By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky junior Darian Kinnard has gone from being perhaps the Southeastern Conference’s most under appreciated lineman last year to being ranked as the third best returning offensive tackle in the SEC by analyst Cole Cubelic going into this season.
The 6-5, 345-pound Kinnard started all 13 games at right tackle last year when UK went 8-5. His play helped Lynn Bowden become a dominant runner after he moved from receiver to quarterback.
Kinnard had 32 knockdown blocks in 2019, an impressive number. However, even more impressive to me is that in the 706 snaps he played, he had ONE PENALTY. No offense to former UK guard Logan Stenberg, but most games he had one in the first quarter. Kinnard had ONE PENALTY in 13 games.
Guess what? Kinnard remembers exactly what happened on the one penalty he got — and it came in the 29-21 loss to Florida in game three.
“It was a zone play and we went left and they ran a scheme and I grabbed (the jersey of a defensive lineman) just a bit and it was enough to take him off his feet,” Kinnard said.
And how many sacks did he give up in those 706 snaps? “Just one and it was against Florida, too. It was a mistake where we had a communication mixup more than a technique mixup,” Kinnard said.
Not getting a lot of recognition for what he did last year did not bother Kinnard, who is being projected as a 2021 NFL draft pick by many already.
“A good lineman is one who is not noticed,” the UK junior said. “If I am doing everything right, it’s like, ‘This guy is good and doing his job.’ But if you mess up, everybody knows about it. That is what being a lineman is about.”
Except I have a feeling this year there’s going to be a whole lot more attention paid to Kinnard and the job he does for Kentucky.