In the 64-10 blowout spring game it could be hard to find some defensive highlights. However, when you look at when UK’s first-team defense was the field the Wildcats did some very good things. Without their leader in the middle at Mike, there were some obvious holes but the Wildcats did a great job in plugging them up.
It was Brad White’s first spring game in the coordinator role and we found out after the game that the plan moving forward will be for him to be on the field when the Wildcats open up the season in August. But right now the Wildcats have an obvious strength and an obvious weakness.
Defensive Line: B
It’s hard to evaluate when you can’t rush the passer due to specific game rules and the twos were at an obvious disadvantage going against Kentucky’s starting offensive line. With that said, it’s clear that the three-down defensive line is going to be a strength of the team.
UK’s white team was limited to just 52 yards on 21 carries and most of this was due to UK’s front. Quinton Bohanna is a monster of a man in the middle while senior T.J. Carter is very solid at defensive end and he is rotating with former blue-chip recruit Joshua Paschal. Calvin Taylor, Jr. continues to be a consistent threat in run defense and the Wildcats should be about eight deep on the defensive line this year.
It took a very long time, but Kentucky has finally built a defensive line that can consistently go out and help you win multiple SEC games. Due to the spring game’s structure, it was hard for them to do everything they wanted but this is an experienced group who knows how important they are to the team. That’s big entering this fall.
Inside Linebackers: B
With no Kash Daniel in the lineup, Chris Oats got the start at Mike with DeAndre Square right next to him. Redshirt sophomore Jamin Davis also cracked the rotation with the ones and made a great play in the first half with a strip of Boogie Watson. These three with Kash Daniel will provide UK’s defense with an excellent two-deep this fall.
There still is depth questions behind that, but we saw walk-on Harold Lacy on the white team come out and really make some nice plays downhill. New assistant coach Jon Sumrall has some quality tools to play with in his return to Lexington.
Outside Linebackers: C
Similar to the defensive line, we don’t really get to see much in the ways of pass rush and that’s one of the most important parts of this position. Boogie Watson is the obvious leader and the redshirt junior finished with three tackles and a fumble recovery. However, the biggest takeaway from the night will be the young guns.
Redshirt sophomore Jordan Wright got the start at Jack and flashed some big time ability as an edge rusher. He even recorded an interception in the fourth quarter and certainly looks the part. Jared Casey is a true freshman who enrolled early and played the Sam spot for the second-team defense. He finished with seven tackles and has so much potential. The future is bright, but this group is set to have a lot of growing pains.
All spring we heard Brad White talk about how far this group had to come and it’s clear they still have a long road to travel. There’s no hiding from the fact that this is going to be a young position all season and a ton of pressure will be on Boogie Watson to perform at a high level. In his first year in the coordinator role, Brad White has his work cut out for him.
At safety, UK should feel really confident. Davonte Robinson has a legit chance to turn into one of the SEC’s top safeties and he’ll have plenty of opportunities to make plays near the line of scrimmage with him being UK’s primary nickel corner. Jordan Griffin is a senior who has played all over the secondary and should be a very reliable piece. Reserves Tyrell Ajian and Yusuf Corker were two huge recruiting wins who have high ceilings in a backup role. True freshman Moses Douglass has all the tools needed to be an impact player.
Safety is great, but corner play ain’t.
Junior college transfer Brandin Echols was brought in to start and he’s going to do exactly that. It’s clear that he is UK’s best corner and this defense will be heavily dependent on him. Quandre Mosely was also another JuCo player brought in to play immediately and it’s clear he has a very long way to go.
At the corner opposite of Echols, redshirt sophomore Cedrick Dort, Jr. got the start but UK also played a lot of other guys. It appears that freshmen Jamari Brown Taj Dodson, and Stanley Garner are all in the mix for playing time. It currently doesn’t feel like any of them are ready to be an SEC starter at corner.
Don’t be surprised if UK starts multiple corners this season and they could be in trouble when they go up against some good passing offenses this fall.
This season it is clear that strength of this group is right up the middle. The Wildcats are excellent on the line of scrimmage and at the inside backer spots. They should be solid in run defense and will be able to cause a bunch of havoc in the interior of the line. However, the edges are a different story.
Last season, UK had the best defensive player in the country on the edge and three corners with a ton of size and experience. This year they will be facing the opposite. That’s just how quickly things can change in college football and how the staff is able to hide their biggest weaknesses will be the biggest key to this upcoming season.