There’s normal attrition that happens every year in the preseason, and then there’s (possibly) losing Regie Meant for the season. People transfer for more playing time, injuries are an unfortunate reality, but this situation is unusual.
Mark Stoops said today, “He will be out indefinitely for personal reasons,” adding, “it has nothing to do with football.”
The indefinite departure is uncommon and you wish Meant the best, but as Jimmy Brumbaugh told reporters, “You just gotta pick up and keep going.” Herein lies the problem: who do you get going with?
Most people know that the defensive line lacks depth heading into this season. But most don’t know that his position is particularly thin, and particularly difficult.
The 3-technique defensive tackle lines up across from the offensive guard’s outside shoulder. The other defensive end in the 3/4 is in a 5-technique, lined up across from the offensive tackle’s outside shoulder. Usually the 5-technique has a shoulder free from a blocker, making it easier to contain the outside and responsibly cover his gap. For the 3-technique, not only are you sandwiched in-between the two biggest offensive linemen, offensive guards can pull in offensive traps, leaving you open to getting smacked in the mouth from a variety of directions.
To summarize that last paragraph: Meant’s position gets hit probably more than any other player in the greatest variety of ways.
Albeit inexperienced, the 5-tech defensive end has multiple options. A pair of junior college transfers, a 2015 early enrollee and impressive looking true freshmen. At Meant’s position, here is what the depth chart currently looks like.
- Adrian Middleton, sophomore
- OR Tymere Dubose, sophomore
- Kordell Looney, freshman
- Zane Williams, senior walk-on
- Calvin Taylor, redshirt freshman
I could have just written in question marks and it probably wouldn’t have made the difference for many readers. There are a few different solutions Stoops and Eliot have on the table.
The loss of Meant applies pressure on last year’s junior college transfers. Courtney Miggins pieced together a decent second half of the season after playing his way into shape, finishing the season with 12 tackles in a reserve role. At 6’5″ 290, Miggins has enough meat on his bones to take a beating on the inside, but little experience.
Alvonte Bell wasn’t in good enough shape when he came to Kentucky, spending the year to get his body right with a redshirt. The coaches believe he can make an impact this year, but there’s always a little hesitation to provide too much praise. Simply put, Bell is an unknown, but one that must step up if Miggins is moved inside.
Play True Freshmen
The 2016 recruiting class did not provide an increased quantity on the defensive line, but two of the newcomers are high quality by any standard. Kordell Looney and T.J. Carter already look like SEC defensive linemen, but looking the part can only take you so far. Just because you weigh 285 pounds doesn’t mean your body is prepared to get its ass kicked by grown men four days a week for six months.
Capacity to take a whooping is a requirement of the job, something that is almost exclusively be developed by time.
The more and more I think about it, the more it appears to be the obvious choice.
The 4/3 defense was initially Mark Stoops’ base defense, but Stoops and Eliot have always referred to it as “multiple,” slowly transitioning to the 3/4 as the base. Using four defensive linemen with their hands in the dirt should help them better utilize their pass rushers.
It could work effectively, but it all hinges on Matt Elam’s ability to diversify. Instead of playing directly across from the center, he’d line up in between the guard and center in a 1-technique. You’re also still stuck needing to find someone who can effectively play the 3-technique.
When I began this post, I thought there were a few simple solutions, but the more and more I think about it, the more difficult it is to find a clear-cut answer. There is no easy solution to replace Regie Meant. “Next man up,” is a popular cliche, one that definitely applies to this situation.