This fall most of the eyes around the Big Blue Nation are on Kentucky’s quarterback competition. It might be in the best interest of some to pay more attention to the guy who will be snapping the ball to the quarterbacks.
Drake Jackson started in 44 straight games for the Wildcats at center. Considered by Jon Toth Fan Club President Freddie Maggard as the greatest to ever play the position in Lexington, Eric Wolford has an enormous void to fill in the middle of the Big Blue Wall.
Cincinnati product Quintin Wilson was considered Jackson’s heir apparent following the 2020 season. A graduate in only three years, Wilson has the mental chops for the spot, but has only appeared in 10 games throughout his career. After snapping struggles surfaced in spring practice, a player with exponentially more experience emerged as the potential starting center, Luke Fortner.
“We moved Luke there some. He has so much experience. He’s so bright,” Mark Stoops told local reporters at SEC Media Days. “A lot like Drake, he has experience, the leadership that you know he has. He’s given us a big spark there. We always have a lot of confidence in Quintin (Wilson) as well, so we’ll just see where it goes, but we have some options.”
One of six super seniors on the roster, Fortner has appeared in just one fewer game than Jackson (42) and has started in 23 consecutive games at right guard. He kept that streak alive throughout the 2020 season despite a few nagging injuries, often passing the torch to the talented Austin Dotson. As UK changes up the way its offensive line operates in Liam Coen’s new system, it makes sense to hand the blocking assignments over to a mechanical engineer that’s on his way to earning an MBA.
“The man is very smart,” said offensive tackle Darian Kinnard. “He’s been here a long time, knows the offense, knows the players very well. With the new offense, knowing how we all play, I think he’s a great decision-maker.”
You do not appreciate a center’s abilities until there are snapping problems (see: Florida in 2017). Kentucky cannot afford any silly setbacks while installing Coen’s new offensive scheme. Right guard is still in good hands with Dotson and Jager Burton. It’s wise to solidify the center position by making it a priority for Kentucky’s most experienced offensive lineman.