With the Southeastern Conference Football Media Days ready to start on Monday, Kentucky football will have a big presence as offensive tackle Darrian Kinnard and defensive end Josh Paschal will join coach Mark Stoops in Hoover, Alabama.
Expectations are high for this year’s Kentucky team and these three will be the face of the Wildcats to answer questions and sell media members that Kentucky is not just a basketball school but a contender in the SEC East this year.
Kinnard, Paschal ready to tell why Kentucky football ready for 2021
Kinnard stands 6-foot-5, 345-pounds, and hails from Knoxville, Tennessee. He ranks highly in every major publications list of top offensive linemen. Kinnard has played in 33 career games with 26 consecutive starts and in 2020, he graded at 88 percent in 10 regular-season games with knockdown blocks and 138 blocks at the point of attack.
Then there is Paschal. Every Big Blue fan knows all that he has been through overcoming a malignant melanoma on his foot to return to action last season. But that has never stopped the 6-3, 275-pounder from Prince George’s County, Maryland. He anchors the defense and has been a captain for two seasons in 2019 and 2020.
His 2020 stats were simply a total of 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry, and one interception in 11 games. He too has so many accolades both past and for the upcoming season
Each day should bring an eclectic mix of coaches with teams from both the East and West addressing the media.
Stoops and his two players will be pair with SEC favorite Georgia and rival Tennessee along with Ole Miss from the West. While Georgia coach Kirby Smart will field questions about how his team is favored again to make the SEC title game it will Lane Kiffin from Ole Miss who will most likely provide the most colorful commentary. No questions needed he may just keep talking nonstop.
All the attention will undoubtedly be on Wednesday when the heavyweights and talkers step to the dais in Alabama’s Nick Saban, Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, and former Kentucky assistant coach who loves the limelight Mike Leach of Mississippi State. Unfortunately lost on this day is Vanderbilt who will be asked about once again being at the bottom of the league.
For Kentucky, the focus will be on the possible chance to finish third in the SEC East more than likely behind Georgia and Florida.
Kentucky and Florida are due to meet in week 5 on October 2 in Lexington with a real possibility that the Wildcats indeed enter that week 4-0.
All the Wildcats have to do is defeat the University of Louisianna Monroe, Chattanooga, South Carolina, and Missouri. The first two should be gimmes and despite having to go to Columbia, SC the Gamecocks are a mess and Kentucky has supplanted itself currently above that program.
Missouri is a key game that will show just how improved this team is. The Tigers are getting a lot of love as the flavor program right now but just how good are they all-around? Connor Bazelak is drawing all the attention at quarterback. This is a must-win for Kentucky’s successful 2021 campaign.
Conversely, Florida will come to the Bluegrass after opening wins over Florida Atlantic and South Florida before hosting Tennessee and Alabama. How they come out of those two games could play into Kentucky’s favor.
A banged-up Gator team limping into Kroger Field would be key to a possible second-place finish should Kentucky get the win. Kentucky has the easier schedule to kick off the season, Florida drew the tougher start to the year.
But that’s looking ahead.
For now, the focus is on just how improved this Wildcat team will be and what the look of the offense will have under first-year offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Will there be receivers who can catch and who will the quarterback be throwing to them. How much protection will the Big Blue Wall provide and how stingy will the defense be.
All general questions Stoops, Kinnard, and Paschal will be peppered with but something weighing deeply on the success this team just might have.
Stay tuned next week for updates from the media days.
Here’s the complete schedule, with attendees:
MONDAY, July 19
Florida – Dan Mullen, Zach Carter (DL, Senior), Ventrell Miller (LB, Senior)
LSU – Ed Orgeron, Austin Deculus (OT, Senior), Derek Stingley Jr. (DB, Junior)
South Carolina – Shane Beamer, Kingsley Enagbare (DE, Senior), Nick Muse (TE, Senior)
TUESDAY, July 20
Georgia – Kirby Smart, JT Daniels (QB, Junior), Jordan Davis (DL, Senior)
Kentucky – Mark Stoops, Darian Kinnard (OT, Senior), Josh Paschal (DE, Senior)
Ole Miss – Lane Kiffin, Matt Corral (QB, Junior), Jaylon Jones (DB, Senior)
Tennessee – Josh Heupel, Velus Jones Jr. (WR, Senior), Alontae Taylor (DB, Senior)
WEDNESDAY, July 21
Alabama – Nick Saban, Phidarian Mathis (DL, Senior), John Metchie III (WR, Junior)
Mississippi State – Mike Leach, Aaron Brule (LB, Junior), Austin Williams (WR, Senior)
Texas A&M – Jimbo Fisher, Kenyon Green (OL, Junior), DeMarvin Leal (DL, Junior)
Vanderbilt – Clark Lea, Bradley Ashmore (OL, Sophomore), Daevion Davis (DL, Junior)
THURSDAY, July 22
Arkansas – Sam Pittman, Myron Cunningham (OL, Senior), Grant Morgan (LB, Senior)
Auburn – Bryan Harsin, Bo Nix (QB, Junior), Owen Pappoe (LB, Junior)
Missouri – Eli Drinkwitz, Akial Byers (DL, Senior), Case Cook (OL, Senior)