Coen names Cats who might surprise this football season

Published 2:00 pm Friday, August 25, 2023

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Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen understands the attention quarterback Devin Leary, along with receivers Barion Brown and Dane Key, are getting going into the season because of their past production.

However, Coen recently talked about several other players who could play key/surprising roles with the offense.

Freshman tight end Khamari Anderson of Detroit — Deone Walker’s high school teammate — is getting as many reps in practice as he “can functionally handle” this early in his career.

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“As much as he can handle, he will do (in practice),” Coen said. “We have a deep tight end room, but you always deal with nicks and bruises. It looks great now, but at some point some (tight ends) are going to be banged up. That depth is so important for the longevity of our season.

“I would love to get him in (games) but not at the expense of losing his redshirt (season). “He can play four games (and still redshirt). The health of other guys and his ability to learn and keep executing will determine how much playing time he gets.”

Junior right tackle Jeremy Flax has played in 23 games the last two seasons, including when he made 12 starts last year. He is battling USC transfer Courtland Ford for a starting berth this season.

Coen thinks he has gotten much better and done a “great job getting removal” in the run game.

“We have got to feel good about it so Devin can just drop back and throw. We got to be able to get to the point where we can drop back and pass and not worry about the right side (blocking). The best player, the guy who gives up the least sacks, is going to play.”

Redshirt sophomore running back La’Vell Wright ran 39 times for 120 yards and had six catches for 28 yards while playing in all 13 games last season.

“He is a great kid who has been nicked up in his career. I had not seen a ton of La’Vell coming into training camp,” Coen said. “The more we can get out of La’Vell, the more he will play. It just depends on his consistency.”

Coen has no worries about Northern Illinois transfer Marques Cox, who is being counted on to anchor the line at left tackle.

“He is so consistent with his attitude, his effort, the way he comes out every single day. He is a fun guy to be around. He’s alway smiling but he is serious about football,” Coen said. “As consistent as he was in the spring, that has continued through training camp.”