Part seven in an eight part series previewing the 2006 Kentucky Football Wildcats.
Ready for Brohm and Company?
It was the close of the 2005 season. Kentucky fans silently filed out of Commonwealth Stadium on a cloudy November afternoon carrying that all too familiar disappointed feeling back to their tailgates after watching their neighbors from the south, the Tennessee Vols, hand the Cats another in a long line of defeats. As the fans made it back to their cars, warmed themselves with their car heaters and/or the remaining contents of their Maker’s Mark bottles, the disappointment began to fade. This was not merely a result of the contents of the Maker’s bottle, but instead, a realistic hope for the future. Kentucky’s 2005 season represented a near completion of the penance imposed on the program by the NCAA for infractions committed by the Hal Mumme regime. The 2006 edition would welcome back a great number of promising young players who had been forced into game action, as well as a smattering of veterans to hold it all together. And, on that November day, no position embodied this optimism like the cornerback position. Bo Smith, arguably Kentucky’s best defensive player, and best cover corner in a decade, would return to the field in 2006 for his senior season. Freshman burner David Jones, who struggled somewhat in 2005 with the adjustment to the position, but possessed all the speed and toughness of Smith, would almost certainly make strides in the offseason, and hold down the other corner spot for years to come. Then came an offseason. Flash forward nine months, and Bo Smith has been booted from the roster while David Jones will attempt to catch passes thrown by either Andre Woodson or Curtis Pulley rather than Brian Brohm on September 3rd. If we could go back in time and inform our November Cat fan about these events, and then ask him who would start at corner for the Cats in 2006, my best guess is that he would give you a contemplative look, shrug his shoulders, and check his Maker’s bottle one last time.
In some ways, with the secretive nature of this camp, we are as much in the dark as our friend the November fan. (Only possibly more sober.) However, the best guess is that Kentucky will start former walk on Karl Booker at one corner and redshirt freshman Trevard Lindley at the other. Despite his prior walk on status, Booker is a veteran who has played fairly extensively over the last two years at corner in 2004 and safety in 2005. Lindley, on the other hand, is a freshman that 95% of Wildcat fans could not pick out of a lineup. Nonetheless, coaches consider him the best cover corner going for the Cats, and he will be on the field when Brian Brohm takes his first snap at the Pizza Palace. Safety is in more experienced hands with Roger Williams, who started most of 2005 and Marcus McClinton, who started most of 2004.
Karl Booker, 6-1, 190 Sr., Chesapeake, W.V. (Riverside)
Booker began his career as a walk on wide receiver. After a move to corner, continual ability to make plays on the ball opened eyes of coaches, and got Booker on the field for meaningful time. Has played in 22 career games as a corner and safety, with 1 start. Knack for getting to the ball apparent with 2 career picks and 5 pass break ups. Good size and ability to make plays on the ball, but lacks blockbuster speed.
Trevard Lindley, 6-0, 175 RSFr, Hiram, Ga. (Hiram)
Signed with Cats in 2004, but delayed enrollment until January of 2005 as he rehabbed high school knee injury. Redshirted in 2005 to continue to get healthier and stronger. Breakout Spring Practice in 2006 had coaches calling Lindley Cats best cover corner. Question remains whether Lindley can be equally solid against high level receivers when the lights come on in the regular season.
Shomari Moore, 5-9, 190 So., Camden, NJ (Camden)
Along with Booker, only corner with significant game action. Played in all 11 games as a redshirt freshman in 2005, earning 2 starts. Made 24 tackles, while intercepting one pass (game clincher in Idaho State game) and breaking up 3 passes. Named Freshman All SEC by coaches. Physical corner with good speed, but small stature. Buzz from camp is that he is battling a pair of freshman corners to stay in the rotation.
Jarrell Williams, 5-11, 180 So., Cincinnati, Oh. (Princeton)
Redshirted in 2004 after standout high school career at Princeton playing a multitude of offensive and defensive positions. Played in 5 games in 2005 as he battled injury issues. Now one of the more veteran corners, will be counted in to provide depth in 2006.
E.J. Adams, 6-0, 194 Fr., Snellville, Ga. (N. Gwinnett)
Signed in 2005, but delayed enrollment until January of 2006. May have lost opportunity to earn starting nod when he missed the Spring to rehab a shoulder injury. Will still likely play in 2006 a true freshman. May be UK’s most explosive athlete at corner with reported 4.4 forty and 41 inch vertical leap.
Paul Warford, 5-11, 195 Fr., Richmond, Ky. (Madison Central)
True freshman has impressed coaches in the Spring with his athleticism. Great speed as evidenced by 4.4 forty. Senior season at Madison Central saw Warford rush for 1255 yards on just 106 carries. (Amazing 11.8 yards per carry.) Most considered Warford a likely redshirt candidate prior to the start of practice. Now may well play.
Jordan Nevels, 5-10, 175 RSFr., Ft. Thomas, Ky. (Highlands)
Former first team All State as a Ft. Thomas Bluebird. Known primarily as a hitter. Has not cracked the rotation at this point due in part to game fitting safety position, but body of a corner. Could be valuable contributor on special teams.
Ahmad Grigsby, Jr., 6-0, 195 Jr./JC, Long Beach, Ca. (El Camino J.C.)
UK’s biggest fall injury hit Grigsby as he is out indefinitely with broken wrist. Ability to heal quickly combined with success of corners in early games will determine whether or not Grigsby plays in 2006 or redshirts. Sophomore season at El Camino saw Grigsby make 44 tackles, with 3 pass break ups and one pick.
Marcus McClinton, 6-1, 210 So., Ft. Campbell, Ky. (Ft. Campbell)
Suffered horrific knee injury in second game of 2005. Rehabbed sufficiently to see non-contact action in the Spring, and has been full go in fall camp. Has played in 13 career games with 5 starts. Career totals include 34 tackles, 1 pass break up, and 1 pick. Physical player who should be solid in run support. Questions remain regarding his coverage ability.
Dallas Greer, 6-1, 195 Jr., Pineville, Ky. (Bell County)
Hard luck player who has played in just 3 games during his first 3 years at UK. First career opportunity to see significant action came early in 2005 with injury to Marcus McClinton. Opportunity was spoiled when Greer broke his leg in Bloomington verses I.U. Now healed, this hard working player will battle for backup free safety with true freshman Calvin Harrison.
Calvin Harrison, 6-1, 190 Fr., Columbia, S.C. (Richland N.E.)
Recorded 85 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 pick, 10 pass break ups and 3 forced fumbles as a high school senior. Will likely play as a true freshman due to limited depth at free safety.
Roger Williams, 6-0, 210 Jr., Rockmart, Ga. (Rockmart)
Started 9 games after injury to Marcus McClinton forced Williams into the action. Recoded 69 tackles on the season and was named most improved player by the coaches. Has played in 22 career games with 85 total tackles to go along with 1 sack and 1 pick. Like McClinton, Williams is a physical hitter, but has not yet proven his coverage ability.
Michael Schwindel, 6-2, 210 RSFr., Hawesville, Ky. (Hancock County)
Rangy safety prospect recorded an impressive 22 interceptions in his high school career. Coaches knew about his ability to attack the ball while in flight, but were pleasantly surprised at his tackling ability in the Spring. Will play significant minutes in 2006, possibly as a pass defense specialist.
Ashton Cobb, 6-0, 205 Fr., Aliquippa, Pa.(Center)
True freshman who has earned more positive comments form the coaches than any other freshman this fall camp. Big hitter who has also demonstrated good ball skills as evidenced by his 2 picks in the fan day scrimmage. First team All State as a senior at Center High School in Pennsylvania. Will almost certainly see time at one of the safety spots in 2006.
The inexperience at corner is undoubtedly UK’s biggest question mark in 2006. However, the past has shown that young players can succeed at corner for the Cats. (Van Hiles, Willie Gary and Bo Smith to name a few.) The good news is that there are a number of talented candidates from which to choose. Also, it is probably a good sign that the coaches felt comfortable enough with the position to make a fall move of David Jones, the second most experienced corner on the roster, to receiver. Look for Booker and Lindley to start game one, but as the season goes on, it is entirely possible that a true freshman, either E.J. Adams or Paul Warford, uses their impressive athleticism to earn the starting nod alongside Lindley. Williams and McClinton are solid, if not spectacular, at the safety spot. Depth is somewhat a concern, however, as redshirt freshman Michael Schwindel, along with true freshmen Ashton Cobb and Calvin Harrison will provide the primary backup minutes.