Kentucky’s 2022 football season may be over, but work is unlikely to slow down much for Mark Stoops’ program.
The transfer portal, high school recruiting, coaching changes, NFL draft and spring training will keep the program in the news for months to come. Here’s a rundown of key offseason dates to put on your calendar.
January 8 (end of NFL regular season): The Los Angeles Rams play their final game of the season against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, paving the way for former British offensive coordinator Liam Coen to return to Lexington. Stoops and company have declined to publicly confirm that Coen will return to his old job in the UK so he can focus on his responsibilities with the Rams, but the search for a co-ordinator is believed to have already been completed.
January 9 (first day of the spring semester): The players returned home after the Music City Bowl for a well-deserved break, but anyone returning for next season must be back in Lexington by the start of the spring semester. We should know which seniors plan to use their extra season of eligibility on this date. The start of the semester also marks the enrollment of at least 13 new Wildcats: mid-year high school enrollees Khamari Anderson, Anthony Brown, Ty Bryant, Koby Keenum, Tanner Lemaster, Malachi Wood and Tommy Ziesmer and transfers Tanner Bowles , Marques Cox, Ray Davis, Jantzen Dunn, JQ Hardaway and Devin Leary.
January 16 (NFL Draft Entry Deadline): All players still eligible for college must decide if they want to enter the NFL Draft on that date. It affects all seniors who are wondering whether or not they should return to school for the extra qualifying season and underclassmen considering leaving the UK early. The main underclassmen to watch are outside linebacker JJ Weaver and nose guard Justin Rogers.
January 18 (transfer portal window closes): The first wave of players entering the transfer portal came at the end of the regular season. The second wave begins now as teams complete bowl matches. That wave will end on Jan. 18, when the first of college football’s two transfer windows close. Kentucky will likely lose at least a few more portal saves over the next two weeks as it seeks bigger roles elsewhere. The staff will also likely be on the lookout for any impact additions from other schools, particularly at attacking tackle.
February 1 (day of signing): The bulk of Kentucky’s recruiting work in 2023 has been done in December, but there are at least some uncommitted prospects on the UK radar for the traditional spring period which opens on the first Wednesday in February. Georgia four-star prep running back Jamarion Wilcox is the prime target. Tennessee prep four-star receiver Demitrius Bell and Southern Indiana prep four-star defensive lineman William “Woo” Spencer are other players to watch.
February 4 (senior bowl): Quarterback Will Levis and running back Chris Rodriguez have been invited to the Senior Bowl, one of the best opportunities for senior NFL Draft prospects to show off their skills to scouts. Levis has yet to confirm whether he will play in the game, but he recently told reporters he would likely play in the Senior Bowl or the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 2.
February 27 to March 6 (NFL combined): All eyes will be on Levis as he trains and maintains with teams at the Indianapolis Combine. Can Levis cement his projections as a first-round pick? Could he actually make a case for being selected with the No. 1 pick? How he behaves at the combine will say a lot about his stock project. Rodriguez, Carrington Valentine, DeAndre Square, Jacquez Jones, Brenden Bates and Keidron Smith are among the other Wildcats who could earn combined invites.
Early March (start of spring training): The UK has yet to announce its dates for spring practice, but Stoops has usually started session the week before the university’s spring break, which runs from March 13-18 this year. Spring practice will be the first chance for Leary and the other mid-year registrants to prove themselves worthy of star roles. Spring training will likely culminate in a public spring game in early April.
April 27-29 (NFL Draft): Like in 2019 when Josh Allen was drafted with the No. 7 pick, the 2013 draft is expected to be a showpiece event for the Kentucky program. Levis is expected to be one of the first quarterbacks selected. He could beat Allen’s selection, but thanks to the position he plays, Levis will almost certainly get even more national attention no matter when he is picked in the first round.
May 1-18 (Transfer Portal Window): The second and final window for underclassmen to enter the transfer portal this offseason comes after the end of spring training. It wouldn’t be surprising to see several Wildcats that find themselves buried on the depth chart after mid-year registrants joined in the spring to enter the portal during this window. Stoops and company should also have a better idea of any positions that need a boost from the latest wave of off-season transfers.
May 15 (start of summer courses): High school recruits and university transfers who have not registered in time for the spring semester can officially join the program for the start of the 12-week summer session in the UK on this date. Some recruits may not qualify to enroll until the fall, but the bulk of Kentucky newcomers are expected to be on campus by then.
June (summer camp season): Coaches will welcome the next wave of recruits seeking scholarship offers to campus in June for a series of camps. Camp dates will likely be announced in May, but the flagship camps for high school hopefuls were held the first two Sundays in June last summer. We should have a much better understanding of who Kentucky’s top targets in the high school class of 2024 are as these camps progress.
End of July (SEC media days): The preseason talk season begins in Nashville this year with the music city hosting the SEC’s annual summer showcase event. Specific dates have not been released, but last year’s media days ran from July 18-21. Which players Kentucky brings to Nashville to talk about the program will be an interesting decision after so many team captains have left. Fans and reporters are hoping Leary is one of the Wildcats chosen to present at the event.
Beginning of August (opening of the pre-season camp): The first week of August usually marks the start of pre-season preparations with UK local media day, fan day and the first training sessions. Media day will be the only opportunity to hear from freshmen until they start playing games.
September 2 (season opening): The offseason ends when Kentucky hosts Ball State at Kroger Field on the first Saturday in September.
This story was originally published January 2, 2023 6:50 a.m.