The Blue/White game will give the public the first chance at seeing how next year’s team will shake out. The majority of the attention will be focused on which Quarterback performs best in the new Air Raid while under the spotlight. While the QB position is important, there are tons of eager players chomping at the bit to prove themselves. Here are some players that you may not be familiar with that could make a big impact on Saturday.
#5 Ashley Lowery FS- Lowery is the only veteran in a very young secondary unit, and is probably only one with a secured starting job. After experiencing some playing time as a Freshman, Lowery started every game that he wasn’t hurt last year (he missed 4). Lowery actually finished with the 5th most tackles last year. In the fall the secondary will have to rely on his athleticism to contain the deep ball, but his work against Neal Brown may be even more difficult Saturday.
#22 Khalid Henderson OLB- Khalid reminds me of a great UK linebacker that he shares numbers with, Danny Trevathan. He probably won’t have a career like Danny (because no one at UK has ever had one like that), but Khalid’s skill set is too similar to not drop the comparison. Like Trevathan and Avery Williamson, Khalid saw a lot of snaps early in his career, rotating in at OLB during his freshman campaign. He has impressed the new coaching staff from Day 1, proving that him and Avery will make a nice dynamic duo at linebacker. You’ll see Khalid’s dreads make many plays Saturday, but the big question at linebacker is who will step up to fill the third spot?
#41 TreVaughn Paschal OLB/DE- Paschal is in the running for turning the Williamson/Henderson dynamic duo into a terrific trio. He has very little game experience but his talents have excelled in the new system, receiving high praises from both D.J. Eliot and Mark Stoops. He will have plenty of chances to impress the coaches even further Saturday, with Miles Simpson likely out with an injury. If Paschal can show Saturday that he has the ability to drop back in coverage, the Prep School teammate of Donte Rumph may find himself racking up a ton of minutes in the fall.
DT Rumph’s replacement- Even though Rumph should be 100% in the fall, it helps to have depth in your strongest defensive unit. On Saturday Tristian Johnson (#51) and Mike Douglas (#50) will attempt to fill the large gap Rumph left. Douglas used his talents for the majority of his career as a special teams player. After gaining some bulk in the offseason, Coach Brumbaugh has high praises for his ability to use his hands, even though that is often a difficult task for interior linemen. Johnson is a veteran player that has fought his way onto the field, earning a permanent starting job last season after filling in for an injured Mister Cobble. Johnson has been a consistent leader of the group, despite being away from the limelight. Saturday he has his chance to once again fight for a spot on the field.
#6 AJ Legree WR- The lack of playmaking Wide Receivers has been the biggest complaint to arise from Spring Practice. The young Legree has the intangibles to become a household name; all that’s left is to prove it on the field Saturday. Here’s what Neal Brown had to say about him:
“There’s not a kid on our team that’s out-working him, no question about it. A lot of his game is mental; he has to believe that he is a good player. He’s a kid that we would’ve recruited no question about it. He can run well, he’s strong, he sticks his foot in the ground, and he made some good plays in the scrimmage. It’s not about big plays, he just has to stack some routine plays back-to-back and he’ll get there.”
Tight Ends (Shields #80, Borden #85, Robinson #89, Aumiller #86)- The ‘Curious Case of the Tight End’ should be solved Saturday night. A position that has been experimented with often during practice, there are many questions about where they will lineup, and who will be on the field. The previous system failed to utilize the big bodies, but these coaches are looking to put them everywhere: from the traditional spot on the end of line, to slot receiver, to H-back in the backfield. The “who?” question is even tougher to answer. I favor the experienced and improved Tyler Robinson, but Steven Borden’s athleticism cannot be discounted. For a much more detailed breakdown of the tight ends, check out my post from yesterday.
#29 Austin Sheehan WR- Sheehan was Patrick Towles go-to receiver at Highlands High School before joining the team last fall as a walk-on. Sheehan doesn’t exactly have the size of an SEC receiver at only 5 ft 9 inches tall, but he makes up for it with excellent route running ability and a quick first step. His work ethic has given him the opportunity to shine in Spring ball, with Neal Brown naming him as one of the top performers from last Saturday’s scrimmage.