Stoops Says Levis Pressured Himself Last Year; OC Coen Likes What He Sees in Devin Leary


Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says the 2022 season “it what it is” for quarterback Will Levis but says not to overanalyze statistics when evaluating Levis’ draft stock.

He completed 65.4 percent of his passes in 2022 compared to 66 percent a year earlier and averaged 7.7 yards per game compared to 8.3 in 2021. He did throw fewer interceptions in 2022 (10 to 13) but also had fewer passing touchdowns and less rushing yardage.

“I know everybody’s gonna analyze that (2022 stats) and look at things and, listen, he doesn’t need me to make excuses for himself and he doesn’t need to make excuses. There are some plays maybe he was pushing it, maybe he was forcing it. Things happen. We weren’t as good. I take responsibility for that,” Stoops said on SiriusXM Radio.

“We weren’t as good around him, we didn’t protect him as well. I’m still quite confident in Will’s ability, the way he can lead and the way he can play. Somebody is gonna be extremely pleased to have him on their roster, I can promise you that.”

Levis was being mentioned as a potential No. 1 overall draft pick a few months ago but at worst a top 10 pick. Now some are projecting that his stock has dropped to where he might not even go in the first round of the draft later this month.

Stoops is confident Levis has the mental and physical makeup to find NFL success.

“He has all the intangibles you’re looking for to build a franchise around,” Stoops said. “He has the leadership capabilities. He has an unbelievable work ethic. Anything that is a weakness for him right now, he will eventually turn into a strength because that’s just how he attacks every day.

“Ability-wise, he came in that first year (from Penn State) and hadn’t played much football. You saw what the right system (could do). We had good players around him. We had three NFL offensive linemen on that team.

“And his first year here he really lit it up. Played exceptionally well and led us to 10 (wins), which we hadn’t done a whole heck of a lot of around here. Just a fantastic addition.”

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Offensive coordinator Liam Coen knows North Carolina State transfer Devin Leary is going  to be his starting quarterback next season. However, he’s still trying to determine if Kaiya Sheron, Destin Wade or Deuce Hogan will be the backup quarterback.

“It’s huge for one of those guys to step up. I have a familiarity with Kaiya (who was at UK in 2021 when Coen was previously at Kentucky). He knows some things we are doing but how do you react in those situations,” Coen said.

“Kaiya, I know he can execute the offense. Now I am seeing Destin and Deuce in competition with the second group. Destin did a nice job at the end of the scrimmage. He gave us life with some throws he made and decisions he made. I was really happy with the way Destin did that.”

Coen said he’s constantly on Sheron about his demeanor and becoming more outgoing.

“I want him to have a little bit more gumption. Show these guys you can be the guy with your demeanor,” Coen said. “Sometimes perception can be reality. I want him just to have that confidence to develop as a leader so guys want to play for him.

“The backup quarterback, you need one guy to show the players and coaches you can trust him.”