161 starts. 853 tackles. 38 tackles for loss. 4.5 sacks. 24 interceptions. 79 pass break-ups. 8 forced fumbles. 3 blocked kicks.
That is what is leaving UK’s secondary room after 2018.
7 starts. 126 tackles. 3 tackles for loss. 2 interceptions. 11 pass break-ups.
That is what is returning to UK’s secondary room after 2018.
It was essential for UK, in the class of 2019, to address some needs at each defensive back sport in the defense ran by Mark Stoops and Matt House. Kentucky’s staff did just that.
Behind a solid recruiting effort that stretched everywhere from the junior college ranks, to Kentucky pipelines, and into a state the Wildcats have never recruited since Mark Stoops took over. The Cats now have the pieces to fill a good amount of the holes left behind by four senior starters and one senior reserve.
The Wildcats pulled in 22 new recruits in this new class and around 30 percent of those new players will be playing in the secondary. Mark Stoops will be coaching two junior college corners to go along with four freshmen who each have a chance to contribute very early in their careers.
After wrapping up 21 signatures in the early signing period, Kentucky’s focus was then shifted to a small pool of prospects. Among that group was a defensive back prospect who spurned some legit Power Five programs to continue his career in Lexington.
In the last couple weeks, MJ Devonshire has turned into a defensive back prospect for Kentucky almost out of thin air. The consensus top-500 recruit hails from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania and that is area UK has never really recruited with Mark Stoops despite it just being 50 miles from Youngstown. In the month of January, this versatile defensive back visited Pittsburgh, Ohio State, Kentucky, and Ole Miss. He appeared to turn into a primary target for Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi.
— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) January 30, 2019
After losing Mike Edwards and his 300-plus tackles to go along with his 10 career interceptions, it was essential for UK to find an answer at the slot corner spot. In 2019, Davonte Robinson will own the position but after that this is an integral position of the defense that could be up for grabs. This is where you’ll see Devonshire make an impact.
The undersized player is a bit of a tweener at the moment. He has the skill set to play either corner or safety, but that is not a bad thing. Devonshire fits the mold for what UK wants in its safety position because of his coverage ability. This will translate extremely well to the nickel spot. He will have the chance to breakthrough in UK’s sub packages sooner rather than later.
The Rest of the Class
Kentucky was fortunate enough to get four defensive back prospects enrolled for the spring. Taj Dodson, Moe Douglass, Brandin Echols, and Quandre Moseley are all on campus right now and will participate in spring ball. Dodson was a rangy safety from Georgia who appears to have the body type and skill set to fit the mold of UK’s boundary corners. Douglass was a blue-chip recruit out of Springfield, Ohio who could break into the rotation right away. Echols and Mosely will get the chance to becoming starting outside corners by the time Toledo comes to Kroger Field on Labor Day weekend.
After that, Kentucky is bringing in safety/nickel prospect Jalen Geiger this summer along with MJ Devonshire. There were a lot of needs for this group and it appears that Kentucky has checked nearly every box.
Moving forward, Kentucky should feel really good about the future of their secondary. This class had a nice blend of star power and experience that will allow UK to fill holes right away. In 2019, they will lean heavily on upperclassmen Jordan Griffin and Davonte Robinson but they will have capable bodies on the roster to easily fill out the two-deep.
It was another solid class that has its strengths and weaknesses. UK was unable to add an immediate impact player at wide receiver and I believe the staff would’ve loved to have gotten one more offensive tackle. However, this may go down as the best defensive haul of the Mark Stoops era even with the loss of Jay Ward. That’s no surprise considering the year Kentucky just had on the field.
The Wildcats were able to get two blue-chip front seven prospects out of the city of Louisville. Something that has historically been somewhat difficult for this program to do. They landed a big time defensive tackle prospect from Toledo. Finally, they loaded up on defensive back prospects to fill out their defense. In today’s football, nearly half of the players you play on defense will be in the secondary and it is essential to have depth and talent in the backend at all times. Kentucky assured that for itself with a strong close to the class of 2019.