NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah takes a "first look" at some of college football's top players for 2022. This is the first entry in a series of scouting reports that will run throughout July.
After spending his first three years of college at Penn State -- redshirting, then starting two games and playing in 13 others over his final two campaigns in State College -- Will Levis transferred to Kentucky and immediately guided the 2021 Wildcats to a 10-win season, capped off by a thrilling Citrus Bowl victory over Iowa. With 3,202 yards of total offense, Levis became just the seventh player in school history to eclipse the 3K mark in a single season, showcasing a big arm and bruising running ability while also serving as a team captain.
Heading into his redshirt senior season, Levis is garnering increasing attention as a well-built signal-caller with an enticing collection of tools. Yes, the hype train is picking up steam in scouting circles. So, what's the book on the 23-year-old? Does he have what it takes to deftly navigate a second tour of duty in the talent factory that is the SEC?
After watching three of Levis' game tapes from the 2021 season, here is my initial scouting report on the Kentucky quarterback ...
Height, weight: 6-foot-3, 232 pounds (school measurements).
2021 statistics (13 games played): 233-of-353 (66.0%) for 2,826 yards, 24 TDs and 13 INTs; 107 carries for 376 yards (3.5 average), 9 TDs.
Game tape watched: vs. LSU (Oct. 9, 2021), at Georgia (Oct. 16, 2021), vs. Tennessee (Nov. 6, 2021).
What I liked: Levis offers a nice blend of size, arm strength and toughness. In the pocket, he has a good feel to climb and avoid pressure -- and also possesses enough athleticism to extend plays with his legs. He can really drive and power the ball outside the hash marks and down the field. There are some screen-heavy games (SEE: Georgia), but there are other contests where he is aggressive to push the ball vertically. He is effective on zone reads, showing quality decision making and ball handling. I love his competitiveness, which was on full display as he went aerial from the 5-yard line against Tennessee. He constantly looks to lower his shoulder to power through tacklers. While that is admirable, he will need to dial it down at the next level.
Where he needs to improve: Levis doesn't have a smooth, natural throwing motion. There are too many instances where he tries to guide the ball and it impacts his ball placement. He also needs to work on opening up his base when throwing to the left. If he can improve his alignment, I believe we'll see more consistent results. Levis had one egregious force throw against Tennessee, which resulted in a pick-six. Overall, though, his decision making wasn't a consistent problem in the games I studied. He is more accurate on drive throws than touch throws. That's another area that should improve with some mechanical tweaks.
Biggest takeaway: Sometimes it's helpful to limit yourself to a one-word description of a player. For Levis, that word is rugged. He plays with a toughness and competitiveness that is inspiring. He's not polished. There's work to be done. However, I love the way he leads with fortitude. It's easy to see how much the game means to him with his dogged playing style.
He reminds me of: I haven't seen Levis throw live and in person, which is typically the best way to generate the most sensible QB comparison. I don't have a comp that immediately comes to mind when I study him on tape, but I'm hopeful he can develop into a player like Dak Prescott. Both guys are strong, tough and competitive. Dak is a bit superior athletically, but Levis runs with the same tenacity as a ball carrier. They can both power the football into tight windows. Dak made major improvements in his final season at Mississippi State, and I'm looking for Levis to follow suit this year at Kentucky.
I can't wait to watch him play: vs. Georgia on Nov. 19. Last year, Georgia's defense was one of the best in the history of college football. The Bulldogs lost several star defenders to the 2022 NFL Draft, but the cupboard is far from bare. Kentucky's offensive line really struggled against UGA's insanely loaded defensive front last fall, but Levis still found a way to make some plays. Hopefully, the playing field is more level when these two teams meet this coming November in Lexington. That tape will be closely studied by NFL evaluators as we work toward the 2023 NFL Draft.