DeAndre Square has been surprising others since he arrived on Kentucky’s campus in January of 2018.
An early enrollee from Detroit’s Cass Tech, nobody expected to hear much from the inside linebacker in his first spring practice. Injuries to Jordan Jones and Jamin Davis forced Square to spring into action at Will linebacker. The under-sized freshman played big, recording six tackles in the Blue/White Game, only two behind Kash Daniel.
Square carried the momentum from spring into fall camp. He did not beat out a three-year starter, but he earned enough respect from his coaches to play in every single game in the 2018 season. The freshman earned his first start in the Citrus Bowl and the moment was not too big, recording six tackles and his first career sack. Square was named to the SEC’s All-Freshman Team after recording 35 tackles, 3.5 for loss, three QBHs, one PBU and one forced fumble.
Square’s lengthy list of early accomplishments made him hungry for more. To take his game to the next level, he needed to make some changes. From year one to year two, DeAndre Square looks like a completely different person.
The most obvious change Square made was at the barber shop.
“I had them for four years,” he told KSR. “I felt like I was going through a big change in my life and I just felt like I needed a change in my hair.”
When the linebacker is wearing a helmet, you cannot see the haircut, but you will see him wearing a different jersey number.
“I never wanted 43 when I got here. I knew I was going to change my number, I just didn’t know it was going to be 17, but I like it.”
He reached 17 through his old number. Allow me to use some simple math.
4 – 3 = 1
4 + 3 = 7
If you put the digits together, you get 17. It’s also the amount of pounds he packed on this offseason. Square bulked up and transformed his body, despite a spring illness setback. After experiencing the physicality in small doses as a reserve, adding muscle in the offseason was the only way he could survive as a starting inside linebacker in the SEC.
“I put a lot of work in,” he said. “It was really important. My body was aching everyday. I had to go 100% because if I didn’t I was going to get ran over. It was very important to me to put on at least 10, 15 pounds this offseason.”
He surpassed that goal by gaining 17 pounds of muscle. While changing his approach to the game physically, Square has developed a more acute football IQ in the film room.
“He’s been a really conscientious, mature, kind of a silent assassin type. He’s not the biggest talker, but he goes about his work, he’s very serious and he’s really physically changed,” said inside linebackers coach Jon Sumrall.
“He’s sharp, man. He’s a really, really high football IQ kid in that room. Him and Kash both, but for him to be as young as he is and think the game the way he does and communicate the same the way he does, is extremely impressive for a guy who’s in his second training camp.”
Silent assassins can only take you so far on a football field, especially linebackers who make pre-snap calls. Kash Daniel has helped Square come out of his shell as a sophomore.
“I feel like I’m starting to become more like Kash. Kash is really vocal and I’m just trying to embody that,” said Square. “I’m probably not as intense as Kash, but I learned how to communicate.”
Daniel can already see the difference in Square.
“He’s done a really good job stepping up and being a leader on this defense and helping me out in our position room and especially on this defense,” said Kash. “He brings that dog mentality to practice everyday. He gives you his all, so we expect to give our all right back to him. That’s how we operate as brothers on this defense.”
DeAndre Square may have surprised a few fans by his exceptional freshman year. He’s made big changes to surprise the rest of the SEC in 2019.