It took a little time for UK’s two junior college defensive back transfers to get acclimated to big-time college football. Since the start of SEC play, Brandin Echols and Quandre Mosely have proved they belong on the field.
Even though he’s a cornerback, Echols has been one of Kentucky’s top tacklers over the last two games, combining for 17 tackles, including a team-high ten against Mississippi State. He gave Kentucky new life in Starkville, stripping the ball from quarterback Garrett Shrader to keep the driving Bulldogs out of the end zone on the first possession of the second half.
A Memphis native, Echols played high school football against State running back Kylin Hill. The undersized quarterback moved to defense full-time at Northwest Miss. CC. His 5-11 size does not give him an advantage physically, but it fuels him on the field.
“I played with a chip on my shoulder because I’m undersized, for one. Everybody wants a 6-1, 6-2 DB now-a-days. I just wanna prove myself to everybody that size don’t matter. It’s heart over size,” Echols told KSR.
On the drive before Echols’ strip-sack, his JUCO counterpart made a game-changing play for the Wildcats. Mosely picked off Shrader’s pass, giving UK a scoring opportunity before halftime. Slower to enter the rotation than Echols, an injury and an ejection forced him into action against Florida. He admitted it took some time for him to adjust to the SEC atmosphere.
“For me, it’s kind of nerve-wracking because it’s SEC. I came from a two-year and it’s a big difference,” Mosely said. “But now, I don’t really hear the crowd no more. I’m just playing football, doing what the coaches ask us to do. If we do that, we come out with a win.
They have yet to earn an SEC win, but Mosely did earn his first career start last week. The two JUCO talents have only scratched the surface.
Those weren’t the only defenders who spoke to KSR after Wednesday’s practice. This week UK’s defense has been preparing for South Carolina’s uptempo offense, something that will pose a challenge to Quinton Bohanna and the rest of the UK defensive line.
“They go fast, so we gotta communicate, get lined up and go play,” said Bohanna. “I don’t like it, but it’s cool. I’ve played against tempo, fast, slow, huddle up. It’s a a challenge. It makes you over-communicate.”
For DeAndre Square, the defense has shown flashes, but they’ve failed to finish. That can’t happen in Columbia. “We focused on starting fast, finishing tackles, being in great position and having our eyes set to get the play right.”