Want to take a peek into player development under Mark Stoops? Then look no further than Josh Allen. Allen entered the program as a 205-pound, 2-star defensive end prospect from New Jersey that was forced into true-freshman action due to Jason Hatcher’s inconsistent presence. The 245-pound outside linebacker is now going into his junior season as a two-year starter and one of the top linebackers in the Southeastern Conference.
Allen had a QB sack and was singled out for his play in Saturday’s scrimmage. He met with the media afterwards:
Question: How did you do in today’s scrimmage?
Josh Allen: “I did my part. I did what I can, I got a couple tackles, just played my role.”
Question: How is the run defense this spring?
Allen: “We can step it a little more but I think we’re doing a lot better than last year. We still have pieces we still need to get better, but overall I think we’re doing a lot better. We got to play together. We can’t just have one person make the tackle. Coach Hood, Coach House has been telling us we got to strain to the ball that not one person can make a tackle.”
Question: Tell us about Coach Dean Hood
Allen: “Affecting my life on and off the field. He’s more comfortable now, I feel more comfortable with him. I love Coach Hood a lot. He’s learning just like we’re learning.”
Question: 1st and 2nd down defense has been a focus this spring. How was it today?
Allen: “From last scrimmage, we did a little better. We started slow but we ended up kicking it back up. We need to play more physical, read our keys better.”
Run defense is a major concern for this team. 2016 saw the Cats struggle in this category as it finished 12th in the SEC after allowing 228 yards per game. It also surrendered 25 rushing touchdowns and 2966 yards.
As par for the course, Kentucky will face an abundance of elite runners in 2017. The show will start in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on September 2nd with an absolute war-daddy in Southern Miss RB Ito Smith. Smith torched the Cats for 173 yards in last season’s opener and should provide ample motivation for the defense throughout the offseason. Here’s a quick glance at other opposing players that could present problems on the ground:
Southern Miss: RB Ito Smith-265 carries, 1459 yards, 5.51 yards per carry (ypc), 17 TD’s.
Missouri: RB Damarea Crockett-153 carries, 1062 yards, 6.94 ypc, 10 TD’s.
Mississippi State: QB Nick Fitzgerald-195 carries, 1375 yards, 7.05 ypc, 16 TD’s.
Tennessee: RB John Kelly 98-carries, 630 yards, 6.43 ypc, 5 TD’s.
Vanderbilt: RB Ralph Webb 250-carries, 1283 yards, 5.13 ypc, 13 TD’s.
Georgia: RB Nick Chubb-224 carries, 1130 yards, 5.04 ypc, 8 TD’s. RB Sony Michel-152 carries, 840 yards, 5.53 ypc, 4 TD’s.
Louisville: QB Lamar Jackson-260 carries, 1765 yards, 6.13 ypc, 19 TD’s.
A positive for Matt House is that his defense practices against one of the SEC’s top rushing offenses on a daily basis. Eli Brown indicated on Saturday that if the UK defense doesn’t practice at a highly physical level, then its offensive counterparts would embarrass them on the practice field.
“If you can be a good run defense team against our offense, you know you’re making progress.” — Mark Stoops
As you can see from the above list, Mark Stoops and Matt House will continue to stress run defense.