Kentucky Football: TaxSlayer Bowl Preview - UK O-Line
Kentucky Football: TaxSlayer Bowl Preview – Cats’ offensive line has emerged as a bright spot in 2016, churning out one of the top rushing games in the country
Nov 12, 2016; Knoxville, TN, USA; Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Stephen Johnson (15) during the first half against the Tennessee Volunteers at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky has produced an historic season in the rushing game this year, with a pair of 1,000-yard back in Boom Williams and Benny Snell. As good as the Cats’ backs have been, it’s of course the offensive line that led the way for Kentucky’s ground game, arguably the most important component to the team’s first bowl appearance since 2010.
The unit returned a lot of experience heading into this season, with a combined 83 career starts. That experience led to production, and the entire offensive line was recognized by being named a semifinalist for the Joe Moor Award, recognizing the country’s most outstanding offensive line unit. Averaging 275.1 yards rushing per contest, the Cats’ offensive line has been doing work all season long.
Senior Jon Toth, named first team All-SEC by the Associated Press, second-team All-SEC by the league’s coaches and fourth-team All-American, is the unit’s leader at center. Toth, who has the longest acting starting streak in the country at 47 games, considered for both the Remington and Outland Trophies, and will play on Sundays next fall.
Kentucky’s offensive line has youth as well, led by freshman Logan Stenberg, an SEC Coaches’ All-Freshman Team selection who saw playing time increase all season with the second unit, as the Cats rotate nine offensive linemen. Another bright spot has been freshman Landon Young, who was named to Athlon Sports’ Freshman All-SEC Second Team.
Together, the offensive line opened holes that enabled Kentucky backs to rush for 2,895 yards this season, averaging 5.52 yards per rushing attempt. As such, the Cats are ranked No. 16 in the country in rushing offense.
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If Kentucky’s offensive line can match the production it had in the second half of the season, then the Cats will have an excellent opportunity to move the ball, control the time of possession and be in the hunt for a bowl win against Georgia Tech.