Deciphering who plays what position on the Kentucky football team has never been more challenging.
In previous years, Mark Stoops spent preseason camp moving players around to plug holes in the depth chart. With 17 returning starters, completing a two-deep depth chart isn’t difficult. Putting everybody at an ideal position…that’s a different story.
There are only two positions that are stagnant: nose guard and inside linebacker. At every other position, the skill sets aren’t so different, but the scheme is. With experience, players can handle a heavier workload. The best example is Garrett “Juice” Johnson. An inside slot receiver for most of his career, he worked outside last week and Eddie Gran liked the look he gave the defense.
Moving outside as a wide receiver isn’t that schematically difficult. Moving around the guys that cover the receivers is a different ballgame.
Steve Clinkscale said he has about five or six guys that can play corner, nickel and safety. The person at the top of that list is Mike Edwards. An All-SEC strong safety, he was at his best when he could walk up to help run support. Ideally they’d like to play Edwards primarily at the nickel position so he can remain in run support and occasionally rush the passer, but they must be able to trust guys like Jordan Griffin and Tobias Gilliam to fill his roll at strong safety.
“At the end of the day, we’re going to put all the guys in position to help us win a football game. If that’s Mike at nickel or at safety, we’re going to do whatever makes us the best defense,” Clinkscale said earlier this week.
That being said, the secondary isn’t the position group wit the most moving parts. That would be John Schlarman’s offensive line. A typical college offensive lineman can move to another position, but only the really good ones. At UK, almost every lineman plays at least two positions.
There’s so many moving parts, bullet points are the only way to paint a proper picture.
- Nick Haynes: Started his career as a tackle, he was an All-SEC left guard last year. He moved to right guard for the 2017 season and is now getting reps at center.
- Bunchy Stallings: Last year he rotated at right guard and acted as Jon Toth’s backup. Now he’s the No. 1 center.
- Drake Jackson: Primarily a center, the redshirt freshman can also play guard.
- “Big” George Asafo-Adjei: Started at right tackle as a true freshman but alternated with Kyle Meadows. Last year he bounced back-and-forth between right tackle and right guard, the same task he’ll perform this year.
- Mason Wolfe: A redshirt standout who’s received praise from Eddie Gran started his career at tackle. Now a right guard, he’s also getting reps as the fourth team center.
Figuring out a two-deep is no longer a problem for the UK coaches, it’s a problem for the media, diehard fans and UK’s opponents. Versatility gives Kentucky the ability to play “multiple,” a head coach’s favorite adjective. Opponents will have a general idea of who they will face each week, but they will not have a good ida where they will be on the field.