There were plenty of questions entering spring practice about Kentucky’s pass rush. We did not expect to have any answers until the fall, but Denzil Ware had something else in mind.
“I hope I did, but at the end of the day it’s just spring camp. We’ve got to keep going forward,” Ware said.
Ware’s exceptional performance isn’t the final answer to the question, but it was one hell of a start. Ware led all players with 15 tackles, an astounding 10 were solo with 4 sacks, 4.5 for loss. Two of those sacks forced a 4th down; another caused a fumble.
Ware isn’t the most outspoken or boisterous personality. Performances like today’s are what gives him confidence. “It did give me some confidence today. Coach Stoops said, ‘treat this like a game’ and that’s exactly what I did.”
What Stoops liked the most about his play: “When it’s predictable pass and we’re playing it straight, we’re rushing four with no games, you just need to win a one-on-one. He won several of those today.”
After he got one, they began to pile up. He had a different edge to his play than what we saw last year as redshirt freshman. The experience has made him comfortable on the field.
“I feel more confident back there. I know a lot more about the defense. I feel like since I played last year, I know what they expect this year. So I’m attacking it, and not tip-toeing through. I’m just going head first into everything.”
Considered a veteran, Ware is forced to be a leader for the inexperienced outside linebackers and defensive ends. Today he showed them how he plans to lead by example. The next time somebody steps out of line, he’ll ensure they remember their common goal.
“We’ve gotta make sure everyone on defense is hungry still, still has that fire in their eyes and still wants to be winners,” Ware said. “If we see one guy that doesn’t have that fire in his eyes, we’re gonna pick him out and get his mind right.”
Ware has that fire in his eyes. Playing without expectation, he was the most dominant player own the field. “At the end of the day I was just expecting to come out there and do my job. Whatever happened, happened.”
If that continues to happen this fall, opposing quarterbacks are in trouble.