You know he eats bananas in an aesthetically unpleasing way. You know he drinks coffee with mayonnaise. Most people know Kentucky QB Will Levis because of his odd consumption habits. But on film, there’s plenty of NFL upside for evaluators to consume in a similar manner. Levis is an underrated potential starter in the 2022 NFL Draft. What makes him so intriguing, and has he progressed thus far in 2021?
Will Levis’ background before becoming the Kentucky QB
For Levis, things started at Xavier High School in Middletown, Connecticut. There, he threw for 5,419 yards, 55 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions in three seasons. That production, combined with Levis’ 4.80 40-yard dash and 35.7-inch vertical jump, helped earn him three-star billing on the 2018 recruiting trail.
Levis signed with Penn State, but his career wouldn’t take off with the Nittany Lions. Levis redshirted his freshman season and remained a reserve signal-caller through the 2020 season. Stuck behind Sean Clifford on the depth chart, Levis only amassed 102 career passing attempts before ultimately opting to transfer to Kentucky.
Upon arrival, Levis entered a battle for the starting quarterback job between himself, Joey Gatewood, and Beau Allen. The winner would replace Terry Wilson in head coach Mark Stoops’ offense. Levis won the job ahead of the 2021 season, and that work has led him to where he is now — comfortably entrenched as UK football’s starter and an intriguing prospect on the 2022 NFL Draft stage.
Levis’ 2021 season thus far
Entering the transfer portal has turned out to be an excellent decision for Levis, as it allowed the Kentucky QB to earn an opportunity elsewhere. There’s still plenty of work for him to do if he wants to crack the early rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft. Nevertheless, Levis has shown promise with the Wildcats, and there’s still time for him to progress.
Through seven games so far, Levis has completed 119 of 177 passes (67.2%) for 1,326 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions. He’s also amassed 175 rushing yards and 3 scores on the ground. Levis’ match with offensive coordinator Liam Coen — a former Los Angeles Rams disciple — has proven to be fortuitous. But since his season-opening game against Louisiana-Monroe, his numbers have cooled a bit.
Still, against Georgia, Levis showed some modest signs of growth. He didn’t have a spectacular game, but he showed flashes of the traits that have made him such an enticing prospect to this point.
Kentucky QB’s performance against Georgia in Week 7
Levis’ box score line was pedestrian against the Bulldogs. The Kentucky QB completed 32 of 43 attempts for just 192 yards. He did find the end zone twice, however, and didn’t throw any interceptions. That lack of volatility was a pleasant sight from such an inexperienced quarterback like Levis. And there were times where he showed good things in structure.
The clips below highlight one of Levis’ positive plays in structure. Here, on third-and-4, Levis has a typical three-step drop. He keeps his base steady, steps up at the top of his drop, and keeps his eyes ahead. Even as the pocket starts to collapse around him, he stands tall and fires a dart to his receiver for a first down.
That calm amidst chaos is something that Levis has shown in spurts, and his toughness is undeniable. Below, you’ll see a different angle of the same play. This angle provides a better vantage point to see Levis’ subtle pocket manipulation and composure as the rush starts to swallow up space around him. He also adjusts his arm angle as he throws to prevent a deflection by blitzing cornerback Derion Kendrick.
Another example of arm strength from the Kentucky QB
On nearly every throw, Levis’ arm strength pops. But arm strength isn’t just for hitting windows like the one above or driving the ball downfield. It’s also for giving receivers more time on run-after-catch concepts. The below play is an example of Levis’ poise and arm talent once again combining to create opportunities for his teammates.
This play — set in the red zone — is unique in that there’s designed pressure. Levis first executes the play fake, then rolls to his right and sets his eyes toward the right pylon. Once he draws the rush toward him, Levis turns back the other way and launches the ball to his receiver, who’s waiting on a designed screen.
This won’t be the throw many pick out when describing Levis’ arm talent, but it’s a notable play in that sense. Not only is Levis fading back as he throws, but he’s also rolling to his right. Even as he works against his body and fades back, he still manages to fire a 7-yard dart outside the opposite numbers that reaches his target in only a second.
Time is precious, especially in schemed RAC situations. Levis’ arm strength and ability to generate easy velocity off-platform were key to this play. He generates an impressive amount of torque in an uncomfortable alignment. And it ultimately allowed Kentucky to get on the board.
Levis’ Georgia performance had its highs (and its lows)
These two plays are just a couple of Levis’ high moments against Georgia. There were more instances of him working in the pocket, staying congruent and composed, and firing strikes to his receivers in stride. Levis also had a few on-target throws dropped, and he consistently put his team in a good position when given the chance to make plays. Had those drops connected, his stats might’ve looked more promising.
Even so, however, it wasn’t a perfect game from Levis. Like many quarterbacks, the Georgia rush got to him at times. He did a good job of keeping his eyes up, but the rush caused him to subconsciously quicken his feet and scamper. And once his lower body mechanics eroded, Levis’ throws became less accurate. He was able to rebound from these instances, but those missed opportunities cost the Wildcats.
Nevertheless, the Georgia game can be seen as a subtle step in the right direction for Levis. The Georgia defense can cause inexperienced quarterbacks to collapse, but Levis didn’t do that. If anything, it was a conservative game plan on Kentucky’s end that kept the Wildcats from keeping it close. Levis, meanwhile, remained poised and confident, and he didn’t let bad moments rattle him.
Levis remains a perplexing 2022 NFL Draft prospect, but his improvements against pressure — against a strong Bulldogs defense — generates some excitement for his progression down the line. There are definite flashes of growth, and Levis’ consistency is steadily growing.
Across a season-ending stretch that includes Mississippi State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, New Mexico State, and Louisville, Levis could get the opportunity he needs to compound that growth and rise up NFL Draft boards.