Skip to content

Kentucky Sports Radio

University of Kentucky Basketball, Football, and Recruiting news brought to you in the most ridiculous manner possible.

GM for a Day: Projecting 2016’s Defensive Starters

Jim Dedmon | USA Today

Jim Dedmon | USA Today

Last year’s All-Freshman SEC Cornerback, Chris Westry. (Jim Dedmon | USA Today)

Quarterback Sacks and Tackles for Loss — two statistical categories that defined DJ Eliot’s 2015 defense. In the Southeastern Conference, Kentucky ranked last in both categories. Nationally, the Cats finished the season 109th in QB Sacks and 122nd in TFL’s. By numbers alone, the emphasis will be on plays made across the line of scrimmage.

Kentucky’s Week One Projected Defensive Starters 

Nose Tackle

  • Freddie: Matt Elam or Naquez Pringle
  • Nick: Matt Elam

Defensive Tackle

  • Freddie: Regie Meant
  • Nick: Courtney Miggins

Defensive End

  • Freddie: Courtney Miggins
  • Nick: Kengera Daniel

Defensive End/Linebacker

  • Freddie: Jason Hatcher
  • Nick: Denzil Ware OR Jordan Bonner

Strong Outside Linebacker

  • Freddie: Jordan Bonner
  • Nick: Jason Hatcher

Weak Inside Linebacker

  • Freddie: De’Niro Laster OR Kash Daniel/Jordan Jones
  • Nick: De’Niro Laster OR Jordan Jones

Middle Linebacker

  • Freddie: Courtney Love
  • Nick: Courtney Love


  • Freddie: Black McClain
  • Nick: Blake McClain


  • Freddie: Derrick Baity
  • Nick: Derrick Baity


  • Freddie: Chris Westry
  • Nick: Chris Westry

Strong Safety

  • Freddie: Marcus McWilson
  • Nick: Marcus McWilson

Free Safety

  • Freddie: Mike Edwards
  • Nick: Mike Edwards

Nick Explains

With a solid secondary, the front seven is fluid, with Courtney Love’s spot as the starting middle linebacker as the only certainty.  Freddie and I are both torn with how they will handle the Will linebacker.  Jordan Jones has been a Stoops favorite and Kash will compete, but De’Niro Laster will be on the field somewhere, we’re just unsure of exactly where.

Laster could also start at outside linebacker, where Jordan Bonner and Jason Hatcher can be starters.  However, who knows what Hatcher we’re going to see during his Senior season, and it’s hard to immediately rely on a Junior College linebacker that doesn’t arrive to campus until the Summer (a la Ryan Flannigan).

On the defensive line, I really have no read on who will play where or who could start.  Here are the five that will play — Matt Elam, Courtney Miggins, Regie Meant, Naquez Pringle and Kengera Daniel (with Kordell Looney as a wild card).

Senior Marcus McWilson (15) will lead Kentucky's talented Secondary. (Mark Zerof | USA Today)

Senior Marcus McWilson (15) will lead Kentucky’s talented Secondary. (Mark Zerof | USA Today)

Freddie Explains

As you see above, my lineup includes two moves that are likely not to happen. In other words, high risk but potentially high reward personnel decisions. Moving De’Niro Laster to the inside frees a spot for pass rush specialist Jordan Bonner. But, with late arriving junior college players such as Bonner, early season effectiveness is questionable at best. Secondary factor, will Bonner add weight and move to defensive end? Rolling the dice on these two adjustments. If position moves are not applicable, Jordan Jones and Kash Daniel will compete for the inside linebacker spot accompanying Courtney Love. Nose Tackle also offers an interesting position competition, but the actual player on the field will be based upon situation more so than overall effectiveness. Will Naquez Pringle develop into a pass rush specialist as Matt Elam remains a 1st and 2nd down defender?

Modern day defense is situational. When you see three to four defenders on the sideline at the ready to substitute, they are doing so to match offensive personnel substitutions and down/distance situation. Thus, defensive personnel rapidly fluctuates. With a plethora of skilled defensive backs, depth is finally available for competition as well as strategic situational substitutions. Secondary rotations will be rampant.

With defensive line limitations, influencing opposing quarterbacks will have to emerge from the linebackers and safety/nickel positions. Going into 2016, the front 3’s ability or inability to rush the passer are my number one concern. Nickel defenders Blake McClain and Kendall Randolph will have to hold off talented newcomers. As for the safeties, UK has the deepest and most talented collection in recent history. A designated hybrid S/LB type of player has to emerge and produce three to five QB sacks.

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

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

3 Comments for GM for a Day: Projecting 2016’s Defensive Starters

  1. jcatron
    2:31 pm February 18, 2016 Permalink

    FOOTBALL!!! Im ready!

    I think the D’s success or lack of success depends a lot on if Maty Elam can be a force and his replacement can provide good QB pressure. After injuries last year this did not happen at all.

    Hatcher has to be big too. Needs to be an all over the field type guy and always with his hat on the play (ala Bud Dupree).

    Westry, Baity, McWilson, Edwards, McClain = Solid!

    Im really worried about linebackers…especially if there is injuries. Love is supposed to be great but I’ve never seen him play and I am not sure the others are going to be able to provide a ton of help…yet.


  2. linebeard
    2:42 pm February 18, 2016 Permalink

    Freddie, a little surprised you do not have Denzel Ware as a starter. I though he was pretty solid last year. Is this just because of the addition of Bonner, and think he will be better?

  3. Glenn Fohr
    1:20 pm February 19, 2016 Permalink

    I think with this group, and being a little thin at linebacker, why not go 4-3? Ware and Hatcher are much more comfortable with their hands in the dirt and looks to me like Bonner, Allen, and Laster could do the same.