Happy Presidents’ Day. The holiday is annually celebrated on the third Monday in February. The Commonwealth is getting slammed by a winter storm. With little news coming out of the Joe Craft Football Training Center, I thought we could get a little creative on a cold Monday morning.
So, who is the President of the Kentucky Football program? What would his cabinet look like? Here is my guess:
President: Josh Paschal
President Josh Paschal is a natural born leader who has been the program’s spokesperson for the past two seasons. Proven to be resilient, President Paschal has beaten cancer and is a veteran of line-of-scrimmage combat. He will be a critical piece in the Wildcats’ pass rush that recorded just 15 QB sacks in 2020. Paschal has played in 40 games, started 25. He recorded 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 1 QB sack, 1 QB hurry and 1 interception in 2020. President Paschal has been elected as a team captain for two consecutive seasons and is the unquestionable leader of the Kentucky Football program.
Vice President: Luke Fortner
Vice President Luke Fortner decided to return for a sixth year of eligibility. Fortner has been a mainstay on the Big Blue Wall and provides invaluable leadership to the team and a group of impressionable, young offensive lineman. He’s played in 42 career games and started 23. Fortner’s average game grade for 2020 was 82.9 percent. The veteran registered 26 knockdowns and 146 blocks at the point of attack. Fortner has also gained praise off the field by being named as a Wuerffel Trophy Semifinalist as well earning a spot on the SEC Community Service Team. Vice President Fortner has joined President Paschal in representing the program for important matters outside the realm of football.
Secretary of Defense: DeAndre Square
Secretary DeAndre Square will lead the Wildcat defense in 2021. Square is a proven entity that will provide stability within a linebacker corps that is faced with replacing long-time starter Boogie Watson and Jamin Davis. Square’s experience will significantly benefit his new running mates. He’s played in 36 games, starting 22. Square was third on the team after recording 60 tackles in 2020. He had a career-high nine-tackle performance in UK’s win over Mississippi State. Like President Paschal, Secretary Square was elected as a team captain.
Secretary of the Treasury: Darian Kinnard
Secretary Darian Kinnard spurned the NFL and unexpectedly returned to the Big Blue Wall. The 6’5, 345-pounder’s proposed move to left tackle will all but ensure that he will hit the NFL salary jackpot next April. The All American is one of the top returning offensive lineman in all of college football. He’s played in 33 games including 26 consecutive starts. Kinnard graded 87.4 percent in 2020 after registering 47 knockdowns and 142 blocks at the point of attack. He will have a new counterpart at tackle following the departure of Landon Young. That spot will be a focal point of competition. Kinnard has a chance to go down as an “All-Timer” in Lexington.
Secretary of Agriculture: Austin Dotson
Secretary Austin Dotson has displayed the preferred nasty streak for an offensive guard when on the football field. Off the field, he enjoys hunting and fishing. So, a natural fit for this role. The Belfry native had a breakthrough season in 2020. He played in 11 games with four starts against Vanderbilt, Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina. The 6’6, 313-pound guard’s continued progression will be necessary going forward. He’s joined by Kenneth Horsey and Luke Fortner at the position. The old saying is applicable when describing the Wildcat guards, “Can’t teach experience.”
Secretary of Labor: Yusuf Corker
Secretary Yusuf Corker has worked his way into an All-SEC performer and is the defense’s designated enforcer. Much like DeAndre Square, Corker’s veteran leadership will be a key component for the defense in the 2021 season. He’s also a team captain. Kentucky lost three cornerbacks from 2020. The CB position will receive ample attention in the offseason. However, the Cats’ third level (Safeties/Nickel positions) will be vastly experienced and led by Corker. Look for senior to be one of, if not the best safety in the Southeastern Conference. The 6’0, 200-pound defensive back has played in 37 games with 24 consecutive starts. Corker finished second on the team with 77 tackles a year ago.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
The surprising return of several Wildcats changed the face of the 2021 team and the program’s short-term trajectory. Excitement is building for next season. Expectation management is best handled by veterans. Current program leadership is at a premium which will be of great assistance to Mark Stoops as the head coach works in newcomers for 2021.