Unveiling the surprising Sec Football team of 2024

Led by transfer Georgia quarterback Brock Vandagriff and nine returning starters on defense, the Kentucky Wildcats will be the surprise SEC team in 2024.
Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops talks with media at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Press Conference at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, Thursday, December 28, 2023.
Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops talks with media at the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl Press Conference at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, Thursday, December 28, 2023. / Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Kentucky Wildcats will surprise some people this year. Not only in the SEC, but across college football. The last few seasons, the Wildcats under head coach Mark Stoops have had disappointing 7-6 campaigns after a 10-3 season in 2021. This has lulled many into sleeping on the Wildcats entering the 2024 season.

What is Kentucky’s projected win total on FanDuel?

FanDuel currently has the Wildcats listed a 7.5 wins. If going off of the last two seasons, you will lose your bet if you take the over. However, this is not the last two seasons and this is not the same Kentucky Wildcats. Look for an experienced Kentucky Wildcats bunch to win at least 10 games in 2024.

Why will the Kentucky Wildcats win 10 games in 2024?

Kentucky brings back nine starters on defense: With nine out of 11 starters returning on defense, the Wildcats will be an experienced bunch on that side of the ball heading into 2024. And in a league where defense is paramount, that is invaluable. Included in the nine returning starters is senior linebacker D’Eryk Jackson who played in all 13 games for the Wildcats in 2023 and led the team with 89 tackles.

Brock Vandagriff: Georgia Bulldogs transfer quarterback, Brock Vandagriff will lead the Wildcats at the quarterback position for the 2024 season. This will be Vandagriff’s first years as a starting quarterback. However, he has spent the last three seasons in Athens with Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs.

Although he has not seen any significant playing time, Vandagriff has been coached by some of the best offensive minds in Athens as well in offensive coordinators Todd Monken and Mike Bobo. And we know from watching recent Georgia starting quarterbacks Stetson Bennett and Carson Beck that time on the bench in Athens is not a bad thing.

As a transfer, to much of the country Vandagriff is seen as “not good enough,” when in reality he was just patiently waiting his turn in Athens and learning from some of the best in the business while doing so.

With a crowded quarterback room and the Bulldogs returning starting quarterback Carson Beck for a second season at the helm, one cannot blame Vandagriff for transferring. And at this point with having three years of college football practice experience behind him with some game action sprinkled in, he is undoubtedly more than ready.

Gerald Mincey: Two sacks. That was the impressive number that Mincey allowed all last season for the Tennessee Volunteers after appearing in 10 games on 510 snaps. And that was not Mincey’s first stint in college either- just arguably his most impressive one.

This will be Mincey’s fifth season of college football after spending the first three with the Florida Gators before transferring to Knoxville for the 2023 season and then arriving in Kentucky this off season. Not only is Mincey experienced, but he is SEC-experienced which should help to anchor the offensive line in protecting Vandagriff.

Kentucky’s running back room: True freshman Jason Patterson should get some significant playing time this fall as he rocketed up the depth chart in spring practice. Patterson began spring practice running with the two’s, but impressed quickly and by the end of it was running with the one’s.

Along with Patterson the Wildcats have fifth year senior running back Deamonte Trayanum who has 1,156 rushing yards on 227 carries during two seasons with the Arizona State Sun Devils and Ohio State Buckeyes combined. He averages an impressive 5.1 yards per carry. Between Trayanum and Patterson, SEC teams should beware.

Kentucky wide receivers: Barion Brown made Phil Steel’s preseason first team All-SEC list as a kick returner, and is no slouch at receiver either. Brown enters his junior season with 93 catches to his credit for 1,167 yards. The average of 12.5 yards per catch makes him a big play threat from the outside for the Wildcats in 2024.

Complimenting Brown on the outside is fellow junior Dane Key who has 79 catches for 1,155 yards in his first two seasons combined for the Wildcats for an average of 14.6 yards per catch.

The big play ability on the outside for the Wildcats will not be a snooze fest for defensive backs on opposing teams.

How many 10 win seasons have the Kentucky Wildcats had in program history?

In their program history, the Wildcats have had only four seasons of 10 wins or more. Two of them however have come on Mark Stoops’ watch since he arrived in 2013. Before that, the last 10 win season for the Wildcats came in 1977. Stoops has outperformed many of his predecessors at the position in Lexington. And because of this, talk of a statue is not out of the question.

Who could make a run at the Heisman Trophy for the Kentucky Wildcats?

Speaking of statues, with the experience on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, fans should also not sleep on Brock Vandagriff as a Heisman Trophy contender in 2024. With this being Vandagriff’s fourth year of college football and his first three for the Georgia Bulldogs, if the Wildcats do indeed win at least 10 games, it would be difficult to not imagine Vandagriff at least being in the running.

Not only that, but the Heisman Trophy traditionally is known as a “quarterback award” with the last non-quarterback to win the award being Alabama’s DeVonta Smith in 2020. Going back even further, there have only been three non-quarterback position players that have won the Heisman Trophy since 2006.

Intriguingly, Vandagriff’s Heisman Trophy odds according to FanDuel sit at +15000. Backup LSU quarterback AJ Swann actually has the same odds to win the award, which should show you how much the country is sleeping on Vandagriff and the Wildcats.

Longshot Heisman Trophy candidates from the SEC. Longshot Heisman Trophy candidates from the SEC. dark. Next