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Neloms’ transition will spark a lot of changes on Kentucky’s defense

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One of the big stories from last week’s media day was safety Martavius Neloms’ move back to cornerback after Marcus Caffey was ruled ineligible for the season. Neloms, who was recruited as a cornerback and played the position his first two years at Kentucky, is the most natural player on the team to make this transition. But, after a full year and offseason at safety, Neloms will have to quickly relearn the position — something that isn’t going to be easy.

Glass half-full: Neloms’ natural position is cornerback. He was a first-team All-American in high school and led the state of Tennessee with eight interceptions and two interceptions returned for touchdowns during his senior campaign. As a sophomore, he began to make his presence felt in Kentucky’s defensive backfield. He led the secondary in tackles for loss and was fifth on the entire team in tackles. His seamless switch from corner to safety showed that he has remarkable football instincts and that he can be a playmaker no matter the position.

Neloms is leaving a position with tremendous depth. Besides quarterback, running back, and defensive end, safety is the deepest position on the roster. Neloms’ backup and prize recruit of the 2011 class, Glenn Faulkner, could be one of the players ready to step in a fill the void left by Neloms. Faulkner was ranked as the number one overall player in the state of Illinois (Rivals) and should be ready to play a bigger role in his second year. In addition to Faulker, there’s freshman Josh Harris, sophomore Ashley Lowery and junior college transfer, Kory Brown. Brown is listed on the depth chart at the hybrid linebacker position, but his game film shows he has great instincts as a safety. He is a hard-hitting player who could thrive in that single-high safety role in Kentucky’s defense.

A smooth transition back to corner by Neloms could be a blessing in disguise for the defense. Going into this season the position is seen as the Achilles heel of this group. If Neloms can steady the ship the entire group has a chance to be much more effective.

Glass half-empty: When Rick Minter changed Kentucky’s defensive scheme he knew that Neloms would be a great fit at safety because of his size and aggressiveness. Neloms responded to the challenge by thriving in his new position. Now, with less than a month before a game against in-state rival, Louisville, Neloms has to change everything he’s been doing for the last year.The biggest change will be having to cover wide receivers, but he’ll also have to adjust on the angle of where the football is coming from. Besides those things, the scheme has changed since the last time that he played the position. Neloms played as a cover-2 cornerback where there was usually a safety over the top of both sides of the defense to guard big plays from the offense. Neloms will rarely have that luxury in Minter’s scheme with offenses deciding to spread defenses out more. He might find himself on an island with a receiver from time to time — a huge change from safety.

How it plays outMinter, as you can see by the success of Kentucky’s defense had in a transition year, is an outstanding defensive coordinator. He’s an expert at catering to his player’s strengths and I don’t think he would move Neloms to a position he wouldn’t be able to play. There’s no doubt there will be some struggles for Neloms coming out of the gate, but the rest of the unit will just have to make up for it until he settles in. It should be interesting to see how offenses decide to attack them and how Neloms responds to being the focus. For Neloms, I’m sure he wasn’t expecting a switch back to his former position but he should remember that  NFL scouts love versatility just ask Winston Guy Jr. An effective transition could help his draft stock as he gears up for one last year in the blue and white.

Article written by Rashawn Franklin

12 Comments for Neloms’ transition will spark a lot of changes on Kentucky’s defense

  1. Bob Sugar
    8:26 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Oh thank goodness I was under the impression we were going to watch the same sorry defense we’ve seen the last 2 years. You know the one that lets other teams do pretty much whatever they want then might just give up a field goal instead of a touchdown. These players will continue their defensive holding and their third and forever let downs just like always.

  2. JBR
    8:32 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    If he had never played corner before, this would be an issue. But since almost all of his career has been at that position, moving back should not be a big deal with regards to having to “re-learn” anything. If it is, then the problem is not the move, but the player.

  3. STEVE!
    8:50 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    I guess I wasn’t paying attention last year. I didn’t see the success of our defense, giving up 35 points per game in the 7 losses.

  4. SouthBeachWildcat
    9:10 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    1st team all-american in high school? I call 100% BS on that one.

  5. fo'real?
    9:10 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Ohhhh gawd… another football post. I just hope that ksr is honest in its “reporting” when the season starts going to hell. We all know its coming. Even the “true fans” that loooooooove Joker know this season is gonna be ugly. Just hope none of the kids get hurt or lose a year of eligibility while Joker is doing anything to save his job.

    Board of Directors, DO YOUR JOB (oh and, get us a real coach this time).

  6. KYCat04
    9:32 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    2) He got burned constantly. The WR’s got behind him on a regular basis. He is horrid. He will likely get lit up by uofl’s receivers in game one. Count on it.

  7. big tim
    9:34 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    3 and thats because the offense couldnt move the ball and the defense was on the feild most of the time

  8. Matt.
    10:22 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    Fight on cats, fight on. Joker you’re a premature head coach who lost one of the premiere recruiters in the college football landscape, please redshirt Towles so he has no offense to learn then forget. You did what you could so enjoy this season and your big pay off from UK we’ll all pay for it through tickets and murch. Already looking forward to UK Football in 2014.

  9. mores
    11:04 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    #2 You must be thinking of someone else because that’s simply not true. Neloms played a lot of minutes as a freshmen, was our best corner when he was a sophomore & would’ve been our best last year. He’s a bit of a tweener, as he’s really a safety in a CB’s body (natural hitter), but he’ll still be our best corner this year. If the defense is sharp enough to rotate properly he will likely be used in some CB blitz packages.

  10. mores
    11:04 pm August 6, 2012 Permalink

    My bad, that last post was meant for #6.

  11. Ron
    1:26 am August 7, 2012 Permalink

    Morgan Newton’s comments about Louisville were just dumb. Just look at this video.

  12. putinrichie
    5:41 am August 7, 2012 Permalink

    3 – The main reason we gave up that many points was because our offense couldn’t move the ball and our defense was on the field the whole game. I’m not saying our defense was great, but of the two units our defense was much better than our offense. If we could actually move the ball and make other teams go the length of the field for a score than maybe our defense wouldn’t look quite as bad as it did.