Kentucky’s 2019 defense got a lot more talented Tuesday night. Xavier Peters announced he has received a waiver from the NCAA to play for the Kentucky football team this fall.
“We’re excited to have Xavier available to play this season,” Mark Stoops said. “I appreciate the NCAA understanding Xavier’s situation. I also want to thank our compliance office for the great job they did with the appeal and for Xavier’s patience with the process.”
Peters spent one season at Florida State before he decided it was best to finish his college career closer to his infant son in Cincinnati.
“I’m so excited,” Peters said “I was hoping this would happen because all of this has been for my son. He’s my life. I can’t wait to get out there with my team on Saturdays. I want to thank the NCAA and everyone at Kentucky who helped make this happen.”
The ruling by the NCAA gives Peters four seasons to play in Lexington. Here’s what he can do for the Cats this fall, starting Saturday night against Florida.
Blue Chip Talent
Initially recruited by Vince Marrow, the long-time UK commit flipped just before National Signing Day when Florida State brought out the big guns, using Deion Sanders to help recruit the talented outside linebacker to Tallahassee. He spent last season on the sideline as a redshirt.
Hailing from Lakota West High School, Peters was a consensus four-star recruit. According to the 247 Composite Rankings, he was the No. 12 outside linebacker in the 2018 class. As a senior he recorded 78 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery before playing in his last prep football game at the Under Armour All-American Game.
Replacing Josh Allen was no simple task for Brad White. To ease the transition, Josh Paschal was moved from the defensive line back to his original position that was previously filled by Allen, Jack linebacker. Boogie Watson held down the fort on the opposite side at Sam linebacker. Entering fall camp, White was only comfortable with one other outside linebacker, Jordan Wright. Entering his third year on campus, Wright has played both positions as a reserve in the first two games of the season.
After Wright, White’s options at outside linebacker were limited. If one player went down, Jared Casey and J.J. Weaver were in jeopardy of burning a valuable redshirt year. Peters gives the staff the luxury of depth, now with two capable backups who have spent at least a year on a college campus.
An Elite Pass Rusher
Peters is slotted in behind Josh Paschal at Jack linebacker. Regarded by the coaches as the most difficult position to learn in UK’s 3-4 defense, coaches ask the Jack to provide run support out of a three-point stance, rush the passer and drop back into coverage.
Peters will not leap frog a team captain and play right away at Jack, however, he is talented enough to be used in certain situations. On third and long, Kentucky employs what they call the “magic” package. To put it simply, the Cats load up on pass rushers. Peters may not understand all of the nuances of the position right now, but he knows how to give quarterbacks nightmares.
There aren’t many 6-foot-4, 235-pound athletes that can move as well as Peters. Running with the third team in fall camp, he could find his way to the ball even when it was ran to the other side of the field. His quickness, combined with a powerful first punch, make him incredibly difficult to block.
Feleipe Franks will be the first quarterback to learn what No. 5 in Kentucky blue brings to the table.