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Kentucky Athletics photo / Kentucky quarterback Will Levis guided the Wildcats to a 10-3 record last season that included a Citrus Bowl topping of Iowa.

Kentucky's Will Levis could be the best pro prospect of any quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.

He's certainly making a run at the most disgusting.

The 6-foot-3, 232-pounder from Madison, Connecticut, created a stir nearly a year ago, when he was filmed consuming an entire banana without removing the peel. Levis has since topped that feat with videos of him bypassing cream in his coffee and using mayonnaise instead.

"I'm a big eater, and nothing has been planned so far," a smiling Levis said last week at SEC media days in Atlanta. "Those things were kind of natural, organic, funny things that came up that I did. I'm going to keep you guys on your toes.

"There might be something, and there might not. We'll see."

So somewhere between curious eating habits and his NFL promise, Levis just might be the league's most intriguing player for 2022.

"Will Levis is a guy who is unapologetically him," Wildcats senior guard Kenneth Horsey said. "People on social media sometimes give off a false narrative or try to be too perfect in a sense, but Will's the kind of guy who can be unapologetically him, and I find it refreshing."

This time last year, Levis had yet to take a snap for the Wildcats, having spent his first two college seasons at Penn State. His first year in Lexington yielded a bit of everything, as he completed 233 of 353 passes (66.0%) for 2,827 yards with 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

Those 24 aerial scores were the most for Kentucky since Andre' Woodson's 40 in 2007.

Levis also showed plenty of rushing potential, amassing 376 yards on 107 carries and nine touchdowns, and he received national player of the week honors after performances against LSU and Louisville. The Wildcats routed both the Tigers, 42-21, and Cardinals, 52-21, on their way to a 10-3 season that culminated with a 20-17 topping of Iowa in the Citrus Bowl.

A CBS mock draft in May pegged Levis as the top overall selection in the 2023 NFL draft, but he was an SEC preseason third-team selection last week behind Alabama's Bryce Young and Tennessee's Hendon Hooker.

"The biggest thing I've worked on this offseason is the decision-making aspect of my game," Levis said. "The one thing on my stat sheet last year that was kind of glaring were the interceptions, and I want to lower them. That starts with decision-making."

KENTUCKY

Last season: 10-3 (5-3 SEC)

Opener: Sept. 3 vs. Miami of Ohio in Lexington (7 p.m. on SEC Network+)

Fun fact: Mark Stoops was just 4-20 in SEC games through his first three seasons. He’s 25-25 in the six years since.

Up next: LSU

 

The Wildcats have running backs Chris Rodriguez Jr. and Kavosiey Smoke back for their senior seasons, though it's not known whether Rodriguez will miss any time as a result of his May DUI arrest. Coach Mark Stoops did not update his situation in Atlanta, other than to say he continues to work out with the team.

Kentucky has been picked to finish second in the SEC East behind Georgia, and the Wildcats have a very favorable schedule to collect the program's fifth 10-win season and the third in five years.

"We are the caliber of program to expect to have that 10-win season, but we want to take that next step," Levis said. "We want to be the team that's known for taking that next step to get to that next echelon in college football. We were a couple of drives away last year from making it a one-loss season, so we know that it's possible."

Kentucky has won four consecutive bowl games for the first time in its history, including two trips to the Citrus and one to the Gator. The school's vaunted basketball program can't even match that recent postseason success, having gone 9-16 in the coronavirus-shortened season of 2020-21 and having suffered an NCAA tournament first-round loss to Saint Peter's this year.

Nobody is dismissing Kentucky's elite basketball status, not with what John Calipari is assembling on the recruiting trail, but autumn is no longer simply a countdown to the hardwood.

"We are a football school," fifth-year senior inside linebacker DeAndre Square said. "I'm proud to say that. We've just been working constantly to build our reputation. To us, it's not a surprise anymore to do well.

"That's the standard. The standard is to win every game that we play."

Regardless of how much mayo and how many banana peels it takes.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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