Florida travels to Lexington to take on Kentucky in the SEC road opener. Here are key players to watch for the Wildcats.
Ray Davis, RB
Ray Davis transferred to Kentucky from Vanderbilt in the off-season and has made an immediate impact. As of Week 4, he has recorded 50 carries for 314 yards and five touchdowns. This includes his impressive 112-yard performance in the season opener against Ball State on Sept. 4, which marked his fourth 100-yard outing in his previous five games.
In addition, Davis has also made an impact in the passing game. Through Week 4, he has a total of 10 receptions for 137 yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Furthermore, Davis has achieved a significant milestone. Following Week 4, he became the first Wildcat player since La’Rod King in 2011 to score at least one touchdown in each of the first four games of the season. He also holds the record for the most rushing touchdowns (5) in the first four games of the season since Benny Snell Jr. in 2018 (7).
Although Davis has played a crucial role in every game this season, his most notable performance came against Akron on Sept. 16. In that game, he led Kentucky in both rushing yards (72) and receiving yards (97). He had seven carries for 72 yards, including a career-long 55-yard touchdown run. Additionally, he had three receptions for a career-best 97 yards, including a career-long 58-yard touchdown reception. This outstanding performance made him the first player in program history to have both a rushing and receiving touchdown of at least 50 yards in the same game, with single-game records available since the 1940s.
Lastly, Davis currently ranks eighth among active FBS players in career rushing yards, with a total of 2,811 yards as of Week 4.
Barion Brown, WR/Special Teams
True Freshman All-American Barion Brown had a remarkable season in 2022, setting a record for the most receiving yards by a true freshman in Kentucky history. He finished second on the team in both catches (15) and receiving yards (214) this season. In the recent win over Vanderbilt, he had four catches for 105 yards, marking his second 100+ yard game of the season and fourth of his career. Additionally, he had six receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown against EKU, leading the team in receptions.
Brown also excelled in kickoff returns, ranking among the nation’s leaders. In 2022, he finished the regular season ranked 31st nationally and fifth in the Southeastern Conference with an average of 28.3 yards per kickoff return. He also ranked 13th in the SEC in all-purpose yards per game, averaging 88.17 yards. Notably, he was the only player in the nation to achieve two 80-plus yard kickoff returns, against Miami (Ohio) and then-No. 14/11 Ole Miss.
In the season opener against Ball State on September 2, Brown returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. This made him the fourth player in school history to have multiple career kickoff return touchdowns and the third player to have a kickoff return touchdown in consecutive seasons. As of Week 4, he is ranked fifth nationally in kickoff returns, averaging 33.2 yards per return.
Deone Walker, DL
Deone Walker, a 2022 All-SEC Freshman team honoree, has once again showcased his dominance this season. Standing at 6-foot-6 and weighing 348 pounds, the defensive tackle has played 199 snaps and is currently the highest-graded interior defensive lineman in the SEC according to Pro Football Focus (82.4). He has recorded 1.5 sacks, 12 hurries, a quarterback hit, two tackles for loss, and a total of 12 tackles.
In the win over Eastern Kentucky, Walker had a season-high five tackles, a quarterback sack, and tied his career-high with two quarterback hurries.
Last season, he played in all 13 games and started in the last 11. Walker accumulated 40 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries (the second-most on the team), two pass breakups, and a forced fumble.
Maxwell Hairston, DB
The Wildcats had two interception returns for touchdowns in their Southeastern Conference opener at Vanderbilt on Sept. 24, both by Maxwell Hairston. He is the first UK player ever to have two pick-sixes in one game. He tied the SEC record for interception touchdowns in a game, becoming just the sixth player in league history to achieve this feat. This game also marked the first time since 2020, when Kelvin Joseph and Jamin Davis both had pick-sixes at Tennessee, that UK had a pair of pick-sixes and defensive touchdowns in the same game.
These two interceptions were Hairston’s second and third of the season and of his career. The touchdowns are the first and second of his college career. He is currently the only player in the nation this season to have two interception touchdowns. In terms of his career, he is tied for fourth among active players in the FBS with his two interceptions returned for touchdowns.
Hairston leads the team with three pass breakups and ranks second on the team in tackles with 23.
Photo credit: Morgan Simmons, UK Athletics