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Kentucky Wildcats Offensive Players to Watch vs. Mizzou Tigers

The Kentucky offense is set to be driven by some NFL-ready talent.

The Missouri Tigers will host the Kentucky Wildcats in Columbia for the first game in November this upcoming season, as the two teams will matchup for the 13th all-time meeting.

In the second game last season, the Wildcats pulled away with a 35-28 win over the Tigers in Lexington to build an 8-4 all-time series lead over Mizzou. The teams first met back in 1965 before clashing again in 2012 when the Tigers arrived to the SEC. 

The Wildcats are led by coach Mark Stoops, who is entering his 10th season at the helm. He got off to a rocky start after being hired as the head coach in 2013 but has had two 10-3 seasons after starting off with three-straight losing seasons in his tenure.

Stoops won the SEC Coach of the Year in 2018 after leading the Wildcats to a 10-3 record and a win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.

The Wildcats were average in terms of total offense yardage, averaging the eighth-most total yards per game (425.2) in the conference. Even with Levis at quarterback, the team had the fifth-fewest passing yards per game (225.6) while having the fifth-most rushing yards per contest (199.5). 

Here at MizzouSportsTalk.com, we'll be reviewing the Wildcats throughout the week. We've already done a general preview of Kentucky. Now, let's look at some offensive players the Tigers will need to keep an eye on. 


QB Will Levis

Regardless of matchup, the quarterback is typically someone the defense should pay attention to.

But Levis, who's projected to be a first-round pick next April, is aiming to a major driving force for the Wildcats once again. His performance will likely make or break that team's success this season. 

Levis has been projected as a top-10 pick by Pro Football Focus, CBS Sports, and Tankathon, among others. 

The former Penn State Nittany Lion took full advantage of his opportunity as the go-to guy for the Wildcats last season. After combining for just 102 pass attempts with three touchdowns and two picks in his first two seasons, Levis stepped in as a transfer at Kentucky and went 233-353 passing (66 percent) for 2,826 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 13 picks. 

He also proved his dual-threat ability was not something to be ignored, as he had 107 rushes for 376 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Levis had six total rushing scores in his two seasons at Penn State.

Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz will already have his eyes set on stopping Levis. But it may not matter, as the quarterback's NFL-ready ability could get the best of a Mizzou defense with much to improve on as the season begins.

However, the Tigers held him to just 10-18 passing for 179 yards, two total touchdowns, and a pick last season, leaving lots of room for optimism.

RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. 

Rodriguez Jr., whose 1,379 rushing yards last season was second in the SEC behind former Mizzou Tiger Tyler Badie (1,604 yards), is fixing to not only be one of the conference's top running backs this season, but one of the country's best.

While Levis struggled, Rodriguez Jr. absolutely gashed the Tigers on the ground in the matchup last year. He had a season-high in carries (27) and rush yards (207) while adding two scores on the ground and one through the air. 

The Tigers could look to take advantage of Rodriguez Jr's. slight ball security issues this season. He fumbled twice against Mizzou, losing one of them. In total, he had six total fumbles and lost three. 

Rodriguez Jr. also finished the season off with five-straight gams of 100 rushing yards or more. He had 16 or more carries in each contest. 

As Kentucky's clear workhorse back, Rodriguez has the SEC - and Mizzou - on full notice this season. 

WR Tayvion Robinson 

In a receiving corps full of young freshman and redshirt freshman, Robinson, a transfer for Virginia Tech, is the clear leader of the group. 

On the smaller side at 5-11, 187, Robinson is expected to take on the role as starting slot receiver for the Wildcats. He spent three seasons with the Hokies and had a career-high in catches (44) and touchdowns (five) in 2021.

Robinson did a little bit of everything in his time with Virginia Tech. He totaled 29 carries for 227 yards and has attempted four passes in his career, including a three-yard touchdown pass last season. 

He only saw a season-high of six catches last season. But now with quarterback like Levis throwing his way, his versatility and experience will go a long way in making this young Wildcats receiving group dangerous.


You can follow Zach Dimmitt on Twitter at @ZachDimmitt7

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