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2008 Football Preview: The Secondary

Part seven in an eight part series previewing the 2008 Kentucky Football Wildcats.

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Marcus Believes

It is an image that has been witnessed all too often by Kentucky fans in the haunted history of Commonwealth Stadium. A quarterback from an elite opponent drops back in the pocket, patiently scans the field, and unleashes a bomb. The ball hangs in the air for what feels like an eternity, and then lands comfortably into the hands on an NFL wide receiver, making a two to three year stop-off in Gainesville, Knoxville or Baton Rouge. All the while, a blue clad defensive back chases the receiver futilely, in a manner that is almost entirely insignificant to the play. Like many corners before him, he has been burned. It is the ultimate example of being “out-athleted.” The player has done nothing wrong other than being the best athlete on a poor team, and being forced to cover a future pro. Fortunately, this phenomenon has taken a hiatus from the Bluegrass with the emergence of cornerback Trevard Lindley.

Lindley possesses all of the tools necessary to be a complete cornerback. At the major division one level, nearly everyone has speed. However, not everyone combines speed with instinct to make plays on the ball. Lindley does. He also has a knack for coming through in big spots. In fact, one could argue that he has been as instrumental as any of Kentucky’s better known offensive stars in the recent turnaround of the Kentucky program. Now, with more surrounding talent than ever, the only thing that may prevent Lindley from having a monster junior season is opposing team’s unwillingness to test him.

Cornerback:

Trevard Lindley 6-0, 175 Jr. Hiram, GA (Hiram)

Outstanding overall corner has started every game of his first two years in Lexington, accumulating 5 interceptions and 23 pass break-ups. In additional to spectacular cover skills, Lindley is also strong against the run as evidenced by the fact that his 66 tackles were second only to Wesley Woodyard in 2007. Was named a Freshman All American by multiple services in 2006, and All S.E.C by at least some publications in 2007. Has a knack for making plays at crucial moments in games. (Endzone interception in ’06 Music City Bowl, interception clinching victory over Georgia, interception of Brian Brohm’s first pass in 2007 Louisville victory, fumble recovery and 66 yard touchdown run against Arkansas, interception to set up tying field goal in the closing moments of ’07 Tennessee game.)

David Jones 5-10, 185 Sr. Red Jacket, W.V (Belfry)

No one was more impacted by the unavailability of Paul Warford that David Jones, who will take over Warford’s starting spot opposite Trevard Lindley. Jones is an outstanding athlete who has had difficulty finding a permanent home as he has moved back and forth between corner and wide receiver throughout his career. Has played a total of 34 games as a Wildcat, recording 43 tackles. Certainly has the physical tools to be an outstanding corner, with 4.4 speed and nice size to hold up receivers at the line of scrimmage. Will be tested as offenses throw away from the more decorated Lindley.

Shomari Moore 5-9, 185 Sr. Camden, N.J. (Camden)

Moore provides the Cats the luxury of a very experienced player who can play a multitude of positions. He will likely be on the field whenever the Cats add an extra defensive back in passing situations, and can play safety if needed. Has played in 36 career games, starting 8. Has nice ability to make plays on the ball as seen by his 3 career interceptions. Physical player despite his short stature.

Robbie McAtee 5-10, 175 Sr. Louisville (Seneca)

Walk-on who has to this point held off several talented scholarship corners to lay claim to the fourth corner spot. Came to Kentucky as a walk-on wide receiver after transferring from Division III Franklin College. Saw first action last season, playing in 6 games, recording 11 tackles and a pass break up.

Other corners who may see action include redshirt freshman Randall Burden, senior Ahmad Grigsby, and true freshman Cartier Rice.

Strong Safety:

Ashton Cobb 6-0, 208 Jr. Aliquippa, PA (Center)

Has played in all 26 games of his freshman and sophomore seasons at Kentucky, starting three. His 42 tackles in 2007 were the most among Kentucky safeties. Known as a big hitter, Cobb also displayed his coverage skills in 2007 with 2 interceptions. Started both the LSU and Florida games for an injured Marcus McClinton last season.

Matt Lentz 6-3, 209 RS-Fr Simpsonville, S.C. (Greenville)

Came to Kentucky in 2007 as a highly regarded quarterback prospect. Failure to ascend the quarterback depth chart during redshirt year led to move to defense in the spring. Took to defensive back immediately, making numerous plays in drills and scrimmages, and even intercepting a pass in the Spring Game. Ideal build for a strong safety, possesses long reach and good strength. Likely to contribute on special teams and as a backup in 2008.

Free Safety:

Marcus McClinton 6-1, 210 Sr. Ft. Campbell (Ft. Campbell)

Has started at safety at Kentucky for most of the last three years (34 games played, 25 starts). Missed a significant portion of time in 2007 due to injury, but still managed 32 tackles and 1 pick. Had an extremely productive sophomore year, totaling 65 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 5 forced fumbles. Inspirational leader of the defensive backfield and originator of the “We Believe” Kentucky football theme.

Calvin Harrison 6-1, 197 Jr. Columbia, S.C. (Richland Northeast)

Veteran backup has played in 23 games over first two years, starting 4. Provides versatility in that he has played both safety positions. Harrison has recorded 48 tackles and an interception in his UK career.

Other safeties that may see the field in 2008 include redshirt freshmen Taiedo Smith and Greg Wilson. True freshman Winston Guy is a player who would likely have seen the field immediately in the recent past, but Kentucky’s current depth should allow the speedy Lexington Catholic freshman to redshirt in 2008.

Outlook:

More and more in 2007, teams avoided Trevard Lindley’s side of the field. This is a significant advantage for Kentucky’s defense as the Cats can dictate which direction they want offenses to go, and can provide help in that area. Kentucky’s safeties are big and experienced, and they all like to hit. The Cats are deep in the secondary, as they can essentially go three deep at each position without using any first year players. In terms of negatives, it would have been nice to have Paul Warford back at corner, as he started essentially every game opposite Lindley in 2007. However, the coaches believe David Jones is primed for a big season. All in all, the secondary appears to be one of the strengths of the team.

Article written by Duncan Cavanah