By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Landon Young had no choice but to watch as Kentucky enjoyed its most successful season in more than four decades last season and it wasn’t easy for the Lafayette graduate.
“That was the hardest part,” Young said. “You sit there and watch your guys in times of trouble in times of good and the worst part is, you can’t go on the field and help them. You have to watch and give support more than anything.”
The Kentucky offensive lineman missed all of last season because of a torn ACL and is eager to get back on the field Saturday when the Wildcats open the season against Toledo in a noon kickoff at Kroger Field. The injury was the first major setback of his career. He suffered an ankle sprain during his freshman season against Mississippi State but nothing like the setback he suffered more than a year ago.
Now fully back into playing mode, Young is in the best shape of his career.
“I feel a lot stronger, a lot faster and I’m healthy,” he said. “I’m (fully) recovered and that is something (I learned) through my injury, to keep my body recovered and that will help me to become a better player in the long run.”
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops agreed.
“Landon, he’s bigger,” Stoops said earlier this week. “He’s stronger. He’s more confident. He’s a year older. He looks really good. I’m really excited for him. As I mentioned, there’s a perfect example of somebody that takes a negative and turns it into a positive.”
Although last season was a disappointment, Young seized the opportunity and paid attention to other areas on the field, mostly the defensive side of the ball.
“I got to see it all as the big picture being out there playing,” he said. “I know our schemes, I know our plays and I know what I will be looking for on the field. I can look at the defensive side of the ball and I can look at the offensive side of the ball and see what people fo good, what people do bad, how I can help and can do better in that situation, with communication, whether it be technique or anything like that.”
The toughest game for Young to watch last season was the Wildcats’ 27-16 victory at Florida, ending a 31-game losing streak to the Gators. He’s already looking forward to an already sold-out contest against Florida on Sept. 14 at Kroger Field.
“That was one of the most painful games to me,” he said of last year’s memorable win in Gainesville.
The biggest treat for Young was personally watching former defensive end and first-round NFL draft pick Josh Allen. Young went against Allen in practice during his first two years at Kentucky, but last year it was much different.
“I’m really proud of him and he’s a real stand-up guy,” Allen said. “He deserves nothing but the best and I know he will work hard and do good things in the NFL.”
Going into his junior season, Young will be part of an experienced offensive line, one that will be counted on to carry the Cats in the trenches this season.
“I think we have a lot of depth,” Young said. “We have a lot of experience coming in and we have some young guys, but we have some experienced (guys) who have been on the field for two or three years now and I think that’s really going to show this year.”
Young said the biggest goal for the offensive line is to provide space for the running backs, led by starter AJ Rose, in the open field and also provide time for quarterback Terry Wilson in the pocket.
“That’s our standard and that’s what we’re striving for,” he said. “I think (our offense) can be one of the best and we’re striving to be the best.”
Gametracker: Toledo at Kentucky, Saturday, noon. TV: SEC Network.
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.