Kentucky’s defense over the past number of seasons, say what you will, has been headlined by its outstanding Linebacking corps. Unfortunately for Rick Minter’s defense the two men who led the unit previously, Danny Trevathan and Winston Guy, have departed for a career in professional football. Unlike the past number of seasons where experience reigned supreme, this year’s version of Wildcat Linebackers are a group who is collectively inexperienced and thin. Despite that, there are several talented pieces to this puzzle which could allow for Minter’s defense to play well in early portions of the season. Avery Williamson and Alvin “Bud” Dupree both bring valuable experience to an otherwise youthful corps, and for Kentucky to be successful in September 2nd’s game these two must carry the weight while other Linebackers like Josh Forrest (Fr.) and Tyler Brause (So.) adjust to playing high level football in front of a hostile Cardinal crowd.
While Defensive Line is unquestionably the strength of Kentucky’s defense, there are many questions about the other units on that side of the ball. Perhaps the biggest question is how former All-American Danny Trevathan will be replaced? Going into the Governor’s Cup the most suitable replacement for Trevathan seems to be Avery Williamson (Jr.) who compiled 49 tackles in 2011 despite starting zero games. In addition to his impressive tackle total, he grabbed an interception and forced a fumble. While his totals were nothing near the totals of Trevathan, he never had the chance to put up better numbers due to whom was playing ahead of him. Even more encouraging, when Linebackers play more prominently in Rick Minter’s system an increased total of interceptions usually occurs. Ronnie Sneed and Danny Trevathan were two excellent examples of this; both played significant time pre-Minter, never logging an interception, but in 2011 the two linebackers combined for 6 total interceptions. I not only anticipate Williamson to log more interceptions this season, but I believe he and Kentucky’s other Linebackers will play aggressively, looking for picks against an interception prone Teddy Bridgewater.
As a true Freshman, Teddy Bridgewater threw a grand total of 12 interceptions and there were multiple instances where those picks hurt more than others. One instance was against Marshall where Bridgewater tossed a late pick deep in Louisville territory allowing The Herd to march down a shortened field, taking a late lead. The other instance of interceptions severley hurting Louisville would be the Belk Bowl vs. NC State where Bridgewater tossed three picks. Both games saw multiple Cardinal interceptions, and both games saw Cardinal defeat. In order for a Kentucky victory on Sunday, forcing Bridgewater to make quick (and incorrect) judgments about downfield coverage will be essential. If the Defensive Line can force pressure to Louisville’s front, allowing Kentucky’s Linebackers to drop back in coverage, an otherwise out-manned secondary would have extra aid in forcing game altering interceptions.
The name of September 2nd’s game for Kentucky’s defense will be pressure and interceptions, if that can be done a Wildcat victory is certainly possible. The scheme set up by Rick Minter for players like Avery Williamson and “Bud” Dupree has proven to cause this event in the past, but will those interceptions come Labor Day weekend or later in the season when players are more seasoned? Only time will tell.