A true freshman cornerback is pushing for playing time as preseason practice draws near a close. Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said Thursday night that Cincinnati Moeller product Carrington Valentine has worked his way into the lengthy defensive back rotation.
“Carrington Valentine’s starting to elevate over the last week or so. It adds another guy into the mix,” he said.
A two-sport star in high school, Valentine’s athleticism has given him an opportunity to make plays, but it’s the intangibles that have made him an early standout.
“So much when you come in as a freshman, especially out on the edges, you have to have a confidence in yourself and a belief in terms of, ‘I can compete with anybody that’s out here.’ Whether you can or not, whether you’re technically ready to play from a fundamental standpoint, he competes. He’s got an internal fortitude, that junkyard dog mentality that he’s going to keep coming and over and over. Even if he gets beat, he’s going to put the ball down and he’s going to come back,” White said.
Valentine’s abilities are best suited covering wide receivers, but where White actually sees the junkyard dog come out to play the most is when he defends the run.
“A lot of times young corners are a little bit afraid to mix it up, especially in the run game, and he’s not. He’s not afraid to put his pads on you which is a good thing to see. Even on his high school film at times, there was a question mark at times. He’s come in with no fear. He’s extremely coachable. He loves ball. He’s always watching film and he’s soaking up the information that he’s getting. That’s all you can ask and that’s what’s put him with a chance to play as a true freshman.”
Another Eye-Opening Freshman
Watching the offense from the other side of the line of scrimmage, White has been impressed with wide receiver DeMarcus Harris and Kentucky’s impressive offensive tackles. He also mentioned another true freshman, quarterback Beau Allen.
“Beau has really jumped out. You don’t see a true freshman quarterback do some of the things he does. It’s really impressive to see.”
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Are the Linebackers Ready?
DeAndre Square and Jamin Davis are two terrific inside linebackers, but do they have enough help? Marquez Bembry and Jared Casey just moved to the position this year and D’Eryk Jackson only arrived on campus this spring.
“All of them are going to have to play for us in some capacity,” White said. “We know about those first two, but they can’t play every snap this year. We feel confident that when Casey or Bembry or D’Eryk’s number is called they’ll be able to go in and they’ll be more than sufficient. Are any of the three where we want them to be ultimately? No, they’re still growing within that position but they’ve taken significant strides to give us comfort that when they go in the game they’ll be able to function.”
Cornerback MJ Devonshire had an impressive training camp entering his true freshman season. Expected to play right away, a broken wrist kept a redshirt on the cornerback throughout the 2019 season. White has seen him return to form entering his second fall campaign.
“He’s a guy that we just need to see consistency on a down in, down out basis. But he can run. He can cover. He’s still working through some of the technique stuff with Coach Clink, but he’s got a really big upside for us and we’re excited about how he’s been moving along, especially these last two weeks. He’s really taken a step.”
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