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Five Wildcats Named Preseason Media Days All-SEC

Darian Kinnard vs. Alabama.
Darian Kinnard vs. Alabama.(SEC)
Published: Jul. 23, 2021 at 6:43 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WYMT) - Five University of Kentucky football players have been named to the 2021 Preseason Media Days All-Southeastern Conference teams, it was announced today.

Senior offensive tackle Darian Kinnard was named first-team offense and senior defensive end Joshua Paschal was named to the second-team defense. Junior running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. and senior offensive lineman Luke Fortner were listed on the third-team offense, while senior safety Yusuf Corker was a third-team defense selection.

Kinnard, a 6-foot-5, 338-pound offensive lineman from Knoxville, Tennessee, was graded by Pro Football Focus as college football’s top run-blocking tackle for 2021. The senior has played in 33 career games with 26 consecutive starts and in 2020, he graded at 88 percent in 10 regular-season games with 40 knockdown blocks and 138 blocks at the point of attack.

Kinnard has also been named first-team All-SEC this season by Athlon Sports, Phil Steele and Walter Camp. Additionally, he was a preseason first-team All-American by Walter Camp and Pro Football Focus, and a preseason second-team All-American by Phil Steele.

Paschal, a 6-3, 275-pounder from Prince George’s County, Maryland, moved from linebacker to defensive end prior to the 2020 season and immediately became a stalwart on the line. He was named fourth-team All-SEC by Phil Steele’s Football Magazine and All-SEC Honorable Mention by Pro Football Focus in 2020 after totaling 32 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack, one quarterback hurry and one interception in 11 games. As a leader on and off the field, Paschal has been elected team captain twice (2019 and 2020) and has been UK football’s representative for the NCAA’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the SEC Leadership Council the past two seasons. He also was named a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award last season and was an SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll member.

This season, his accolades include being named a preseason second-team All-SEC choice by Athlon Sports and earning a spot on the CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team.

Paschal graduated in May of 2021 with a degree in family science and a minor in health promotion and is currently working on a second degree in communication.

Rodriguez, a 5-11, 224-pounder from McDonough, Georgia, led the Cats in rushing in 2020 with 785 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing two games due to COVID-19 protocols. The power back had four 100-yard rushing games, including three of the final four games for which he was available, and was nearly impossible to bring down. He totaled 105 consecutive carries without being tackled behind the line of scrimmage and gained positive yardage on 116 of his 119 total attempts. He delivered a career-best 149 yards vs. Vanderbilt on Nov. 14 and led the SEC in yards per attempt at 6.6. Overall, he ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing yards per game (87.2), earning him first-team All-SEC accolades by Pro Football Focus and fourth-team All-SEC honors from Phil Steele. Rodriguez currently has 1,361 career rushing yards, good for 27th place in school history.

He has been compiling an extensive list of preseason honors this season, including being named to both the Maxwell Trophy Watch List (nation’s most outstanding player) and the Doak Walker Award Watch List (nation’s top running back). He’s also been named preseason second-team All-SEC by Athlon Sports, preseason third-team All-SEC by Phil Steele and preseason All-America honorable mention by Pro Football Focus.

Fortner, a four-year letter winner from Sylvania, Ohio, returns to the “Big Blue Wall” after taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19. He enters the 2021 season having seen action in 42 career games with 23 consecutive starts at right guard. In 2020, he graded out at 82.9 percent in 10 games played with 26 knockdowns and 146 blocks at the point of attack.

The 6-6, 297-pounder graduated in December of 2019 with a degree in mechanical engineering and is currently finishing his master’s degree in mechanical engineering with plans to graduate in August. On top of that, Fortner is also working on his master’s degree in business administration at UK’s prestigious Gatton College of Business and Economics. He is on track to graduate with his MBA in May of 2022. He recently was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team and earned preseason third-team All-SEC honors by Athlon Sports.

Corker, a 6-0, 204-pounder from McDonough, Georgia, has played in 37 career games with 24 straight starting nods at safety. As a junior in 2020, he finished second on the team in tackles (77) behind NFL first-round draft pick Jamin Davis. He also added 2.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, two pass breakups and a forced fumble.

He has earned preseason third-team All-SEC honors by Athlon Sports and a preseason second-team nod by Phil Steele this season. Corker also is a nominee for the Lott IMPACT Trophy which is presented annually to the college football defensive IMPACT player of the year.

Off the field, Corker was named to the Dean’s List and the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll in 2020. He graduated in May with a degree in economics and is currently working on a second degree in communication.

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