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Analyzing Kentucky’s 2020 Tackles for Loss

Today’s installment of analyzing Kentucky’s defensive havoc statistics from the 2020 season features the tackle for loss category. UK produced 54 tackles behind the line of scrimmage during its abbreviated eleven game schedule. That number reflects an average of 4.9 TFL’s per contest. For comparison purposes, the Cats accumulated 74 TFL’s in 2019 or 5.69 per contest. 2020’s production was down in both average and total, but the comprehensive result was the same. Kentucky finished the 2019 and 2020 season with the SEC’s fourth ranked total defense. Let’s take a deeper dive shall we?

Linebackers-30.5

Kentucky’s linebackers are productive by nature in Mark Stoops’ 3-4 scheme. The position group paced the Wildcats in tackles for loss last season. Led by Boogie Watson’s 10, fellow backers significantly contributed in this stat line. Watson is now a Pittsburgh Steeler. Jamin Davis calls Washington home. However, outside linebackers Jordan Wright and JJ Weaver are back and should lead the Cats in this column in 2021. The addition of Ole Miss transfer Jacquez Jones at the Mike and the senior development of DeAndre Square should see UK’s linebacker sustain its prowess in this category.

• Boogie Watson-10
• JJ Weaver-6.5
• Jordan Wright-5.5
• Jamin Davis-4
• DeAndre Square 2.5
• Jared Casey-2

Safety/Nickel-5

All SEC safety Yusuf Corker paced this position group with 2.5 tackles for loss in 2020. Davonte Robinson added 2 and Vito Tisdale produced .5. The Wildcat’s third level is projected to be a team strength in 2021. So, this number should increase. Safeties Yusuf Corker and Tyrell Ajian are active against the run. Same can be said about super-senior Davonte Robinson. An increase in this total is predictable.

• Yusuf Corker-2.5
• Davonte Robinson-2
• Vito Tisdale-.5

Cornerbacks-2.5

Both starting cornerbacks from the 2020 season were selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. Brandin Echols was effective in run defense for his two seasons in Lexington. The New York Jet totaled 2 tackles for loss last season. Dallas Cowboy Kelvin Joseph registered .5. Stoops’ defense counts on cornerbacks to be forceful against the run. The Cats will field two, somewhat new starters in 2021. But, establish standards of physicality from this position will not change.

Defensive Line-16

Defensive end Josh Paschal has produced 21.5 tackles for loss during his career as a Wildcat. Paschal led the defensive line in 2020 after registering 6.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Phil Hoskins is now a Carolina Panther. He chipped in 4. He was followed by Dallas Cowboy Quinton Bohanna’s 2. Projected starting nose tackle Marquan McCall added 1. Fellow NT Justin Rogers had 1 and outgoing Temple transfer Que Mahone registered 1.5.

Paschal was often described as dynamic and forceful during spring practice. Coach Anwar Stewart will need the veteran defensive end to sustain and even increase his production in this stat line. Nose tackles Marquan McCall and Justin Rogers are explosive defenders that are capable of increasing output.

• Josh Paschal -6.5
• Phil Hoskins-4
• Quinton Bohanna-2
• Que Mahone-1.5
• Marquan McCall-1
• Justin Rogers-1

What Does All This Mean?

42% of Kentucky players that produced tackles for loss in 2020 are no longer on the roster. Outside linebackers Jordan Wright (5.5) and JJ Weaver (6.5) return to lead the Cats in the havoc department. I would also project the Safety/Nickel personnel to increase its total from 5 to 10+ given coordinator Brad White’s capability to deploy sub-packages which feature additional secondary defenders in base-calls.

Tackles for loss is a unique statistical category. Opponents are trending more toward the forward pass and are less likely to run the football. So, opportunities will lessen as this trend is evolving into the norm in the Southeastern Conference.

Hurry up football season.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President