By LARRY VAUGHT
How does Kentucky replace Bunchy Stallings and George Asafo-Adjei in the offensive line? Both were not only big and strong, but also experienced and durable/
Offensive line coach John Schlarman told me before preseason practice starter that he really had big expectations for 6-6, 305-pound junior Luke Fortner who has been waiting for his chance to be a starter.
“He has been around here and played, but he has not been thrust into that starting role. I think he is a guy competing as a guard to show what he can,” Schlarman said.
“Darrin Kinnard is a guy who can do a lot. Nassir Watkins is also,” Schlarman said. “They have to step up and play more reps. Then at guard you have Luke and Mason Wolfe.
“The great thing about all four is that they have all been here. You are not talking about a guy who is coming in as a freshman or junior college guy who has not played in games on Saturdays for us. The main thing about all four of those guys, I think everyone played at least 250 snaps in a 10-win season last year even though they didn’t start.”
Let that soak in. Four backup offensive linemen from last year played more than 250 snaps each due to Schlarman’s belief in rotating offensive linemen not only to build depth but also to keep starters fresh.
“That’s the benefit of playing guys and rotating guys and giving them an opportunity even if they are not a starter. Now when you lose a guy, it’s not like you are putting a guy into action who has no game action under his belt,” Schlarman said.
“You are putting in guys who have helped us win games already. Those four guys all come to mind. Mason and Luke on the inside and Nassir and Darrin on the outside are four guys who have to amp up what they do and I think they all can.”
What about names we might yet recognize?
“Well, guys that redshirted last year . . . Kenneth Horsey, Quinton Wilson come to mind who played a little against Louisville and still redshirted with that new rule,” Schlarman said. “Nick Lewis is another guy who redshirted.
“Austin Dotson is a guy who has been a little bit banged up in his career so far. He is really hitting a stretch where he has been healthy. This is the longest amount of time he has been healthy, so I am anxious to see how that affects him. You are hoping these guys evolve and help us create depth this year.”