Wednesdays are for defense. Today KSR spoke to defensive coordinator Matt House and a handful of players. Here’s what we learned:
The Old Jordan Jones is Back
The linebacker from Youngstown was Kentucky’s breakout star in 2016. An All-SEC selection as a sophomore, injuries and off the field issues have slowed him since. Against Murray State, he looked like the All-SEC performer from two years ago.
“I thought he played better last week than he did the week before,” House said. “He’s doing some good things. He’s been more disciplined. Certainly need him to do that and improve even more.”
Kash Daniel took it one step further after Jones knocked down four passes.
“I saw the old Jordan Jones back,” Kash said. “The guy’s been through a lot of ups and downs this offseason with injuries and stuff like that. To see him go out and do his thing last Saturday and act like the old Jordan Jones, it was really fun to see.”
It’s the first year Kash has been able to play significant snaps alongside Jordan. It took some time to develop chemistry, but he’s always happy to line up next to Jones.
“I think we’ve progressed over three games in how much we talk out on the field. I love playing with Jordan. He brings that energy and brings that edge. Whenever I feel down he always picks me up.
IN THE FACE!
Kash Daniel’s interview was interrupted before it could get started. A pair of seniors, Mike Edwards and Josh Allen, hit Daniel right in the face before he could thank UK for offering discounted tickets to the people of his hometown.
Mike Edwards and Josh Allen have been added to Kash Daniel’s Hit List pic.twitter.com/OlNZkYmjnX
— Nick Roush (@RoushKSR) September 19, 2018
McCall is Making Plays
True freshman Marquan McCall received extra reps against Murray State when Quinton Bohanna was sidelined with an ankle injury. He recorded a couple of tackles, but no play was bigger than the second half strip sack.
“It’s exciting. It was a dream come true, to be honest,” McCall said. “That’s all I dreamed of is to make a big play and celebrate.”
Unfortunately, he celebrated a bit too soon. The ball rolled beneath multiple UK defenders, but they could not secure the ball.
McCall hopes to be celebrating more Saturday night. Mississippi State is known for their physicality, but so is McCall. For just a freshman, he packs quite a strong punch, one I can testify to after shaking his massive right hand. He also has quite the mean streak.
“I get mean. When I’m in the zone, I just do whatever I can to make him fear me,” he said. “I’m a nice guy off the field, but on the field I’m a whole different person.”
A Balanced Attack
Dan Mullen was too good against Kentucky’s defense (until he left for Florida). Joe Moorhead brings more nuance to the system Mullen installed at Mississippi State.
“I think he does a great job of balancing run and pass,” said House. “He picks opportune times to take play-action shots down the field. He’s got a good, balanced run game that includes quarterback runs and runs that are downhill, designed for the running backs to get them going.”
Defending the quarterback runs against Nick Fitzgerald will not be easy.
“He’s a guy that is elusive. He’s fast, he’s big and he can still throw the ball vertically down the field. It’ll be a big task. We gotta be disciplined and be in great football position, have great leverage on the ball and have good rush lanes to be successful,” House said.
Not the First Big Quarterback
Nick Fitzgerald is a unique weapon. Not only is he an excellent runner, he’s also a big dude at 6’5″ 240 pounds. Even though the Cats have struggled against Fitzgerald — they did not record a sack against State in the previous two meetings — Josh Allen tackled a 6’7″ running quarterback in week one, Central Michigan’s Tony Poljan.
“I mean I tackled the one from Central Michigan. He was pretty big. You just gotta hit him,” he laughed.
The pass-rushers are prepared, and so are the cornerbacks, just ask Lonnie Johnson.