Life after Josh Allen doesn’t look so bad, thanks to a once aspiring basketball star.
When Eddie Gran recruited Jordan Wright from Dillard High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Wright was a star on the hardwood. A lengthy 6-foot-5 shooting guard, as a junior he led Dillard to a Florida 6A state title. Recruited to play either football or basketball at the collegiate level, with more prospects on the gridiron the three-star recruit committed to Kentucky over Florida, Miami and Arkansas.
Once the edge rusher got to Lexington, he had some work to do.
Wright’s career began behind two talented Joshes, Allen and Paschal. Playing the difficult Jack linebacker position, his opportunities were obviously limited. Finally, the stars aligned in the spring of 2019. Allen was gone and Paschal was still not entirely 100 percent healthy. Challenged by White in practice, Wright answered the call with four tackles and an interception in the spring game.
“From his redshirt freshman year to his redshirt sophomore year, he took a really big jump. He made plays for us last year. And now coming in as a redshirt junior, we’re really expecting him to sort of take that next step,” said White.
It didn’t happen right away for Wright in the fall. He had his moments but could not consistently set the edge and attack the passer until something clicked during the bye week.
“First, I was kind of thinking I could do it with athletic ability,” Wright said. “Then after talking with Coach White during the bye week, he sat me down, talked to me and said ‘this is what’s looking good and this is what’s not. We need to work on this more. We’re fixing that tool and then we can bring that all together.’ I think that’s something I really focused on.”
What specifically was missing from his game? Physicality. He was still using finesse at the rim instead of leaning on his strength.
“I think it was finding out the love for football instead of thinking about playing both. When I decided that I really wanted to just play football, that’s when everything started to click more,” he said. “I felt like I picked it up a lot more that second half of the season.”
After the bye week Wright recorded 17 tackles, four for loss, two sacks and a touchdown on the final play of the season.
Here is the last play of the game that resulted in a Virginia Tech fumble and @UKFootball touchdown by @JayyDubb15!!! #bbn #ksr #WeAreUK @gbbcountry @vaughtsviews @MrsTylerKSR @haydenhooper01 pic.twitter.com/2j2F1sRxIf
— Michael Rains (@RuppArenaMike) December 31, 2019
Kentucky’s defense looks different this fall because of Wright. Confident in Wright’s abilities to play Jack linebacker, White moved Paschal to defensive end, giving the team captain more opportunities to show off his explosiveness in the trenches. Now the full-time strongside outside linebacker, White has seen Wright’s game grow exponentially.
“He’s done it with added strength. He’s got some more mass to him, and he’s really sort of enhanced his toolbox as a player, both on the edge of the defense in terms of edge setting,” White shared. “His pass rush game has really taken a leap. When I first got here in 2018, he was sort of this long rangy player that if he was able to slip the edge, he looked good, but there was no thump. There was no power in his game. Now he’s developed that. He’s learned to play with a more physical mindset and at that position to be successful, you’ve gotta play with that physical mindset. If you have the explosion and the length on top of it, then you’re going to be a dynamic player. We’re expecting big things from him and want to see him take that next step.”
Wright ended the 2019 season with momentum. If he can take another step forward this fall alongside Paschal, Boogie Watson and the rest of Kentucky’s talented defensive line, the Wildcats’ pass rush will be the best we’ve seen in the Bluegrass in a long time.