After a brief sabbatical for National Signing Day coverage, position reviews and previews returns with the defensive line, a unit who now reportedly has a coach, Derrick LeBlanc.
2016 Production and Accolades
Lacking experience and depth, the defensive line took a hit before the season started when Regie Meant left the team. Jimmy Brumbaugh was forced to piece together a defensive line without the luxury of time to aid development. The result: only two sacks and 13 tackles for loss combined by the three down linemen.
Still, they group persisted, improving throughout the year. Courtney Miggins provided stability as a team captain. Naquez Pringle was the most improved player on the team, leading the group with 39 tackles from the nose position. Adrian Middleton replaced Meant, finishing with 35 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, the most TFLs by a defensive lineman. His best game came against Missouri, earning SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week with seven tackles and an important third down tackle for loss.
Reggie Meant’s untimely departure put the defensive line behind the eight ball. Without much experience at all, they proved to be formidable down the stretch, earning a “+”, but for most of the year they were the defense’s greatest liability.
- Jimmy Brumbaugh: The last remaining coach from Mark Stoops’ original defensive staff left to join Andy Buh at Maryland as a Co-Defensive Coordinator. Brumbaugh’s ability to develop talent, especially JUCO transfers, will be missed. A replacement will likely not be announced for a few more weeks.
- Courtney Miggins: The defensive end was a team captain. The JUCO transfer had 28 tackles, 4 for loss and 5 knocked down passes at the line of scrimmage.
- Kordell Looney: The redshirt defensive tackle is expected to receive significant snaps this fall.
- Jaylin Bannerman: The five-technique defensive end received excessive amounts of praise from Mark Stoops during bowl season for his ability to rush the passer.
- JaQuize Cross: Cross added significant weight to his frame during the defensive tackle’s redshirt year.
- Phil Hoskins: A versatile JUCO transfer, Hoskins will play this fall. However, shoulder surgery may prevent him from seeing significant action right away.
- Quinton Bohanna: Bohanna could redshirt, but with outstanding measurables (6’4″ 320) and a need for nose tackles, he could play this fall.
- Abule Abadi-Fitzgeral and Chris Whittaker: The “project” defensive ends haven’t played much football. The reps and lifting as redshirts will be an important first step in their development.
Derrick LeBlanc inherits a young group that now has experience. LeBlanc’s reputation as a tough strength coach should pay dividends, but it’s still difficult to forecast this group’s production. There is one major concern, but a few areas for optimism.
They must find depth at nose tackle. Naquez Pringle played WAY too many snaps during the bowl game, allowing Tech to gash UK’s defense with straight dives to the B-Back going for 169 yards. If Matt Elam can’t get it together for his final year, they must rely on the development of redshirts and true freshman to provide Pringle relief.
There’s much more optimism on the outside. It took more than half a season, but Alvonte Bell proved in the Louisville and Georgia Tech games he can make plays. Adrian Middleton improved throughout the year, but T.J. Carter might be the defensive lineman to watch in 2017. Forced to play almost the entire TaxSlayer Bowl after Miggins was injured, Carter received the highest grade of any Wildcat from Pro Football Focus.