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How Kentucky Moves On Without Jason Hatcher

Along with Ryan Timmons, Jason Hatcher was Mark Stoops’ first NSD splash. Photo via Derek Poore

Along with Ryan Timmons, Jason Hatcher was Mark Stoops' first NSD splash. Photo via Derek Poore

Along with Ryan Timmons, Jason Hatcher was Mark Stoops’ first NSD splash. Photo via Derek Poore

When Jason Hatcher came to Kentucky, the Trinity product was destined for greatness, touted as an example of Stoops’ early recruiting success.  Hatcher leaves Kentucky under much different circumstances, but ones that were not entirely unexpected.

Through Hatcher’s three years in a Kentucky uniform, he went through just as many off the field incidents.  In May of 2014, he received a marijuana citation with fellow Trinity alum and UofL wide receiver, James Quick.  After an exceptional 2014 campaign as a backup for Bud Dupree and Za’Darius, he was expected to have a breakout Junior season.  Instead, he missed the first two games for a “violation of team rules.”  He would only start five games, with a mysterious ankle injury (possibly another way to say ‘violation of team rules”) preventing him from providing any substantial production.

Many hoped his Senior year would be a time to turn things around.  Thin at the outside linebacker position, they were leaning on Hatcher to build off of a late-season surge to improve UK’s piss-poor pass rushing stats (#109 in sacks, #122 in TFL).

The Cats can, and will, move forward without a Senior on the outside.

The first person to look to is Minnesota transfer De’Niro Laster.  Primarily an outside linebacker, he was expected to move insider to play the Will linebacker.  Hatcher’s dismissal changes things.  Laster has the ability to move inside, but Jordan Jones, Kash Daniel and Nico Firios cannot move outside.  One of those three, although inexperienced, will have to start alongside Courtney Love.

In hindsight, nothing was more important for immediate success than signing Jordan Bonner on the first Wednesday of February.  The NEO Junior College DE/OLB transfer won’t arrive to school until the Summer, making it difficult to discern how long it will take before he’s game ready (at least 2-3 games).  Fortunately, he has three years of eligibility and he can buy some time learning behind RS Sophomore Denzil Ware.  Ware steadily improved throughout his RS Freshman season, finishing with 39 tackles, the same total as Hatcher.  Josh Allen should also be in the mix, getting 1.5 TFL’s and a pass breakup in a limited role as a true freshman.

Which side of the defense they will play on is uncertain, but it’s certain that the void left by Hatcher will be filled by a combination of Laster, Ware and Bonner.  

I’m confident the Cats can survive on the outside without Hatcher.  He had an off-and-on-again relationship with the field last year, only making 11 more tackles in ’15 than he did in ’14.  In fact, his numbers in ’14 were all about the same in ’15.  The most striking difference?  He played in two more games and started in one more game as a Sophomore.

It’s unfortunate to see Hatcher’s demise, but his fate was in his own hands.  Instead of taking advantage of the opportunities given to him, he digressed and never escaped the vicious cycle.  Hatcher now faces a long road to redemption.  For the UK defense, it’s the next man up.

Article written by Nick Roush

"Look upon the doughnut, and not upon the hole." @RoushKSR

13 Comments for How Kentucky Moves On Without Jason Hatcher

  1. Mathlete
    1:41 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    I can’t purport to know Hatcher, but based entirely on his public coverage and stats I’d say in the long run Kentucky is just as well, if not better off, without him taking up a roster spot. A couple of younger guys who by all accounts are his equals in talent and are far superior in attitude will get more reps early and often.

    This whole situation is embarassing to the program now, but it’s a blessing in disguise by my estimation. Besides, the embarrassment will subside in a week or two when the next scandal at Louisville breaks and everyone not wearing a toothy bird on their sideways hat forgets about Hatcher.

  2. LongTimeReader
    1:54 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    A kid coming out of high school had huge expectations, and over the last 3 years never quite proved to be the highly regarded recruit coming out of Trinity. His production his first two years was solid, for a backup, but what he was doing off the field never allowed him to be successful his junior. UK will be better off without, because now they can put a replacement that they can rely on to be at practice and games throughout the season. Teams have to deal with adverse situations, and true character of a team is revealed in those situations, we will see what the character of this team will be as the offseason workouts continue and Spring Practice starts up.

    Much better for the program remove a player now than three or four months from now.

  3. blueballs80
    2:20 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    Next man up. No room for all that stuff. It creates a toxic locker room. Marcelys Jones was the example of how not to screw up and he followed him right on that path.

  4. J-Dub421
    2:20 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    It’s sad to see someone so young and with so much potential throw their life/future away in this manner.

  5. The Goose Is Loose
    2:31 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    His talent never equated to production. I’d guess there are players (Ware) that can get the same amount of statistics as Hatcher without the baggage. It will hurt with depth though. Good luck to him and I hope he can overcome his problems.

  6. Sentient Third Eye
    2:33 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    Just eliminating the distraction of a guy who is there one minute and suspended the next will be a net plus. The defense will be better when the players believe they can count on one another to do their jobs, on and off the field.

  7. chimichanga
    2:57 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    Such a shame. I hope Hatcher gets it together though. Gonna be hard going through life knowing he coulda made million$.

  8. Glenn Fohr
    3:22 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    With this type of loss do we now look at going more 4-3 because of having more down lineman and having Bonner coming in who looks to be a true 4-3 defensive end?

  9. BluKudzu
    4:01 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    Here is the thing, there will be no big change. Without Jason Hatcher, we will be at or near the bottom in most SEC stats, and like last year, even with with Jason Hatcher, we will be at the bottom of the SEC in most defensive stats. I hope I am wrong. I hope we are better.

  10. bluesyCat
    4:15 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    truly terrible to see this happen to anyone, uk or not. There are avenues of help available for people who have substance abuse problems and I sincerely hope that Stoops and Co. will remain in Jason’s life as positive mentors. Ultimately it is up to him

  11. agundy0386
    4:21 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    Dang! All in less than 24 hrs apart……..An Ex-UK Basketball Legend’s granddaughter gets busted for snortin’ coke & smokin’ weed……..then UK’s best defensive football player ends up being a major drug trafficker! WOW!!!

  12. agundy0386
    4:31 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    Losing Hatcher to a State Correctional Facility won’t affect Kentucky’s win percentage at all! Why? Because Kentucky Football wasn’t going to be winning any games to begin with!……HaHa!

    And don’t forget to pass the blunt!

  13. Rsn2GoBlu
    5:12 pm February 23, 2016 Permalink

    So we kick off Hatcher and welcome with open arms Brian Cole from Michigan. Interesting.