Between the great American games of basketball and the real football, crossover terms exist in describing competition labels. The latest Coach Cal go-to phrase is “position-less” basketball. When describing the 2015 Kentucky Football defense, that term is also applicable on the Tim Couch Practice Field.
As mentioned for the 900th time, DJ Eliot is replacing two elite edge defenders in Bud Dupree and Za’Darious Smith. Mark Stoops and Eliot have repetitively declared that it will take a multitude of players and scheme variation to account for their absence. Continuing to study the roster, I see several listed as “/” or slash players. I’ll explain. Jabari Johnson is an OLB/DE. Other OLB/DE players include Kengera Daniel, Alvonte Bell, and Denzel Ware. In addition to the Slashers, Adrian Middleton, Regie Meant, and Courtney Miggins are currently categorized as defensive tackles. In actuality, dependent upon scheme and down/distance, the trio could also play defensive end. Same could be said about Tymere Dubose. Interchangeable parts are a program luxury.
In the secondary, Kendall Randolph and Blake McClain are excelling at cornerback and are in the mix to be named as starters by camp’s end. If not on the field as CB’s, the duo’s vastly too valuable to sit on the bench. Therefore, Randolph and McClain could be described as double slashes: CB/Nickel/Dime.
Sticking with the secondary, Kentucky is all of a sudden deep and talented at both safety positions. So much so, that if strong safety Marcus McWilson maintains his starting position, keeping Darius West and Mike Edwards off the field would be a detriment to the team. Add this pair to the slash patrol; SS/Nickel/Dime/Special Teams. Same applies to AJ Stamp’s back-up, the mega-talented freshman free safety Marcus Walker. As I let my attention span challenged mind roam, of the eleven starting defensive players, only Melvin Lewis, Josh Forrest, and AJ Stamps are the only potential non-slashers on the unit. Even inside backer Ryan Flannigan could slide over and play OLB if necessary.
Position-less narrative also applies to scheme and specifically the blitz. With so many talented players, DJ Eliot can confidently dial up blitzes from virtually every position on the field. As an old quarterback, the unpredictable blitz can be an absolute nightmare and creates blocking assignment chaos. Coachie, sorry. I’ll explain. When the QB doesn’t know where or from which position is labeled as an un-blockable blitzer, contingency plans must be rehearsed. The more unusual happenings that opposing offensive coordinators have to prepare for the better.
Is this a good problem to have? Is the advent of position-less football an unintended circumstance of efficient recruiting? Answers are yes and yes. Anytime that depth can be organically achieved by moving a team’s best players from position to position, team effectiveness multiplies. Kentucky is at a position within its program construction that all three phases requires the best and most well-rounded football players on the field at the same time. Specialization comes through an extended period of high level recruiting. Stoops is dealing with a three year body of work. The more slashes the better. Position-less defense is a good thing. Another term describing this phenomena is the Amoeba Defense. Unpredictability is predictably causes opposing coaches to be uncomfortable. I like that.