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Report: Kentucky football starter, former five-star recruit plans to enter transfer portal

Kentucky football may lose a key starter on the defense to the transfer portal, according to one report.

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Kentucky football nose guard Justin Rogers was believed to be considering leaving UK early to enter the NFL Draft this offseason.

Instead, he is apparently entering the transfer portal.

Rogers, a former five-star recruit from Detroit, Michigan, has filled out the necessary paperwork to enter the portal, according to a report from 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong. Rogers later retweeted Wiltfong’s report from his personal Twitter account.

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Defensive lineman Justin Rogers, who Rivals.com rated as a five-star prospect out of high school, started every game for Kentucky’s defense at nose guard this season.

Defensive lineman Justin Rogers, who Rivals.com rated as a five-star prospect out of high school, started every game for Kentucky’s defense at nose guard this season.

The news would mean each of the two highest ranked recruits to sign with UK during the Mark Stoops era according to the 247Sports Composite would have entered the portal since the end of the regular season. Unlike former five-star offensive tackle recruit Kiyaunta Goodwin, who entered the portal last month after playing primarily on special teams as a freshman, Rogers was a key cog for the Wildcats in 2022.

He started every game of the season at nose guard, totaling 35 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and one-half sack. Nose guard is a position in Kentucky’s defense that does not often pile up eye-popping statistics because the scheme calls for that player to free up other defenders by occupying multiple blockers, but Kentucky coaches praised Rogers for his impact late in the season.

Of Rogers’ 35 tackles, 15 came in a two-week stretch against Vanderbilt and Georgia in November.

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“He’s done a nice job,” Stoops said in November when asked if he believed Rogers’ impact had flown under the radar. “I think the d-line in general, they’re really maturing. They’re playing really hard. They bring good energy every day, and they have to be selfless. A lot of times they don’t show up on that stat line, but they’re doing a lot of the dirty work up front. I’ve been really pleased with Justin. I think he’s taken a big step.”

If Rogers follows through on the plan to transfer, Kentucky would be left with junior Josaih Hayes and redshirt freshman Jamarius Dinkins as the primary options at nose guard. Hayes was listed as Rogers’ backup for most of the season, but he was passed by Dinkins on the pre-Music City Bowl depth chart.

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Dinkins played a key role in the UK defense’s goal-line stop against No. 1 Georgia in November then tallied his first career tackle for loss in the regular season finale versus Louisville.

Kentucky could move freshman All-America defensive tackle Deone Walker to nose guard in certain formations. Then, the Wildcats would have a spot for Walker, Tre’Vonn Rybka and Octavious Oxendine, the unit’s top remaining linemen, in the base 3-4 defense, but moving Walker would be a risk considering the impact he has already made at the tackle position.

The Wildcats signed two defensive linemen in the high school 2023 class in December but neither is projected to play nose guard at the next level. If additional options are needed, Kentucky might need to look to the transfer portal itself.

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