Five Wildcats named to Coaches’ All-SEC Teams
Luke Fortner and Darian Kinnard named first-team All-SEC
LEXINGTON, Ky. (UK Athletics) – Five Kentucky football players – Luke Fortner, Darian Kinnard, Josh Paschal, Wan’Dale Robinson and Chris Rodriguez Jr. – were named to the 2021 All-Southeastern Conference Coaches’ Team, it was announced today by the league office. Kinnard and Fortner were placed on the first team, while Paschal, Robinson and Rodriguez Jr. were named to the second team.
Fortner is a “super senior” and a 6-6, 297-pound center from Sylvania, Ohio. The two-time Campbell Trophy semifinalist has played in 54 career games for Kentucky, starting 35 in a row. After switching from right guard to center prior to the season, Fortner found his niche, excelling in his new role on the “Big Blue Wall.” He had 17 knockdown blocks in 12 games and allowed only one quarterback sack in more than 350 pass plays. Fortner was also named All-SEC Second Team by Pro Football Focus.
Kinnard, 6-foot-5, 338-pound mountain from Knoxville, Tennessee, is one of the nation’s top offensive tackles. The two-time SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week, also was a semifinalist for both the 2021 Rotary Lombardi Award, given to an offensive or defensive lineman who combines outstanding performance on the field with the character and discipline of NFL Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, and the Outland Trophy, given to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. This season, Kinnard led the team with 30 knockdown blocks and allowed only one quarterback sack in more than 350 pass plays. Kinnard was also a first-team All-SEC member by PFF.
Under Fortner and Kinnard’s leadership on the offensive line, the Wildcats’ offense is averaging 431.1 total yards per game, including 206.1 on the ground, and is averaging 6.57 yards per play, which would set a new school record for a season. According to PFF, UK leads the SEC in rushing yards before contact, averaging 2. 6 yards per attempt.
Robinson, a 5-foot-10, 183-pounder from Frankfort, Kentucky, has been one of the most electric players to ever come through the Kentucky football program. The transfer from Nebraska has caught a team-high 94 passes, a school single-season record, and his 1,164 receiving yards are second on UK’s single-season list. In 12 games this season, Robinson has five 100-yard games which ranks second on UK’s single-season list. Robinson was an All-SEC First Team selection by PFF.
Paschal, a 6-3, 275-pound defensive end from Prince George’s County, Maryland, is the only three-time full-season team captain in Kentucky football history. The All-America candidate is having his best season yet in 2021, leading the team and ranking second in the SEC with 15.5 tackles for loss. He also has 53 tackles, 5.5 sacks, a team-high eight quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal. Paschal was a second-team All-SEC choice by PFF.
Rodriguez Jr., a 5-11, 224-pound running back out of McDonough, Georgia, ranks 12th nationally and second in the SEC in rushing this season, averaging 106.0 yards per game. In 12 games this season, he has 1,272 rushing yards, which ranks seventh on UK’s single-season list. Overall, he has 2,633 career rushing yards for seventh on the school’s all-time rushing list. He has 14 100-yard games in his career (third all-time) and a school-record tying eight this season, including each of the last four contests. Rodriguez received third-team All-SEC honors from PFF.
First Team All-SEC
OL: Darian Kinnard
C: Luke Fortner
Second Team All-SEC
RB: Chris Rodriguez Jr.
WR: Wan’Dale Robinson
DL: Josh Paschal
Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC) is headed to Orlando, Fla., for a school-record sixth straight bowl appearance. The No. 22 Wildcats have accepted a bid to play in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl and will face No. 15 Iowa Jan. 1, 2022 in Camping World Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. ET on ABC, ESPN Radio and the UK Sports Radio Network.