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Looking around at the quarterback landscape in college football, there aren’t many guys who can play the part of the bruiser like Kentucky’s Will Levis. Coming onto the scene last year, we all witnessed a player who will do anything for his team, that includes leaping at linebackers for a first down.
But the thing that stands out is his ability to lead his squad into action and not change his game plan, no matter the opponent. Levis is not your typical quarterback. He takes pride in running 10 yards and lowering his shoulder for the extra yard or trying to knock down a defender when blocking on an RPO. He’s different, which is something that makes him special.
His leadership off the field isn’t lost on head coach Mark Stoops, who relies on Levis to be the voice on offense. Stoops says his starting quarterback has an effect on everyone on the team.
“It’s fantastic, he’s a great leader, starting with his own work ethic,” Stoops said. “One of our first principles in leadership is lead yourself, and he certainly does that well. He has the impact to effect those close to him and get to the point where he’s at now with the confidence with the year under his belt. He effects the entire program and culture of our program, and everything about him is authentic, that’s really good to see.
“I think any of us that have seen people who you could kinda see right through, it doesn’t take long. You can’t see through him, he’s real.”
Levis’ ability to scramble outside the pocket and make plays with his feet will still be key. If there’s one aspect of his game that he’s excited to incorporate this year, it will start with sliding on certain plays, knowing how important his health is to the team. But don’t expect him to avoid hits every play, as he’s not the one to shy away from contact.
“I am just gonna let my instincts takeover for sure,” Levis said. “I know that my body and health to this team is more important than anything else. I am definitely not a traditional prototype quarterback, with what I am able to do in the run game and what I am able to do physically and I know they’re opportunities where I can use that to my advantage. So, it’s just a matter of knowing when the risk is worth it, definitely looking forward to sliding a little more this year.”
One of the people who has impacted how he plays is former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who would drill a defender on occasions. Playing without fear is what led the Gators legend to capturing championships in Gainesville and winning the Heisman Trophy. So, when Levis and Tebow had the opportunity to discuss how the Wildcat approaches the game, Tebow advised him to use his skills effectively and at the right time.
Tebow told Levis about the infamous game against Florida State, where Tebow looked like he had been through a war, with his jersey covered in the red paint of the Seminoles field. Tebow ended that game with 185 yards passing and 3 touchdowns, while rushing for 80 yards, adding another touchdown on the ground. The performance he put on in Tallahassee will be remembered as one of Tebow’s grittiest outings. Having the same type of mentality, it’s hard to hold back, but Levis understands how his attributes can contribute to the team when used correctly.
“As a quarterback you’re not supposed to do those things, you’re not supposed to be physical, you’re not supposed to have the body to be able to do those things,” Levis said. “So, you’re in a unique position in when you do that, there’s a little more hype and energy than really any other position on the team. There’s definitely some positive to it and it’s an attribute of mine that I am very proud of and will continue to use smartly and effectively. But it was cool to hear someone who’s been through the same thing I have, talk about it”
If Kentucky is going to have another successful year and try to contend for an SEC East title, it’ll need Levis to be healthy enough to make it twelve games. But putting constraints on a quarterback who has a unique skills won’t get you very far and Mark Stoops knows it. This is one of those moments where you can’t afford to hold your leader back and have to trust that he makes the right decisions on the field regarding his health. He’ll most certainly need a group of running backs that can carry the load and with the status of Chris Rodriquez still not being answered, Levis will rely on a group right now that is showing progress.
“Whoever it’s gonna be, they’ll be able to contribute for us,” Levis added. ” Like I said, we have depth at all positions and we have great experience at the running back position as well.”
As for all the hype surrounding the Kentucky quarterback, Stoops is not one bit concerned about any of the outside noise effecting Levis.
“I am no issues with that, because he is very motivated, he’s very driven in his own ability.”
We’ll find out very soon into the season if Kentucky and Will Levis will make a bunch of noise, with a matchup against Florida slated for the second week in Gainesville.