College football is surrounded by plenty of uncertainty right now, but one thing is for sure: Kentucky’s defense is ready to take things to the next level. The unit has played a huge role in the Wildcats’ recent success, and yet – like most things related to Kentucky football – it has not always received the attention or praise it deserves. Saturday Down South – a sports blog dedicated to serving rabid football fans for all 14 SEC teams – is tired of it.
The website has released its annual rankings for the conference’s defenses, and Kentucky’s 2020 squad came in at No. 3, only behind Alabama at No. 2 and Georgia at No. 1.
The story was written by Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara. Here’s what he had to say about this season’s Cats:
That’s right. Kentucky at No. 3. Think that’s crazy? It’s not. The casual fan might have missed last year when Kentucky finished No. 4 in the SEC and No. 14 nationally in scoring. That was after it entered the season ranked No. 127 (!) in percentage of returning defensive production. This year, the Cats are No. 27 in that department. Of the top 15 defenses from 2019, only 11 rank in the top 50 in terms of percentage of returning defensive production. The Cats will have to find new leadership, but man, they return a lot.
The No. 2 pass defense in America returns nearly all of its key contributors on the back end, and it’ll get a boost from LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph, who sat in 2019 because of NCAA transfer rules. Boogie Watson, Joshua Paschal, DeAndre Square and Quinton Bohanna are all back for a front 7 that played a key part in last year’s midseason turnaround. If you’re sleeping on Mark Stoops’ defense (again), consider this your warning to wake up.
Of course, it’s hard to fully and accurately predict what a defense is capable of before you’ve even seen them work as a team, especially in 2020 when things have been – wait for it – incredibly unprecedented. O’Gara recognizes this, even in a “normal” year, but again, Kentucky presents a unique scenario.
Just so we’re clear, I try to avoid too much end-of-season projecting with this. I’d rather talk about what we’ve seen from a defense, and what we should expect from the jump. You’ll see me frequently reference Bill Connelly’s annual ranking of percentage of returning production, which is usually a good indicator of a potential roadblock is in the way (unless you’re Kentucky and you have the No. 14 defense after entering the season ranked No. 127 in percentage of returning defensive production).
To see what the site had to say about the rest of the conference’s defenses, check out the full story here: [Saturday Down South]