at UK.

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Sheron, who had committed to Kentucky in March 2020, graduated early at Somerset and enrolled at UK in January 2021. So he'd been through spring practice. Levis hadn't arrived in time to do so.

But Sheron wasn't the only QB who'd been through a spring with then-offensive coordinator Liam Coen, and Joey Gatewood and Beau Allen were bigger threats to Levis. Still, Coen — now the offensive coordinator of the NFL's Los Angeles Rams — saw signs in Sheron's practice performance.

"He’s really kind of a cool customer who’s got some stuff too him," Coen said in the spring of 2021. "He’s got a big arm."