This Saturday Kentucky Sports Radio will be highlighting the most underrated players from the 21st century. These athletes were great on the gridiron, but the company they kept often left them overlooked.
5. Winston Guy
Like many of the players on this list, Winston Guy was always playing second fiddle. While Danny Trevathan led the SEC in tackles in consecutive seasons, Guy was right behind him.
The Lexington Catholic product played the “monster” position for Rick Minter’s defense, a spot that allowed the incredible athlete to make plays from the secondary or wreck havoc from the line of scrimmage. Before he racked up crazy numbers, he set a freshman record for kick return yards, taking one 96 yards in a four-point heartbreaking loss to Georgia.
In 2010 Guy recorded 106 tackles (four for loss) and three interceptions to help take Joker Phillips’ first team to a bowl game. He was still 40 tackles behind Trevathan. In his senior season, Guy increased that output to 120 tackles, 14 for loss, two picks and a forced fumble. He earned second team All-SEC honors, finished sixth in the league in tackles for loss and third in total tackles, once again, trailing Trevathan. We would look upon Winston Guy in a much different light if not for No. 22.
4. Jeremy Jarmon
Kentucky had an impressive front four on the defensive line in the late 00’s. Jarmon was the best of the best but he had two things working against his legacy — an abrupt early exit from college football for taking the wrong supplement and the lack of a signature play.
Myron Pryor will always be remembered for his scoop and score that silenced Louisville at Cardinal Stadium. Ventrelle Jenkins laid down the stiff arm heard around the world when he knocked out an East Carolina Pirate’s mouthpiece on the way to the end zone in the Liberty Bowl. Corey Peters has afforded the luxury of a lengthy NFL career.
Jarmon has stayed on the minds of BBN as a member of the UK Sports Network, but you probably forget just how stupid his stats were at Kentucky. A second team All-SEC selection during UK’s impressive 2007 campaign, he recorded 62 tackles as a defensive end on a team that had Wesley Woodyard, Micah Johnson and Braxton Kelly. Defensive linemen shouldn’t be producing those kind of numbers with linebackers of that caliber carrying the heaviest of loads.
He was at his best beyond the line of scrimmage. Double J was ranked in the top ten in the SEC in tackles for loss (14) and sacks (9) in 2007, the fourth-most in single-season UK history. He finished career ranked third on UK’s all-time sack list with 17.5, and that was only in three years of action. Of course, Bud Dupree and Josh Allen have since knocked him down the pecking order but one can only imagine what Jarmon would have accomplished if he was able to play his senior season.
3. Darius West
When you list the top playmaker’s on Kentucky’s 2018 defense, Josh Allen, Mike Edwards, Lonnie Johnson, Kash Daniel, Jordan Jones, Derrick Baity and Chris Westry might all get mentioned before you make it to Darius West.
D-West was a quiet killer for the Cats. Unlike most defensive backs, he didn’t need a ton of words for others to follow his lead. He carried a presence with him where ever he went and commanded respect from his peers.
Similar to Winston Guy, West was a tackling machine at safety. He had 85 tackles as a junior (third on the team) and 86 as a senior (second only to Allen). His three picks in 2018 were the most on the team and tied for fourth in the SEC.
Like Jarmon, “what could have been” is a thought the lingers when re-examining his career. West suffered multiple severe leg injuries, limiting the four-star recruit to only two seasons as a full-time starter. When he did return in 2017 it took him half a season to perfect his timing and pursuit angles as the deep safety on deep balls.
The only excruciating loss from 2018 might have been different if West wasn’t taken off the field by a targeting penalty in the first half at Neyland Stadium. UK trailed 10-0 when Marquez Calloway caught a prayer in the end zone to end the half, an insurmountable lead for the Cats’ sluggish offense. That play would not have happened if D-West was on the field. You’ll never convince me otherwise.
2. Garrett “Juice” Johnson
Twenty years from now when we think back on the Mark Stoops era, the talented running backs and defensive players will be thought of most fondly, similar to how nostalgia treats the Air Raid quarterbacks and wide receivers. In the midst of the “three yards and a cloud of dust” played one of the five best wide receivers in the history of the school.
Juice Johnson finished his Kentucky career ranked fifth all-time in receptions (155), ahead of Randall Cobb, and fourth in receiving yards (2,089) trailing only Craig Yeast, Keenan Burton and Derek Abney. In his debut at Florida he wrecked the Gators with a pair of impressive touchdowns and was on the receiving end of Stephen Johnson’s infamous “I love this sh*t” play to open the game at Louisville.
Luckily, Juice will not be forgotten thanks to excellent branding and a signature touchdown dance.
1. Artose Pinner
People forget that Kentucky had an SEC Offensive Player of the Year in the early 00’s that wasn’t an Air Raid quarterback. Before Benny Snell came to town, only Moe Williams could rival Pinner’s production in 2002. He finished with 1,414 yards (5 ypc.) and 13 touchdowns on the ground and caught two touchdowns for just under 300 receiving yards.
Instead of boos, “Toooooooooooose” chants filled Commonwealth Stadium as the workhorse from Hopkinsville powered his way ahead for first down after first down. While most folks remember the bombs Jared Lorenzen threw to Derek Abney, Tose kept defenses honest and the chains moving. Jared often told stories about Pinner’s incredible offseason workout program where he didn’t go anywhere without wearing 50 pounds of weights strapped to his chest and thighs.
Pinner will never receive the recognition he deserves because he played on the heels of the Air Raid era. He will always be an important SEC football trivia fact as the first person to ever win SEC Offensive Player of the Year.