Jordan Jones wasn’t supposed to get hurt. Neither was Jamin Davis. Early Enrollees aren’t supposed to make plays as soon as they step on campus.
Three weeks through Kentucky spring football, a pair unexpected injuries paved the way for DeAndre Square to emerge as a surprise playmaker on the Kentucky defense.
“We’ve been very pleased with DeAndre. He’s been doing a good job,” Mark Stoops said earlier this week. “He’s been a pleasant surprise. I always get asked every spring about guys that jump out at you; he would definitely be that guy.”
The 6’1″ 205 pound inside linebacker came to Lexington from Detroit in January. A product of football powerhouse Cass Tech, he’s the first football player from the state of Michigan to wear a UK uniform in decades. Kentucky’s coaches knew his experience in the elite program would help Square, but they did not know exactly what they were getting until he got on campus.
“He’s progressing well,” said defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Matt House. “The thing that I like about DeAndre, you don’t necessarily know until you get him here, is he loves contact. He’s not scared to mix it up and he’s really serious about his craft, about getting better. I’ve been not surprised, but pleasantly surprised with his actions on the field this early.”
Square was forced into action right away. A knee injury sidelined Jamin Davis for the spring. All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jones followed just a week later. Square was the next man up and he did not flinch.
“He’s stepped in when the bullets are flying and we’re playing full tempo in a full scrimmage and he’s really makes some plays. You can tell he has a lot of natural instincts. I like the way he’s playing,” Stoops said.
His instincts have paved the way for him to make big plays. Following the first spring scrimmage he was named a defensive MVP. When the defense got whooped in the second scrimmage, Kentucky’s head coach said Square was the only bright spot on that side of the line of scrimmage.
“He’s making some mistakes, he needs to put on some size, and he will, but he is a tough son of gun. He is out there getting a bunch of reps against some pretty offensive linemen. He is a tough, tough guy and I really respect the way he’s doing things.”
His toughness comes in a surprising package. Square is a quiet, soft-spoken 17-year old. Without pads on, you wonder how he could possibly be an SEC linebacker at under 210 pounds. In reality, it’s what he does without the pads that makes him successful.
“I planned on coming in early and learning everything I can to try to get adjusted to college from high school. I’m taking it day by day.” Square said he’s been, “Studying, being here extra hours after practice, coming in and watching film to be on top of my game.”
Even though he should still be in high school, he’s mature beyond his years. Remarkable toughness and a dedicated, workman’s approach has helped him take advantage of the early opportunity, but the secret part of the successful equation is God-given.
“It’s unbelievable. The kid’s got athleticism that I’ve never seen before,” middle linebacker Kash Daniel said. “He’s got speed and a jolt that I’ve never seen before as a linebacker.”
Daniel was in DeAndre’s shoes not long ago as a highly-touted early enrollee. Kash can’t believe how quickly Square has adapted and is confident he will be a star at Kentucky.
“DeAndre’s a young pup,” Kash said. “He puts a couple pounds of muscle on, and you’ll see a dog here in a year or so.”
A tough, mature kid who goes to work everyday, Square has all of the intangibles to transform his athleticism into excellence. It will take some time to get there, but don’t be surprised when Square becomes a star.