Handing Out Individual Awards

Welcome back to our award season for the Kentucky Wildcats. Last time out we handed out some team honors. Today we’re turning to individual accolades. We’ll give out trophies for offense, defense, and special teams. Let’s get to it with our 2023 Kentucky Football Awards.

Outstanding Achievement On Offense

The Winner- Ray Davis- In his one season in Lexington Davis made quite the splash. The Vanderbilt transfer set a school record with 21 total touchdowns, 14 rushing and seven receiving. That broke Benny Snell’s record of 19 set in 2017. Not only did Davis lead the SEC in touchdowns, he finished third in the NCAA. Furthermore, Davis finished fourth in the league with 1,129 yards.

He also cemented his name in history with his incredible 280-yard performance against Florida. That put him third in school history behind Lynn Bowden and Moe Williams. Davis made second-team All-SEC, a thread you’ll see quite a bit as we go forward. He also got an invite to next week’s Senior Bowl.

Runner’s up- Barion Brown, Dane Key, Tayvion Robinson, and Devin Leary. While the Wildcat receiving corps had their struggles in 2023 they had some good moments too.

Brown led the squad with 43 receptions for 539 yards and four touchdowns. In addition, he ran for another 147 yards and another score. Key was second in receptions with 42 but led the team with 636 yards and six touchdowns. Robinson was right behind with 41 catches for 552 and four scores.

In his one season at Kentucky Leary threw for 2,746 yards and 25 touchdowns. He had arguably his best game in a loss to Tennessee when he completed 28 of 39 passes for 372 yards and two touchdowns. Overall he cracked 300 yards three times and had 299 in another game.

As we continue with our 2023 Kentucky Football Awards let’s now turn to the defense.

Individual Achievement On Defense

There are several players who could be our pick on this side of the ball. In fact, if you remember back to last year we had a six-way tie. However, it was narrowed down to two and we have a pick.

The Winner- Maxwell Hairston As a sophomore Hairston had a great season for Brad White’s defense. He led the Wildcats with 55 solo tackles, a number that placed him third in the SEC. His 68 total tackles were third on the team. In addition, Hairston led the league with five interceptions including two for a touchdown, also tops in the SEC.

His career game came in the Wildcats big win over Vanderbilt. With two interception returns for touchdowns, Hairston set a school record.

He became the first SEC player since 2015 with two interception returns for a score. As a result of his great season, he finished second-team all-conference.

Runner up- Deone Walker– Kentucky’s big man up front was a disruptive force for the Wildcats in 2023. Another sophomore, Walker finished fifth on the squad with 55 tackles. He led the team with 12.5 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks and even had two passes defended.

His biggest game came against South Carolina where he recorded nine tackles, two for a loss and a sack. In the Gator Bowl, he had two sacks. Much like Hairston the six foot six, 348 pound Walker made second-team All-SEC. Those two make a strong cornerstone for the Wildcat defense in 2024.

As wrap up our 2023 Kentucky football awards let’s move to the special teams.

Individual Achievement On Special Teams

The winner- Barion Brown- The Super Sophomore from Nashville makes his second appearance on our list. Brown led not only the SEC but the nation with 36 yards per kickoff return and three touchdowns.

He saved one of his best performances for last with a huge game in the Gator Bowl loss. Brown had a rushing, receiving, and kickoff return for a touchdown. The return set a school record with his fourth overall. As a result Brown was named to the Associated Press to the All-Bowl team as a kick returner.

Like several of his counterparts, Brown was a second-team All-SEC performer as both all-purpose and kick returner.

Runner-up- Alex RaynorThe Georgia Southern transfer had a solid first season in Lexington. Raynor didn’t get many opportunities but connected on 10 of 11 field goals and 48 of 49 extra points. He recently announced he’s coming back for 2024 setting up the Wildcats in a great position at kicker.

Thanks for checking out our 2023 Kentucky Football Awards here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll look at how Mark Stoops’ club is navigating the transfer portal.


Photo courtesy: Ken Ruinard / staff / USA TODAY NETWORK

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