It took months for Xavier Peters to finally be cleared to play at Kentucky this season. Now that the NCAA has made their decision official, what comes next for the outside linebacker?
According to defensive coordinator Brad White, it means they can finally really get to work with integrating the former four-star talent into the defense. Basically, don’t expect to see four consecutive quarters of Xavier Peters come this Saturday.
“We’ll see what he can give us,” White said at Wednesday’s post-practice media availability. “We’ll try to get him up to speed where we can, and we’ll put him in situations that he can succeed in. But until he’s ready, we’ll make sure he doesn’t get into a situation that isn’t fair to him or to us.”
Even though Peters has been able to participate in practices since he officially transferred to UK, he’s mainly been playing with the scout team or second-string defense. It was just too hard to incorporate him into the top defense before the staff knew if he’d be able to see the field this season.
“When you’re in game weeks, you’ve got to get the people ready that you know are going to be able to play,” Coach White said. “At the same time, he was involved in meetings… But it was hard to get him reps over with us just because you didn’t know if he was going to be able to play. Reps are so valuable during the week, so he got mainly scout team.”
Kentucky’s head coach agrees.
“For him to be totally new in our system takes some time,” Mark Stoops said last month. “You’ve heard me say a bunch of times about that position: it’s definitely a different position. There’re a lot of nuances to playing outside linebacker and standing up on your feet. It’ll take some time.”
Although Peters at full strength could be a huge plus for Kentucky over the Gators this weekend, take a breath and remember Peters is now officially eligible to play four full years in Lexington. There are plenty of ways he’ll contribute to the Wildcats’ defense, but for Peters himself, it’s just a sigh of relief to finally be near his son.
As happy as Daniel is to see Peters at practice, he seemed just as excited for the chance to finally see him playing in a real game.
“He looked great in practice today,” Daniel said. “You could definitely tell he was a little more excited than other days, just because he’s been sitting there playing the “what if?” game. When he finally got that call and finally got cleared, I can’t imagine the weight lifted off his shoulders.”
Coach White agreed.
“He had a good first day. Obviously he had a lot of energy; he was excited to be cleared. We’ll see how it progresses,” White said. “Again, when you find out mid-week, you’ve got some work to do just to get caught up. But we’ll put him in situations that are fair to him.”