LEXINGTON, Ky. — Jon Toth is the soft-spoken man in the middle of Kentucky’s offensive success.
The senior center has started 47 of a possible 48 games in his career and now the former 3-star prospect from Indianapolis has one college game left before his NFL career begins.
Toth and the improved Kentucky offensive line led the way for running backs Boom Williams and Benny Snell to both surpass the 1,000-yard rushing mark. And in Week 3 Toth kept Kentucky together as quarterback duties shifted from the injured Drew Barker to a junior college transfer.
Stephen Johnson’s name is at the top of the quarterback depth chart, but he gave Toth the label after practice Monday.
“Jon, he’s really the quarterback out there,” Johnson said. “He’s calling most of the shots. I might say a protection and he’ll change it knowing the defense will slide a different way. Having him out there, his intelligence, we’ll miss him a lot.”
Kentucky’s loss will be an NFL team’s gain. The 6-foot-5, 310-pound center is ranked the No. 6 center for April’s draft according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. CBS Sports ranks Toth the No. 5 center and projects him to get selected in the fifth or sixth round.
Kentucky’s future has been the focus of bowl practices, but the senior center isn’t done yet. He’s got one game left as a Wildcat. Toth was reluctant to look forward to the draft with a Dec. 31 date against Georgia Tech still on his calendar.
“Not really worried about that right now,” Toth said of his NFL stock. “Just worried about the bowl game.”
The matter-of-fact response has long been Toth’s style. And while fellow future draftees like Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey and LSU running back Leonard Fournette — albeit better prospects than Toth — plan to sit out their teams’ bowl games, Toth seemed repulsed at the idea.
“I would never consider something like that,” he said. “I’m going to go out there and play as hard as I can. I’m not concerned about the future right now. I’m concerned about getting this next win.”
He’ll add to the already 800-900 snaps he played in his senior season. Offensive line coach John Schlarman estimated that the next closest offensive linemen probably played 500-600 snaps. And while all of those came at center, Schlarman said Toth could play anywhere on the line at the next level.
“I think he’ll fit in great,” Schlarman said. “He’s so smart. He can make all the calls, understands how to read defenses. Once he gets in the playbook and learns it, the guy’s like a steel trap.”
Toth has next weekend’s TaxSlayer Bowl and the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 to show off his skills before the NFL draft.