Part five in an eight part series previewing the 2008 Kentucky Football Wildcats.
The New York Giants provided the blueprint. Facing the seemingly untouchable Patriots, the Giants appeared for all the world to be just an insignificant speed bump on New England’s road to immortality. Apparently, no one told the Giants’ defensive line. Using power up the middle and speed from the edges, the Giants disrupted the Patriots’ juggernaut offense and punished Tom Brady to the point of ineffectiveness. Of course, Eli Manning was the national story, but the Super Bowl was won by the front four of the Giant defense. With an offense that is likely to take a step backwards in 2008, if Kentucky plans to continue its upward trend in the SEC, its defensive line must display a similar level of dominance. Fortunately, for the first time in recent memory, the Cats appear to have the players necessary to make a Giant-esque impact.
Jeremy Jarmon is a beast. Kentucky has had defensive ends in the past that were able to make plays in the backfield. The Cats have also had ends that could stand stout against the run. They have not had a player like Jarmon, equally stellar at both, in years. At the other end of the line, Ventrell Jenkins should benefit from the attention Jarmon will undoubtedly garner by seeing one on one blocking on virtually every snap. Nii Adjei Oninku, who returns after missing last season with a knee injury, and big, athletic true freshman Chandler Burden, provide depth at the end position. On the inside, tackles Myron Pryor and Corey Peters are rocks. Both have size and experience, and together should form one of the top tackle tandems in school history so long as they can remain healthy. Kentucky received a huge lift with the return of Ricky Lumpkin following a major hip injury in 2007. Lumpkin provides a big, explosive tackle to create a nice three man rotation along the interior.
Myron Pryor 6-1, 310 Sr. Louisville (Eastern)
Kentucky’s most experienced tackle, Pryor has played in 35 games over the last 3 years, starting 23. Labored through much of last season with nagging injuries. Looked to be on the verge of stardom after sophomore season which saw him record 6.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks, but regressed in 2007 with just .5 tackles for loss and no sacks. Looks to return to prior form now that he is totally healthy.
Corey Peters 6-3, 290 Jr. Louisville (Central)
Along with Pryor, Kentucky’s anchor in the middle. Has played in 24 games during first two seasons in Lexington, compiling 61 tackles and 3.5 sacks. Was Kentucky’s most productive tackle in 2007, totaling 43 tackles and 4 tackles for loss. SEC Academic Honor Roll in 2007.
Ricky Lumpkin 6-4, 289 So. Clarksville, TN (Kenwood)
Promising freshman season marred by bizarre hip injury which cost Lumpkin 6 games. Still, in limited time, managed 18 tackles and a sack. Lumpkin underwent a very invasive surgical procedure in the off-season to remove calcium deposits from that injured hip. Coaches were unsure if and when Lumpkin would play again, but it now appears that he is close to 100%. His presence gives Kentucky the luxury of a solid three man rotation with the requisite size, athleticism and experience to succeed at the SEC level.
Shane McCord 6-2, 271 So. Hartwell, GA. (Hart County)
Thrown into the fire as a true freshman to provide needed depth along the defensive line. Played in five games, recording two tackles. Should be much better equipped to provide meaningful minutes at the position after an off-season of strength and weight gain.
Providing additional depth at the position are redshirt freshmen Antwane Glenn and Charles Mustafa and sophomore Josh Minton, who can play either tackle or end.
Jeremy Jarmon 6-3, 277 Jr. Collierville, TN (Houston)
After promising freshman year, Jarmon exploded onto the scene as a sophomore, recording 62 tackles, including 13.5 for a loss and 9 sacks. Named first team all SEC by Rivals.com and second team by the league’s coaches. Rare combination of size and quickness allows Jarmon to consistently pressure the passer while holding up against the run. Enjoy him while you can, as a similar season in 2008 may lead to an early exit and big NFL payday for Jarmon.
Ventrell Jenkins 6-2, 285 Sr. Columbia, S.C (Columbia)
Veteran player who has appeared in 33 career games, but who is now getting first opportunity to start consistently. Has compiled 59 career tackles, including 7 sacks, all from the defensive tackle position. Transition to defensive end gives the Cats tremendous size along the entire defensive front. Could also provide snaps at defensive tackle if the need arises.
Nii Adjei Oninku 6-1, 254 Sr. Dayton, OH (Northmont)
Oninku’s return from injury provides an enormous lift to Cats as a third experienced defensive end. Has played in 23 career games with ten starts. Appears to be fully recovered from injury. Will get significant number of snaps if that is the case.
Chandler Burden 6-5, 290 Fr.- H.S. Oxford, OH (LaSalle)
One of the most talked about freshmen by the Wildcat coaching staff this fall, Burden will see time at defensive end starting this Sunday. Possesses outstanding size and strength for a defensive end, with deceptive speed. Still very raw, but too talented for the coaches to keep off of the field.
Austin Moss and Chris Goode will provide additional depth. Also, linebackers Johnny Williams and Mikhail Mabry could see time at defensive end in obvious passing situations.
Along with running back, the defensive line is the strongest position on the Kentucky roster. Jeremy Jarmon is a future NFL defensive end, and both Pryor and Peters have all conference potential. The entire line has excellent size and significantly more depth than at any other time in the Brooks era. The primary concern is finding a second pass rusher to compliment Jarmon. Aside from that, the Cats must simply transform the preseason accolades to actual on the field success.