After Kentucky’s first loss of the season, it’s tough for the Big Blue Nation to find reasons to be optimistic. Allow me to show you the silver lining: A Star was Born.
The new Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga remake of a remake of a musical drama isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about Chris Oats.
This time last year Oats was a four-star recruit at Winton Woods High School in Cincinnati. On Saturday the true freshman started in his first collegiate game as Kentucky’s defensive signal-caller at Kyle Field. Even without significant experience, Oats shined.
“I was proud of him the way he stepped in and played,” Mark Stoops said after the game. “I thought Chris did a good job from what I could tell. There was nothing that stood out negatively in the first half.”
No. 22’s number was called after Kash Daniel received a targeting penalty in the second half of the South Carolina game. Forced into the Kyle Field locker room for the first half, Daniel liked what he saw from Oats on the computer monitor.
“Chris did an unbelievable job for us. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Oats was happy to have Kash on his side throughout the week as the team game-planned against Texas A&M.
“Kash helped me out a lot,” Oats said. “He was just telling me he knew I could be capable of providing for this team. He knew I could get my job done. He was just a big brother to me. It helped me out a lot.”
It’s safe to say Oats got the job done. In the first half he had four tackles, 1.5 for loss and his first career sack. When the blitz was dialed up, Oats was prepared to make a big play.
“The blitz was called. I knew I had to hit my gap with a lot of speed. The guard actually fanned out to me, so I had to go underneath. It was all technique.”
The true freshman’s exceptional technique did not go unnoticed. Pro Football Focus awarded him a game film grade of 76.9, the best grade of any UK defender at Texas A&M. Oats played great, but there’s still plenty of room to grow.
“I was pretty satisfied, but I know I could’ve done better,” said Oats. “I played good, but I could’ve played a little faster.”
In his first primetime appearance, the spotlight was not too bright for Oats. The future is bright for Kentucky’s next defensive star.