Kentucky’s current cornerback situation is bad. It’s real bad. The loss of JD Harmon is devastating, and if Nate Willis joins him on the academically ineligible list this week, we’re in for a catastrophic season defending the pass. You can almost smell the burnt toast already.
Entering the upcoming 2013 season, UK’s cornerbacks have a combined 52 tackles, seven pass breakups and zero interceptions in their UK careers, all coming from sophomores Fred Tiller and Cody Quinn, the two projected starters entering fall camp. Behind Tiller and Quinn, only Eric Simmons has played in a single game at the University of Kentucky. He played in one game last season, at Missouri.
Up next on the depth chart you’ll find Jerry Williams, a walk-on wide receiver from Henry Clay who moved to corner in the spring of 2012. Then you’re looking at unranked JUCO transfer Cantrell McKinley and redshirt freshman Cody Lewis, both came to Lexington as safeties and moved to corner during spring camp. Another JUCO transfer, R.J. Williams, recorded 10 tackles and two pass breakups at Alfred State Community College in 2010, while redshirt freshman Rodney Cox from DuPont Manual has seen action on Kentucky’s scout team. That’s not a lot of proven talent from UK’s reserves, to say the least.
Much of the load at corner will fall on the young shoulders of incoming freshman Jaleel Hytchye, a top 50 cornerback in the 2013 recruiting class. He and fellow freshman Blake McClain will be called on early to back up Tiller and Quinn, especially if Willis is a no-go. Don’t be surprised if Hytchye finds himself starting early in the season, either. If he can pick up the system and the speed of the college level quickly, he could nudge one of the sophomores out of the way for a starting role.
With all that being said, let’s keep our fingers crossed that Willis is cleared to play. We will likely know by the end of the week now that he finished up his coursework and is awaiting his final grades. Remember, Willis said he wants to be a one-and-done player at Kentucky when he committed back in January. His goals and expectations for himself are high, obviously, and he has the talent to not only compete, but potentially be a star at this level. It’s just a matter of getting him here to prove it.