The football transfer portal is open again. Kentucky could use help at these positions.

The urgency may not be as high as new Kentucky basketball coach Mark Pope’s need to quickly assemble almost an entire roster, but UK football coach Mark Stoops has another opportunity to address lingering needs in the transfer portal in the coming weeks too.

College football’s second window for underclassmen to enter the portal opened Monday and runs through April 30. Already a host of highly touted players have entered the portal.

Players do not have to commit to a new school by the 30th, but Stoops and his staff will at least know the list of options to address any potential holes revealed in spring practice by then.

Stoops has also acknowledged there will be more departures from UK’s own roster as he works to get under the 85-man scholarship limit by August. To date, Kentucky has not lost any players expected to be major contributors in 2024, but the possibility exists someone Stoops was planning to build around will enter the portal and change the team’s needs.

Here is a look at four positions that could be boosted by spring portal additions.


One of the most important developments for UK during spring practice was reported progress from former Ohio State transfer Jantzen Dunn at cornerback, but it still would not be a surprise to see coaches add another player to the competition to replace likely day-two NFL draft pick Andru Phillips. The fact Dunn also splits time at nickel back increases the need for more depth at cornerback.

Junior Maxwell Hairston, who tied for the SEC lead in interceptions last season, is expected to be one of the defense’s best players, but he will need help.

“It’s huge,” defensive backs coach Chris Collins said. “Max has worked his way to that, so it’s been good to see — because he always wasn’t that. We always knew he had it, but working to that.

“So, that process we spoke about with some guys, understanding that and seeing Max kind of develop through it, they can kind of take those same steps. Again, everybody’s process is different, but identifying who that next guy on the other side can be is important to our defense.”

In addition to Hairston and Dunn, juniors JQ Hardaway and Jordan Robinson and sophomore Naasir Addison are options at cornerback.


Starter Wilson Berry is back, but Stoops has made no secret that Kentucky needs significant improvement from its punting after a disappointing 2023 season from Berry. The fact that Berry, an Australian, was recruited to Kentucky when the staff prioritized rugby-style punting has also made him an awkward fit for special teams coordinator Jay Boulware’s preference for traditional pocket punting.

Stoops did not address Berry’s progress during spring practice, but the ability to add competition for him might depend on how many scholarships are available after spring departures.

The staff proved willing to address special teams in the portal last season with the addition of transfer kicker Alex Raynor. That move paid off with a stellar season from Raynor, who has one more season of eligibility left, but it also meant UK still has four scholarships tied up in kickers for the 2024 roster. One of those will go to 2024 high school signee Jacob Kauwe. The Montana native has punting experience but was listed as a kicker by UK on signing day.

If Kauwe can factor in the punting competition, that would lessen the need for a transfer addition. It is also possible Kentucky can address the need with a walk-on.

New offensive line coach Eric Wolford will have his first chance to add to his position group in the spring transfer portal window.
New offensive line coach Eric Wolford will have his first chance to add to his position group in the spring transfer portal window.

Offensive line

The two offensive line transfers UK added in the winter window (former Tennessee tackle Gerald Mincey and former Florida guard Jalen Farmer) were running with the first-team offensive line during Saturday’s spring game, but Kentucky has changed offensive line coaches since the last time the portal window was open. With a full spring practice to evaluate his options, new offensive line coach Eric Wolford can now decide if further additions are needed.

Wolford already landed a commitment from junior-college tackle Anfernee Crease, who should add immediate depth with an eye on a future starting job. Crease has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

UK has plenty of returning experience on the offensive line, but only two starting jobs appear locked down after spring practice: left tackle Marcus Cox and center Eli Cox. The biggest question is whether Wolford is satisfied with the two transfers signed when Zach Yenser was still offensive line coach and returning offensive guard starter Jager Burton, a former four-star recruit who struggled with consistency last season.

“Coach Stoops always talks about wanting to have seven or eight guys play winning football,” Wolford said during spring practice. “That’s not just, go out there and play. You need seven or eight guys that can play winning football you can put in at any time in a game. … We’re a work in progress.”

Running back

New offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan was complementary of Kentucky’s running back options during spring practice, but it was also clear no single player had emerged to build around. For now, Ohio State transfer Chip Trayanum and returner Demie Sumo-Karngbaye lead the way in what could be a three-back rotation also featuring freshman Jason Patterson.

Is that trio good enough to carry the load? Maybe, but Hamdan’s offenses have featured a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his five seasons calling plays at the college level. If a running back capable of taking on that load enters the portal with interest in Kentucky, it seems likely the staff would jump at the opportunity.

Already on Tuesday UK was listed as one of four leading options for former Oregon State star running back Damien Martinez by 247Sports. That is the type of talent at the position UK would have to consider despite a crowded running back room already on campus.

Former North Hardin star running back La’Vell Wright, whose three-year UK career was marred by injuries, has already announced plans to enter the portal since spring practice ended.

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