Key position battles for Kentucky football ahead of the 2024 season

Most of Kentucky's depth chart for the 2024 season is already set heading into the summer, but there are a few battles for starting spots, including one between Brock Vandagriff and Gavin Wimsatt for QB1.
Kentucky quarterback Brock Vandagriff (12)
Kentucky quarterback Brock Vandagriff (12) / Jeff Faughender/Courier Journal / USA

The Kentucky Wildcats won’t be one of the top contenders in the loaded SEC this season, but Mark Stoops's team has a lot of veteran talent and continuity heading into 2024 after a 7-6 record last year. Stoops also did an excellent job supplementing through the transfer portal with additions like Ja’Mori Maclin at wide receiver, Jamon Dumas-Johnson at linebacker, and essentially his entire quarterback room. 

While a lot of the starting spots in Lexington are already locked up heading into the summer with players like left tackle Marques Cox, center Eli Cox, and D’Eryk Jackson milking every bit of their remaining collegiate eligibility, there are still a few interesting roster battles to watch. The most notable one is at the most important position on the field where until recently the depth chart looked to be set in stone. 

528. QB. QB. . . Brock Vandagriff / Gavin Wimsatt. Brock Vandagriff / Gavin Wimsatt. . player.

When Kentucky left its spring game, Brock Vandagriff, a Georgia transfer, was locked in as QB1 for 2024 with Beau Allen from Georgia State as his clear backup. It was an inexperienced quarterback room, but certainly a promising one led by the former five-star. Then, Stoops turned the room on its head. 

Gavin Wimsatt, a Kentucky native, entered the transfer portal after losing the starting quarterback battle at Rutgers to Athan Kaliakmanis and signed with the Wildcats. Wimsatt has 19 starts under his belt at the collegiate level compared to Vandagriff’s 21 career pass attempts since arriving at Georgia in 2021. 

While at Rutgers, Wimsatt didn’t impress with his arm, but he’s a high-level athlete who can make plays with his legs and unlock a new element of Kentucky’s offense if Stoops and offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan give him the nod. It seems improbable that Stoops would wage a full-scale QB battle this summer, so the job will likely go to Vandagriff, but Wimsatt’s arrival makes the offseason a lot more interesting in Lexington. 

Gerald Mincey / Courtland Ford. Gerald Mincey / Courtland Ford. RT. . . 528. player. RT. .

Gerald Mincey was a smart addition in the transfer portal for Stoops because keeping Vandagriff (or Wimsatt) upright will be a big key to the season. The fact that Mincey was recruited out of the portal could mean there are playing time assurances that will nullify any offseason battle for the starting right tackle job, but if not it could be a tough decision for Kentucky at right tackle. 

Mincey played 578 snaps last season with 430 of those at right tackle. In those snaps, he allowed 17 pressures and two sacks. It was his second year as a starter for the Vols and in 2022 at left tackle, he gave up 12 pressures and one sack in 454 snaps. Meanwhile, Ford was Kentucky’s swing tackle in 2023 after three seasons at USC, one as a starter. 

Ford has not been a full-time starter since 2021 for the Trojans when he allowed 20 pressures in 535 snaps at left tackle. Even last year in just 204 snaps he gave up 11 pressures, so Mincey should be starting the offseason in poll position, but he’s not a total lock to be the starting right tackle in Week 1. While neither option will produce elite right tackle play, having two experienced offensive linemen vying for the only open position on the line is a good spot for a program to be in. 

CB2. 528. . . JQ Hardaway / Jantzen Dunn. JQ Hardaway / Jantzen Dunn. CB2. . . player

Kentucky had four players from last season’s team selected in the 2024 NFL draft and cornerback Andru Phillips was the first off the board. Phillips was taken in the third round by the New York Giants and left a big void on Kentucky’s defense after playing 710 snaps last season and leading the team with six pass breakups. 

Opposite Phillips was Maxwell Hairston who led the Wildcats in defensive snaps and with his five interceptions. Hairston is back for his junior season, but the cornerback spot on the other side is up for grabs. JQ Hardaway and Jantzen Dunn are the top two candidates to fill the role. 

JQ Hardaway was CB3 last season, so as a junior, he could simply elevate into that role, but Dunn will likely be in the mix as well. Jordan Robinson had a case for some starting reps but transferred to Cincinnati in the spring portal window. Hardaway played 357 snaps in 2023 but allowed 18 receptions on 26 targets with just three breakups. 

Dunn was on the field much less, playing on 91 snaps, but the 6-foot junior emerged towards the end of his sophomore campaign playing in the slot some, but primarily as an outside corner in the Gator Bowl against Clemson.

Next. 3 freshman who need to be key contributors in 2024. 3 freshman who need to be key contributors in 2024. dark