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The addition of Will Levis has been like putting “a first-round pick” at quarterback on Kentucky’s roster, says recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow. And, he adds, Levis has the potential to level up into an actual first-rounder.
Marrow admits he was a little “up in the air” about whether adding Levis would be a net positive for Kentucky, which the year before added another marquee quarterback transfer — Auburn ex-pat Joey Gatewood — and signed Beau Allen, a four-star prospect from Lexington. The pairing couldn’t have worked out much better for the Wildcats, who are 6-1, and Levis, who’s started every game after sitting behind Sean Clifford at Penn State for most of his three years in Happy Valley.
Levis this year has thrown for 1,326 yards and 13 touchdowns on 67.2 percent passing (119-of-177, with six interceptions). His 7.5 yards per attempt ranks fifth in the SEC, and individually he ranks in the top 30 or 40 in most statistics. Kentucky’s offensive production as a whole hasn’t changed dramatically — it’s currently 100th in passing, up 23 spots from where it finished last season but still last in the Southeastern Conference — but Levis has shown some tools that, if honed through the end of this season and next, could make him an intriguing draft prospect.
That, combined with his size and toughness as a rusher, will merit long looks from NFL scouts come 2023. He’s also demonstrated impressive leadership for a guy who’s only been in Lexington for a few months.
“I didn’t know he was that tough,” Marrow said. “I knew he had a strong arm. I did not know that he would take the reins of this team and guys would respect him early. They’ve seen what this guy will put on the line for you. You can’t ask for nothing more than that. He has a serious, legit chance.”
He’s also provided a model for what a quarterback can do at Kentucky under first-year offensive coordinator Liam Coen; Levis is on track to finish as a 2,000-plus-yard passer despite having only one proven wide receiver to throw to most of the season. If Kentucky can get a stable of play-makers all on the same page in 2022 — and it’s expected to enrich its raw talent at receiver, at least — the Wildcats could take another step forward offensively.
Levis has said since his arrival that he plans to play two years in Lexington, and with two scholarship quarterbacks already on the roster (Allen and true freshman Kaiya Sheron), there’s less of a need to “press” on adding another quarterback via the 2022 signing class. Destin Wade, a four-star athlete, will come to UK as a quarterback after moving to that position last year at his high school, but it’s possible he could be moved elsewhere if that ends up being more agreeable.
With that in mind, expect Kentucky to go all-in on 2023 when it comes to the position of glory.
“I think we’re gonna get a top guy, just seeing what we’re doing right now at quarterback,” Marrow said.
Per 247Sports, Kentucky has reportedly offered 22 quarterbacks in the class of 2023, 11 of which have star ratings. Four of those guys have already committed, but five of the ones who haven’t are ranked as top-20 prospects at the position. Pierce Clarkson, among those who aren’t committed, was among the first recruits offered by offensive coordinator Liam Coen. He’s a four-star prospect out of California, a state out of which UK hasn’t historically recruited, and which annually produces a lot of great quarterbacks.
“The way Liam works with quarterbacks, it opens you up to get a national guy,” Marrow said. “He could be from California, he could be from Ohio, he could be from anywhere. I know this; if I’m a parent of a big-time quarterback, I’m definitely, definitely gonna look at somebody like Liam.
“This guy’s good with quarterbacks. He really is. ... They call people quarterback whisperers. He’s a quarterback whisperer.”
No. 12 Kentucky at Mississippi State
When: 7 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Records: Kentucky 6-1 (4-1 SEC), Mississippi State 4-3 (2-2)