Tyrell Ajian and Yusuf Corker might be the best safety tandem in the SEC. The redshirt seniors have the production and experience to back it up. Super senior Davonte Robinson is also available for safeties coach Frank Buffano to use.
The capacity level of these three experienced defenders could allow defensive coordinator Brad White to get more exotic with the defense this fall.
Corker enters his redshirt senior season with 24 career starts and the McDonough (Ga.) Woodland product has recorded 184 tackles, six pass breakups, and three interceptions in the last two seasons. The veteran was a second-team All-SEC selection last season and should get preseason first-team buzz this offseason.
Ajian also enters his redshirt senior year and the Mansfield, Ohio native is coming off his first season as a full-time starter. Last year, the 6-foot safety recorded 48 tackles and has three career interceptions.
After missing the entire 2019 season due to a quadriceps injury, Robinson returned to the lineup last year and recorded 27 tackles to go with two tackles for loss. The Lexington (Ky.) Henry Clay product is still working on getting up to full speed as he prepares for a super senior season in 2021.
This trio will provide the Kentucky defense with plenty of experience in 2021. Defensive coordinator Brad White plans all using all of the knowledge collected by these to bolster the defensive structure and approach.
“It’s a huge luxury to have Yusuf and Ty and D-Rob out there at safety to be able to help,” White told the media on Thursday. “They’ve seen it. When I talk about a ton of moving parts, these are guys that have played so many snaps that the game is slower to them. They talk, they communicate pre-snap, they anticipate. It makes your base calls look a lot better and as a coordinator, you feel more comfortable.”
That comfort level is needed because the Wildcats figure to be pretty young at a ton of spots on defense. Second-year players D’Eryk Jackson, Vito Tisdale, and Carrington Valentine could all be starters when the season opens. Former top-50 recruit Justin Rogers appears poised to play a big role at nose backing up Marquan McCall. That is a ton of young guys to bring along.
Kentucky will need their steadying presence in the secondary to provide stability as some of the younger players go through expected growing pains. Without much depth at the outside linebacker spots, the defense could be using much more subpackage looks. That means more responsibility for the seniors.
The Wildcats will need their seniors to communicate effectively and get the younger players lined up in the right spots. For this unit to reach its ceiling, these upperclassmen need to play at a very high level. Their ability to do multiple things could allow the defense to broaden their scheme.
“I think the older you are, the more things you can do,” said White.