WILDCATS

Will Levis is Kentucky football's QB1 vs. Miss. State but remains 'day to day' with injury

Brooks Holton
Louisville Courier Journal

Watching his Kentucky football teammates prepare to face South Carolina, quarterback Will Levis couldn't help but look ahead to Mississippi State.

So Levis, who was a game-time scratch in Week 6 against the Gamecocks due to an undisclosed foot injury, told the SEC Network that he'll be "good" to play against the Bulldogs — never mind the boot on his left foot.

Two days later, Levis is QB1 on the Week 7 depth chart as UK looks to stop a two-game skid in Southeastern Conference play. Head coach Mark Stoops, however, said the projected first-round NFL draft pick remains "day to day" and didn't elaborate further.

For those in search of optimism after the Wildcats dropped to No. 22 in the country with a lopsided loss to unranked South Carolina, seeing Levis penciled in as the starter for Saturday's showdown with No. 16 Mississippi State should certainly do the trick. It's a step in the right direction from Stoops saying "I don't know" when asked last weekend if it's possible Levis could return to face the Bulldogs.

Kentucky’s Will Levis during the Cat Walk Saturday afternoon before the team faced South Carolina.
Oct. 8, 2022

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Those still holding their breath can't be blamed.

Two days before his team took the field against the Gamecocks, Stoops did not rule Levis out, noting his policy of, "If I had somebody out, I’d tell you." Levis' backup, Kaiya Sheron, said he didn't know would be making his first career until game day but practiced all week with a starter's mindset after his coaches told him, "Will might not go. You gotta prepare."

Only time will tell if Levis makes good on his prediction to start in Week 7, but Stoops and his staff have a myriad of issues to address that go beyond who is under center.

Sheron completed 15 of his 27 pass attempts for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to South Carolina. The Somerset native threw a desperation interception with the Wildcats down multiple scores and less than three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and was sacked six times by a Gamecocks defense that entered the game with four quarterback takedowns to its name.

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"I thought (Kaiya) made some really good throws," Stoops said Monday. "He made some poor decisions on where his eyes were that led to bad plays and led to sacks, and, you know, we've talked about that with Will. It's gonna happen at times. It's not always all on the o-line or protection and things of that nature.

"I felt like it during the game, and it held true after watching the tape that we didn't play very good around him at time."

Kentucky now ranks 129th in the country with 25 sacks surrendered for a net loss of 177 yards through six games. The offensive line will get a boost against Mississippi State with Jeremy Flax returning to his post at right tackle after being sidelined against South Carolina with an injury.

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Sep 4, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jacquez Jones (10) tackles Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks wider receiver Jahquan Bloomfield (29) during the fourth quarter at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

With all the uncertainty surrounding Levis, Stoops was able to offer more concrete news about graduate transfer linebacker Jacquez Jones.

Asked if there was any update on Jones' timeline to return from a reported left foot injury he sustained during Kentucky's loss at Ole Miss on Oct. 1, the head coach said "no."

Jones was not listed on the Wildcats' depth chart for Mississippi State after missing last week's loss to South Carolina. The linebacker was slow to get up after making a tackle during the first quarter in Oxford, Mississippi, but played through the injury until he was pulled from the game with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter.

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Junior D’Eryk Jackson replaced Jones in the starting lineup against the Gamecocks and recorded six tackles, four of which were unassisted and two of which resulted in a loss of yards. He and the rest of the Wildcats' defense are looking to cut down on the miscues that allowed South Carolina to total 17 points on 266 yards of total offense during the second half en route to an upset victory before facing Mississippi State's dangerous quarterback, Will Rogers.

"I'm very disappointed, to be honest with you," Stoops said Monday when asked about his defense's performance against the Gamecocks. "Without getting too in detail or throwing any person under the bus or any one group or anything like that, it just was missed plays. Really no excuse for it."

Reach recruiting and trending sports reporter Brooks Holton at bholton@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter at @brooksHolton.