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Compare and Contrast Part Two, the Defense

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Part two will focus on comparing and contrasting the 2013 and 2015 Kentucky defenses. Our offensive analysis of the same subject unveiled that the current edition has superior talent. Is today’s defense significantly more skilled than their 2013 equivalents? Below are the starting line-ups for the 13 and 15 openers (15 is projection). You decide.

August 31, 2013 vs. WKU

DE – Bud Dupree
DT – Donte Rumph
DT – Mister Cobble
DE – Za’Darius Smith
OLB – Kory Brown
MLB – Avery Williamson
OLB – Khalid Henderson
FS – Eric Dixon
SS – Ashley Lowery
CB – Nate Willis
CB – Fred Tiller

 

September 5, 2015 vs. Louisiana Lafayette

DE – Farrington Huguenin
DT – Melvin Lewis
DT – Cory Johnson
OLB – Denzel Ware
OLB – Jason Hatcher
MLB – Josh Forrest
ILB – Ryan Flannigan
FS – AJ Stamps
SS – Marcus McWilson
CB – Fred Tiller
CB – Cody Quinn

 

Linebackers

Starting with the linebackers, Denzel Ware and Jason Hatcher may be new to the position, but both are significant upgrades over 2013’s Kory Brown and Khalid Henderson. On the inside, Avery Williamson vs. Josh Forrest would be a ferocious cage match. My take on this comparison is debatable, but I’m calling it a push. In 2013, Williamson’s supporting cast did him no favors. Presently, Forrest will have the luxury of defensive linemen with the ability to fend off blockers. Thus, Josh could amass more season tackles. The evolution of Josh Forrest is a classic player development case study. Forrest’s running mate, Ryan Flannigan, is also a significant skill increase. Collectively, the 2015 linebackers are just plain better. However, the position’s depth is an urgent concern.

Defensive Ends

2013 defensive ends, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, are better than any DE combination that DJ Eliot can produce vs. ULL. Last season, Dupree and Smith’s production was adequate. Given their draft status, 14’s result didn’t match pre-season expectation. Why? There were numerous underlying factors. Remember, defense is an 11 man operation. In the permanent move to the 3-4 defense, Farrington Huguenin is scheduled to start at strong-side defensive end. He’ll be technically sound, but that position will be a revolving door until one player can consistently influence opposing quarterbacks. Advantage 2013.

Current Cats Melvin Lewis-Cory Johnson over 13’s Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph gets the modern-day unit back on the scoreboard. I greatly enjoyed Rumph and Cobble’s personality and effort. But in terms of ability and production, the Lewis-Johnson combo plays at a higher level. Melvin Lewis is a run stuffing, All SEC candidate. CJ Johnson is an athletic pass rush specialist. Combined, the duo has a chance to be the best DT pair since the Brooks era’s Corey Peters and Myron Pryor. 2015’s DT depth dwarfs that of its 2013 counterparts. This fall, there are four to five DT’s with starter-level ability. On Stoops’ first squad, defensive tackle depth was razor thin and proficiency challenged. I am comfortable in saying that today’s unit is the deepest in recent memory.

Safeties

2015 Safeties AJ Stamps and Marcus McWilson score yet another superiority sticker over their predecessors. 13’s Ashley Lowery and Eric Dixon were physical by nature, but lacked necessary speed and skill to effectively enforce the middle of the field. AJ Stamps is an SEC upper echelon safety. Marcus McWilson has the honor of playing a position that’s coached by Mark Stoops. He’ll either be enormously improved or suffer hearing loss from the head coach’s “motivation.”

Cornerbacks

Cornerbacks are the conundrum. Fred Tiller’s starting role’s continuation could be considered both good and bad. Good in the fact he’s gained invaluable experience. Bad due to recent recruiting classes have yet to produce an enhanced replacement. Tiller has played a great deal of football. He’ll be lined up correctly and be schematically sound. Prior to his campus arrival, UK’s other 2013 starting cornerback, Nate Willis, proclaimed his intent to be a one and done player. That did not happen. He was however a serviceable cornerback. This fall, Cody Quinn is slated to start opposite of Tiller. On and off, the pair have been together for the past three years. For Cody Quinn, copy and paste Tiller’s analysis. Another veteran player that needs an excellent camp performance. CB will be a heated pre-season competition. This situation will be fun to watch. For comparison purposes, I’ll call it a push.

Paraphrasing, Stoops was once asked about player development and said that upon his arrival, Za’Darius Smith was the most fundamentally sound player on his first team. Telling. 2013 was Z’s first year on campus. Kentucky’s defensive personnel issues are common across college football. In today’s pass happy world, both pass rushers and pass defenders are hard to find. For both the offense and defense, inconsistent player development was a major cause of initial roster woes.

In summary, 2015’s talent at linebacker, safety, and interior defensive line is notably more skilled and developed than its 2013 colleagues. But, the jury is still out on defensive end and cornerback. Thus, pass rushers and pass defenders are my main concern for the upcoming season. Only time will tell.

And remember, it’s not personal, it’s personnel.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

1 Comment for Compare and Contrast Part Two, the Defense



  1. Gowcats
    10:20 pm July 24, 2015 Permalink

    Do you sleep Freddie? Lovin’ the posts. You are absolutely correct that it is the personnel, and we may be playing a chess match of our strengths against another teams weaknesses for another season or so because we don’t have all of the pieces with the experience they need yet, but there are a lot more pieces than we have had for a while to give us hope. Absolutely need the JUCOs on campus ASAP! What’s their holdup in coming to Lex?