Trust was a big factor in Leary’s transfer to UK

Published 11:37 am Thursday, February 2, 2023


Contributing columnist

The transfer portal has been very good for Kentucky in the past bringing in quarterback Will Levis, receiver Wan’Dale Robinson, linebacker Jacquez Jones, cornerback Keidron Smith and others.

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Now the Cats seem to have really bolstered the 2023 roster with six transfers that could help fill several roster holes.

Vanderbilt running back Ray Davis had a monster game last season when the Commodores won at UK. Now he’s ready to help fill the void created by the departure of Chris Rodriguez, UK’s top running back the last three seasons.

Davis ran for over 1,000 yards and had five 100-yard games, including the one against Kentucky, last season. He played two years at Temple (2019-2020) before spending two years at Vanderbilt.

Davis did not know many players on the UK roster but he said players quickly made him feel welcomed and like a big part of the team.

“I feel like I’ve been on this team the past two or three years. Just because these guys have embraced me, they welcomed me in,” Davis said. “It’s like a family. When I got here the first couple of days, I did feel alone because I didn’t know anybody. But that didn’t last long. We were embraced and loved.”

Offensive lineman Marques Cox also knew about the UK program because he played at Kroger Field for  Northern Illinois last year. He suffered a season-ending injury in the UK loss.

He joked that returning UK center El Cox is “my cousin” since they had the same last night.

“Eli has definitely been helping me, showing me the way we do things around here,” Marques Cox, who has made 33 collegiate starts, said. “How we attack everything with meetings, film, workouts and normal life.”

North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary was one of the nation’s most sought after players in the transfer portal after throwing for almost 7,000 yards with the Wolfpack. North Carolina State was 5-1 and ranked in the top 25 last season when he suffered a season-ending injury.

He’s a proven starter and potential NFL draft pick who wanted to play in a pro-style offense like UK offensive coordinator Liam Coen has.

However, his relationship with head coach Mark Stoops was also important.

“I just trusted Coach Stoops,” Leary said. “He’s a players’ coach and whatever he told me through recruiting, it all came true. So I’m very happy to be here.”

He did want to make sure he had the “right personnel around me” along with a good relationship with his coaches. And the offensive scheme did matter.

“Making sure it’s not too crazy different from what I’m used to but at the same time, helping me get to the next level and helping me succeed. Kentucky checked off every single box,” Leary said.

Cincinnati cornerback JQ Hardaway was ranked as the ninth best player in the transfer portal by 247Sports. He almost picked Kentucky coming out of high school in Georgia when he was a four-star prospect. That past relationship was “big” in his decision-making process.

“The relationship I had with them, I kind of already knew how the program ran. Kentucky was a very close pick for me out of high school, so when I entered the portal, that was the first thing on my mind,” he said.

Holloway also noted that UK defensive coordinator Brad White was the first coach to contact him after he decided to transfer after playing in 11 games at Cincinnati.

It also helped that Holloway was a fan of former UK cornerback Kelvin “Bossman” Joseph, who transferred from LSU to UK and is now playing with the Dallas Cowboys.

“The big thing for me is seeing how they treat transfers. Everyone welcomed me like a teammate. That was really big for me,” he said.