Two years ago, redshirt freshman Drake Jackson was rushed into the Kentucky lineup at center when the Wildcats were having a difficult time executing shotgun snaps. Now, he's on the watch list for the nation's premier award for that position.
Jackson has been named to the 2019 fall watch list for the Rimington Trophy, presented annually to the most outstanding center in NCAA Division I College Football.
Early in the 2017 season, Bunchie Stallings had taken over for Nick Haynes in the middle of the offensive line. Haynes, a Type-A diabetic, was struggling with his health, prompting the move. But Stallings sent some of his shotgun snaps sailing over the head of then-quarterback Stephen Johnson, short-circuiting the Wildcat offense.
The Versailles native, a product of Woodford County High School, brought immediately stability to the line, which busied itself blasting holes for running back Benny Snell as the Wildcats earned a berth in the Music City Bowl.
Jackson picked up where he left off in the 2018 season, with Kentucky winning 10 games, the most since the 1977 season - including a victory over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day.
Jackson started at center in all 13 games last season, giving him 20 consecutive starts. He was responsible for only one-half quarterback sack and he had 141 blocks at the point of attack, and had 33 knockdown blocks.
Jackson and the rest of the O-line helped Snell reach his third-consecutive 1,000-yard season, the first player in school history to accomplish that feat.
The Cats open the 2019 season against first-time opponent Toledo on Saturday, Aug. 31 at Noon ET on the SEC Network.