LEXINGTON, KY (WAVE) - After making a bowl game for the second straight season in 2017, the University of Kentucky football team and its head coach, Mark Stoops, want more this year in the SEC East.
The SEC's second-leading rusher, Benny Snell, returns for his junior season after rushing for more than 1,300 yards a year ago. Snell was a workhorse for the Kentucky offense, leading the team in every rushing category. Snell said he wants to improve in every area.
"(I want) to be smarter, be a better runner and become faster," he said. "I have a lot of growing to do, and that'll come in the film room."
Senior Siheim King should be able to give Snell more help in the backfield. King was third on the team in rushing last year, gaining 364 yards on the ground, along with a pair of touchdowns. The Cats also will have three true freshmen competing for carries this fall.
Once again, the quarterback position is a question mark for the Cats. Sophomore Gunnar Hoak and junior-college transfer Terry Wilson look to be the leaders to take over for Stephen Johnson, who graduated. Both Hoak and Johnson made plays in the spring game, but neither seems to have taken a lead in the race for the starting position.
"I just don't think it's fair to say at this point," Stoops said after the spring game. "It's really not. There's been days when one has looked better than the other and vice versa."
Whomever wins the starting job will have serious weapons at wideout in Lynn Bowden and redshirt senior Dorian Baker, who missed all of last season with an ankle injury. Expect to see the versatile Bowden line up all over the field at receiver, running back, and even at quarterback occasionally.
Defensively, the Cats will have to replace Courtney Love, but leading tackler Mike Edwards returns to the secondary. Edwards also led the team in interceptions with four last season. Senior Chris Westry will add experience to the secondary.
Second team All-SEC linebacker Josh Allen returns for his senior season. As a junior, Allen was fourth on the team in tackles, led the Cats in tackles for loss and sacks while forcing two fumbles and coming up with an interception. During the spring, Allen focused on becoming more of a leader for the Cats.
"I think a lot of my teammates know that my main goal was to become a better leader on this team and this defense, and I feel like I am doing that," Allen said after the spring game.
Kentucky will look to improve on its 7-6 record each of the last two seasons. The Cats will be young on both the offensive and defensive lines, but are loaded with talent at the skill positions. With seven winnable home games, a healthy Benny Snell, and some help for Snell on offense, the Cats could be primed to qualify for a bowl game for the third straight season.