The Kelvin Joseph era in Lexington has come to an end. The sophomore announced his intentions to enter the 2021 NFL Draft and will forego remaining eligibility. Joseph played in eleven games as a true freshman at LSU prior to transferring to Kentucky. A polarizing figure, it’s hard to argue with the results of his nine game career as a Wildcat. His four interceptions lead the Southeastern Conference and is tied for second nationally. He also registered 25 tackles and one pass breakup. So, who or what’s next?
Carrington Valentine is listed as Joseph’s backup on the depth chart. But, Cedrick Dort Jr. will most likely be moved over from his role as Brandin Echols’ backup to starting cornerback. Dort Jr. has played in nine games collecting ten tackles and one pass breakup. The 5’11, 182-pound junior started twelve games a year ago. He recorded 16 tackles, five pass breakups and forced one fumble in 2019.
Carrington Valentine is a true freshman from Cincinnati, Ohio. He’s listed at 6’0, 200-pounds and has three tackles and one pass breakup. Valentine originally played receiver at Moeller High School before moving to defensive back as a junior. Relatively new to the position, Valentine has impressed the coaching staff with his athletic ability and knack of grasping defensive scheme.
“The best quality that he has is his competitive nature. He is a competitive kid and I like that. He’s always working hard. He’s dialed-in. He takes things serious. Sometimes freshmen are just freshmen. It doesn’t sink in or they don’t take the coaching, the medicine the way you need to, but Carrington does. He does not waste a rep,” Mark Stoops said last week.
“It’s paying off and it’s gonna pay off for him in the future. Years down the road it’s gonna pay off for him because of the way he attacks practice, because of his approach and because he’s super competitive. I like that about him.”
Losing the SEC’s leader in interceptions will hurt and is not an easy fix. However, Dort’s experience and Valentine’s potential will be faced up with South Carolina receivers on Saturday night. The Gamecocks’ star pass-catcher Shi Smith is in concussion protocol but is practicing and trending towards playing against Kentucky, according to interim head coach Mike Bobo. Smith’s 76 receiving yards per game ranks sixth in the SEC. The 5’10, 190-pound senior is dynamic and can stretch the field.
Cornerbacks Brandin Echols, Cedrick Dort Jr. and Carrington Valentine will also be called on to tackle RB Kevin Harris in the open field. This is no easy task. Harris is 72 yards shy of a 1,000-yard season and from all accounts the Gamecocks have intentions on getting him to that mark. Expect a high number of carries for the 5’10, 225-pound sophomore. Tackling will be at a premium on Saturday night.