Part seven in an eight part series previewing the 2010 Kentucky Football Wildcats: Secondary
Free Safety Winston Guy
When I began story-boarding my annual Kentucky Football previews several months ago, I had no doubt as to the general theme of my much-anticipated entry on the Wildcat secondary. Unlike the defensive line and linebacker positions, which I knew would be riddled with question marks, the defensive backfield looked to be largely a known commodity. Fast forward to the eve of Fall Camp, and that stability has been rocked significantly by the insatiable off-season monster known as academics. (The other off-season monster, crime, largely left Lexington alone this summer, choosing instead to stay close to its summer home in Knoxville.) In short, Paul Warford, a returning starter at cornerback, appears to possess an almost superhuman disdain for school, having failed to meet eligibility requirements for the second time in a three year period. His subsequent dismissal from the team leaves the cornerback situation, once thought to be one of the team’s deepest positions, somewhat tenuous. Despite the off-season hit, the secondary remains Kentucky’s strength on the defensive side of the football.
Martavius Neloms 6-1, 184 So. Memphis, TN (Fairley)
Cartier Rice 5-10, 182 So. Duncan, SC (Byrnes)
Randall Burden 6-0, 175 Jr. LaGrange, GA (LaGrange)
Anthony Mosley 6-0, 170 Jr. Ellenwood, GA (Tucker)
Taiedo Smith 6-0, 188 Jr. Dunnellon, FLa. (Dunnellon)
Josh Gibbs 5-10, 210 So. Long Beach, Cal. (Valencia / College of the Canyons)
Winston Guy 6-1, 215 Jr. Lexington, KY (Lexington Catholic)
Dakotah Tyler 5-11, 207 Fr-RS Indianapolis, IN (Pike)
Jarvis Walker 6-1, 208 Fr-RS Marrero, La. (Archbishop Rummel)
Mychal Bailey 6-0, 185 Jr.-JC LaGrange, GA (LaGrange / SW Miss JC)
Jerell Priester 5-9, 170 Fr. Ulmer, SC (Allendale-Fairfax)
Dale Trimble 5-10, 175 Fr. Gadsen, Alabama (Gadsen City)
If Kentucky’s defense is to succeed in 2010, Winston Guy will have to enjoy an All Conference-level season. Guy undoubtedly has all of the physical tools necessary to do just that. Guy has sprinter speed (having started his UK career at corner) and the build of an outside linebacker. When he is fully focused and in position, Guy has the ability to play the role of a poor man’s Ed Reed in the Wildcat secondary. In his first full season as a starting safety in 2009, Guy produced 60 tackles, 5 pass breaks ups and a sack while starting 11 games. With a year of experience under his belt, Guy will be counted on to be not only the last line of defense, but also a major force in run support. Redshirt freshman burner Dakotah Tyler will open Fall Camp as Guy’s back-up. Tyler, who moved over from the deep running back rotation in the Spring, has been timed at sub 4.4 in the forty, and like Guy, possesses a solid build for the safety position.
The great Trevard Lindley has taken his coverage skills to the Philadelphia Eagles, which is a great organization to be with until you blow a coverage and one of Andy Reed’s sons attempts to kill you. Randall Burden will now inherit the role of Kentucky’s lock-down corner. Historically, being Kentucky’s best corner is a thankless job. The task primarily consists of covering the nation’s best receivers with minimal pass rush, and minimal assistance from your supporting cast. Fortunately, not much seems to bother our man Randall, as seen by this classic clip from his freshman year.
Randall has put on some pounds since the “Spiderman” days, and has also put up some numbers. In 2009, Burden started all 13 games at corner, recording 36 tackles, eight pass break ups and two picks. In 2010, he will need to show that he can ascend to the level of an elite cover corner.
Guy and Burden are starters. The corner opposite Burden and the strong safety spot are up for grabs. Sophomore Martavius Neloms exited Spring Practice as the starter at the second corner spot. Neloms, a large and physical corner, was one of a very few defensive players to see playing time in 2009 as a true freshman. Many remember Neloms’ struggles in the South Carolina game, but such criticism is a bit unfair considering Neloms was just a few months removed from high school at the time. Neloms will battle redshirt sophomore Cartier Rice for the position. The loser of this battle will still see significant time in the Cats’ nickel package.
At strong safety, Taiedo Smith and Josh Gibbs enter the fall 1-2. Smith has the experience edge, having played in 20 games as a Wildcat, including all 13 games last season. He has also recorded three career starts. Gibbs lacks experience at the SEC level, but may have superior on-the-ball skills. In two years at the highly competitive College of the Canyons, Gibbs recorded 72 tackles and six interceptions. Speaking of Junior College, Drew Franklin has pointed out in an earlier post that former LaGrange Granger Mychal Bailey has achieved the junior college results necessary to enroll at UK in short order. Assuming that is the case, this heat-seeking missile may jump to the front of the line at the strong safety position.
There is no question that the loss of Warford hurts. Even if Neloms can produce an identical level of play, Kentucky will suffer when they go to their nickel and dime packages, something they may do frequently if the linebacker position does not sort itself out in the Fall. Having said that, Kentucky has the luxury of suiting up four corners with experience at the major college level. Burden has the potential to have a break-out year in his second full season as a starter. The safety spot is less experienced, but has the potential star of the defense in Winston Guy. If he plays remotely close to his potential, and if a complimentary running mate can be found at strong safety, the secondary will be the primary strength of the Wildcat defense. (You see what I did there?)
Next up: Special Teams