For the first time in the Mark Stoops era, in 2019 every single member of the incoming freshman class took a redshirt year. The step was taken not because the players were not good enough to play. Stoops kept everyone on the sideline for all but four games to allow the young players to develop mentally and grow physically. One player was almost an exception to the rule, M.J. Devonshire.
The four-star cornerback from Aliquippa, PA regularly rotated in with the ones in preseason practice and before he received significant snaps against Eastern Michigan. He recorded two tackles and a pass break-up before the injury bug bit. Devonshire broke his wrist. The injury required surgery and a cast. He could have played with the cast on if needed, but at that point the four-game redshirt rule was too good to pass up.
“It was still a great learning experience,” Devonshire told the Beaver County Times after a workout in his hometown last week. “If I was needed to play, I could have played. I still went through the whole season practicing and getting mental reps. I got to travel to every away game and see all the environments. It all worked out well.”
Like J.J. Weaver, Jared Casey and a few other newcomers, Stoops saved a few extra spots on the travel roster for the talented underclassmen who are expected to become contributors in 2020. In those early road trips they got to see all of the bells and whistles surrounding college football. When it’s their turn to make big plays on those big stages, the spotlight will not be so bright.
Last season Kentucky’s secondary was statistically one of the best in America, ranked second in passing yards per game allowed and tied with Ohio State for the fewest passing touchdowns surrendered all season long. Aside from losing Jordan Griffin, every player returns and Steve Clinkscale’s lineup adds LSU transfer Kelvin “Bossman Fat” Joseph. Devonshire is excited to compete for a spot near the top of the five-deep rotation in preseason training camp.
Even though nothing is guaranteed for MJ right away, he couldn’t be happier with the decision he made to attend Kentucky.
“I love it. Everything is great,” he said. “The city of Lexington really supports Kentucky football and basketball. That’s all sports fans have in Lexington. They don’t have any pro teams.
“So they’re at full effect every time we play no matter when we play or who we play. They’re always there for us. They love us.”