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Heading into 2022, University of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis has been the talk of the town in NFL circles. Prototypical size, ridiculous arm talent, mobility, leadership. All qualities that a quarterback needs to have to be successful in today’s top-flight NFL.

But after a hyped offseason, Levis struggled to get the season started and those struggles have only continued so far. In 10 games, he completed 65.9% of his passes for 2,218 yards and 17 touchdowns. While those numbers are solid, it was the 10 interceptions and two lost fumbles that spelled his end.

It’s time to really start discussing how much of the struggle is on Levi’s shoulders and how his situation is hurting his stocks.

Kentucky’s offensive struggles

Kentucky brought in former San Francisco 49ers quarterback coach Rich Scangarello as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator. After helping lead the 49ers to an NFC championship, many had high hopes for Scangarello’s offense. But now most fans are demanding a change at OC. Scangarello continued Kentucky’s traditional run-heavy offense, but the passing game is lacking.

The Wildcats’ offensive scheme relies heavily on slip screens, bubble screens, and short throws. When you have a quarterback with arguably the strongest arm in the nation, you have to let him use the man.

Levis used that arm talent to his advantage in the opening game against Georgia. Third and 11th to have retired into his own end zone, Levis tackles consensus number one cornerback Kelee Ringo for a 31-yard completion. Even with Ringo on receiver Barion Brown’s hip, Levis’ ball placement was perfect, well away from the defender to give only his receiver a chance to collect the pass.

But after one explosive game, Kentucky couldn’t get a single deep shot for the rest of the quarter. Scangarello reverted to his kind of inside runs and screen passages. Sure, a few dink and dunk passes were called along the way, but nothing to actually use their best offensive weapon.

Offensive line and receiver fight

As a member of the SEC, Kentucky must compete with the best of the best. Alabama, LSU, Georgia and the entire conference bring the best to the table each season. Dominant edge rushers and lockdown corners are the order of the day for the Wildcats.

While Kentucky had a solid offensive line last season, their left starting tackles, middle and right tackles declared themselves for the NFL. In 2022, head coach Mark Stoops and company failed to acquire the talent necessary to compete at the SEC level. Britain has allowed 40 sacks, which ranks seventh-worst in the FBS. While not all of these sacks fall on the offensive line, they should still be credited for the majority.

Kentucky has also struggled to recruit high-profile receivers year after year. After losing Wan’Dale Robinson to the NFL, the Wildcats recruited Tayvion Robinson from Virginia Tech to replace him. The Wildcats’ lead receiver, however, is the aforementioned true rookie Barion Brown. Newcomer Dane Key rounds out the big three alongside Robinson and Brown. Having two true newbies as the leading receivers is generally not a recipe for success. While they have been highly recruited prospects who have hitherto found success at the college level, receiving corps must have a veteran presence that truly understands the ins and outs of the game.

Of the top four quarterback prospects (Young, Stroud, Levis, Hooker), Levis has by far the worst situation. Teams and fans alike need to keep this in mind when looking for the future face of a franchise.

Where Levis can improve

While some of the blame can be shifted away from him, Levis still needs to improve in certain areas of the game. In the absence of a surrounding cast, Levis often plays hero ball, leading to unnecessary risk and potential revenue. Levis tries too hard to keep his team afloat.

Even if he has time, Levis has yet to develop as a true passer. He is extremely inconsistent at all levels of the field, lacking in accuracy in critical situations. He needs to keep working on picking up some juice and leveling his passing. If Levis had thrown the pass to the back pylon instead of sending a rocket across the field, the Wildcats could have had a touchdown instead of an unfortunate interception by Ringo.

Levis’ stock has fallen off its peak, but he’s still a lock to be taken in the first round. While Levis might not be the best quarterback to start a rebuild, he would be an ideal candidate to take on a team poised to compete in the next year or two. The Panthers, Commanders, and Buccaneers could be excellent landing spots for the Wildcat quarterback.

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