1. Jabari Johnson will Anchor the End
Despite limited action in the Spring, Jabari Johnson has earned the right to replace Bud Dupree as the “Jack” linebacker. Whether he’s standing up or has his hand in the ground, Johnson has the size to take the heavy load of hits that will surely come his way. The move allows Denzil Ware the freedom to develop without constantly taking a beating. A pass rushing protege, Ware still has a lot to learn as an every-down, Jack of all trades. You probably are surprised to hear his name, but if you asked people around the team in the Spring who was the man to keep an eye on, Jabari’s name always made the short list.
2. Big George has Big Responsibilities
He’s only been there a semester, but Big George has already ensured he will play a big role in the Fall. Listed as the right and left tackle backup, George Asafo-Adjei will be called upon as the line’s de facto Sixth Man. If Jordan Swindle jumps offsides or the young Kyle Meadows misses an assignment, Big George will be the first to fill their spots. Most freshmen linemen are reserved for redshirts, but his Lakota West high school program prepared him well. He’s one of the strongest guys on the team — benching 410, cleaning 325, squatting 600+ — yet remains light on his feet. The good news: he’s just getting started (bro).
3. Herrick Has a “1” Spot
Even though the 4th wide receiver position is only used in certain packages, it’s interesting to see Herrick hold down the fort. Ryan Timmons’ injury allowed Garrett “Juice” Johnson to fill the slot, and he wasn’t the only receiver that WOWed at the inside position. T.V. Williams proved his worth by the end of the Spring season, making big catches in big moments. Jeff Badet was arguably the best surprise of the Spring. He’s a burner, using his speed well on the inside and out. He’s currently listed as Dorian Baker’s backup, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get some chances across the middle of the field in the slot.
4. Zach West is in a Perpetual Position Battle
Entering his Senior year, Zach West has 29 starts at the left guard position. Yet like every year prior, the Lexington native finds himself in a fight to earn more starts on the offensive line. Some of the constant struggle can be attributed to injury, some of it due to pressure from the players at his position, but at the end of the day I still don’t get it. My best guess is that it’s Coach Schlarman’s way of motivating West, but I don’t understand how a guy who has started off and on his entire career has yet it earn his position outright.
5. Cornerback and Running Back will Remain Fluid
Freddie Maggard talks about the question marks at cornerback frequently. To avoid being too redundant, I’ll just say that it will be exciting to see what the tall newcomers – Kei Beckham, Chris Westry and Derrick Baity – bring to a position that has consistently been inconsistent.
The returning running backs all have an “or” next to their name. Some may think it’s bad thing that there isn’t a “feature back,” but I see it as a positive. Boom Williams will obviously be the first called upon, but Shannon Dawson believes in feeding the hot hand. We saw what happened when Jojo Kemp got hot against South Carolina last year, and you’d be surprised to see what Mikel Horton can do since he’s transformed his body in the offseason.