Going into the 2020 Kentucky football season, linebacker Jamin Davis was seen as a solid depth piece for the Wildcat defense, sitting comfortably behind standout linebacker Chris Oats on the depth chart.
Fast forward one year, and the 6-foot-4, 235-pound linebacker out of Ludowici, GA is now projected to be a first-round draft selection in the 2021 NFL Draft, with ESPN’s Mel Kiper listing the former Wildcat as the No. 17 overall prospect in the class in his most recent mock draft.
“Get to know this name, because Davis is a big-time riser,” Kiper wrote. “When I sat down recently to watch his 2020 tape, I loved what I saw. He has tremendous range. He is physical. He can play inside or outside. He can cover and has some ball skills, including picking off three passes last season. Davis is the total package, and he could slot in at middle linebacker for Jon Gruden’s Raiders team.”
Despite going from relative unknown as a draft prospect to potential first-rounder in just one calendar year, UK head coach Mark Stoops isn’t surprised by Davis’ rise, adding that he’s earned it after putting in the work.
“Heck, a year ago you guys weren’t talking about Jamin. You weren’t. If Chris doesn’t have that tragedy happen to him, Jamin would have been battling Chris just to get on the field. That’s what you want, that’s what you want in your program,” Stoops said in an interview with KSR on Thursday. “I’m just so proud of him, the work that he’s put in, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s rising. He is learning to play the game each and every day. He came out early, which you have to be super talented, but really mature to come out early and have the rise that he’s having.”
As crazy as it sounds, despite recording a ridiculous 102 tackles in 10 games with three interceptions, four tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, two pass break-ups, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick in 2020, Stoops believes Davis’ best football is ahead of him.
“I think most people realize that as good as he is and as great a young man he is, he’s still got the best football ahead of him. The sky is the limit for him,” Stoops said. “He’s going to be a great ambassador, just like all those guys are for us in the NFL, representing Kentucky and the BBN. Jamin will be a great ambassador for us for years to come. He’ll keep that tradition going of the linebackers playing in the NFL from Kentucky, Jamin will do well.”
With Davis preparing for the NFL, where does that leave the linebacker position in Lexington next season? According to Stoops, it’s a “next man up” mentality, just as it was last year. There’s plenty of talent ready to step in and step up.
“It’s always a “next man up” mentality, and Jamin knows that. He’s right there rooting on his brothers, waiting for the next guy to emerge,” Stoops said. “DeAndre (Square) is set for a big year, getting bigger and stronger every year. D’Eryk Jackson is a guy we have high hopes for, he’s a big, strong guy in the middle, a thumper that’s playing really well. Jared Casey is getting better with every rep. The transfer we brought in, Luke Fulton, has a strong presence in there, as well.
“We’ve got guys that will step up, it’s always “next man up” mentality. Our expectations defensively are getting better every year, every game, every practice, we’re always trying to get better.”
The NFL Draft is set to begin on Thursday, April 29, and by the looks of things, you won’t have to wait long to hear Davis hear his name called.