With the news of the past week where individual players announced their intentions to return to Lexington for the 2021 season, it feels like a good time to look forward to the next year. We are still waiting on a couple guys (Jamin Davis, Christopher Rodriguez Jr.) but for the most part have a pretty good idea what the roster will look like for the Wildcats in 2021.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered and Brad White returns for year four on staff and third as defensive coordinator with plenty of proven pieces. Kentucky will have a chance to have one of the better defenses in the SEC.
1.) Marquan McCall (6-3, 379, Sr.)
2.) Josaih Hayes (6-3, 314, RFr.)
3.) Octavious Oxendine (6-1, 318, RFr.)
After three years as a reserve, McCall will step into the spotlight and a lot will be expected of the former top-200 recruit they call Bully. Hayes and Oxendine were both members of the highly touted 2020 defensive line haul and UK needs one of them to become a really solid bench player.
1.) Qua Mahone (6-3, 295, RJr.)
2.) Justin Rogers (6-3, 336, RFr.)
Mahone is another South Georgia native who has quietly made some plays in reserve time, but hasn’t played a ton of snaps. Meanwhile, top-50 recruit Rogers is someone this defense is counting on to make a pretty big jump. Don’t be surprised if Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald makes an impact at this spot.
1.) Josh Paschal (6-3, 278, RSr.)
2.) Isaiah Gibson (6-3, 302, RSo.)
Paschal will enter 2021 as one of the best returning defensive line players in the SEC and he is a future draft pick. He’s a player. Isaiah Gibson played a lot this past season and looks set to be a guy that plays a lot of snaps.
1.) J.J. Weaver (6-5, 241, RSo.)
2.) Justice Dingle (6-3, 280, RJr.)
3.) Sam Anaele (6-4, 275, RFr.)
Weaver showed some big time playmaking ability this season and the Louisville Moore alum was on his way to a monster finish before tearing his ACL on Thanksgiving weekend. Getting him back sooner rather than later will be vital. Landing Dingle from Georgia Tech was vital while former blue-chipper Anaele should get plenty of work this spring thanks to the injuries and inexperience on the edge.
1.) DeAndre Square (6-1, 224, Sr.)
2.) Jared Casey (6-3, 221, RSo.)
Square will enter the season as a three-year starter and the Detroit native will look to finally have that breakthrough season. Behind him will be Louisville native Casey who recorded 20 tackles in a reserve role this season. UK is in good shape at Will.
1.) Jamin Davis (6-4, 234, RSr.)
2.) Marquez Bembry (6-3, 232, Sr.)
3.) D’Eryk Jackson (6-1, 245, RFr.)
Davis was one of the best Mike backers in college football last season and in 2021 he’ll have a chance at All-American honors if he produces the same numbers. Bembry got a lot of snaps as a backup in 2020 recording 27 tackles while Jackson made plays when given opportunities. Jon Sumrall should feel really good about his position room.
1.) Jordan Wright (6-5, 233, RSr.)
2.) K.D. McDaniel (6-2, 250, RSo.)
Boogie Watson leaves behind big shoes at Sam, but Wright was a co-starter at Jack and appears to have the skill set to be a little bit better fit at Sam as he’ll be able to play in space more. Meanwhile, this is a monster spring upcoming for McDaniel as UK really needs the former high three-star from South Georgia to develop into a solid rotation player.
1.) Carrington Valentine (6-0, 200, RFr.)
2.) Quandre Mosely (6-2, 185, 5th)
Kelvin Joseph is off to the NFL, but youngster Valentine got two starts to end the season and held his own. The low three-star out of Cincinnati Moeller looks to have a bright future and Kentucky will be counting on him heavily to go up head-to-head agains big and strong X receivers. Mosely played corner in the bowl game and could easily play safety. He will be an important part of the defense due to his versatility.
1.) Tyrell Ajian (6-0, 190, RSr.)
2. Jalen Geiger (6-1, 195, RSo.)
3.) Joel Williams (6-1, 2o4, RFr.)
Ajian was one of the better surprises in the 2020 defense and the former blue-chipper from Ohio is a quality starter with three career interceptions. Geiger got a few snaps in the Gator Bowl while it’s hard to deny the potential of Williams. Key here in the offseason will be to develop depth.
1.) Yusuf Corker (6-0, 197, RSr.)
2.) Taj Dodson (6-1, 198, RSo.)
Corker was a dude for the Kentucky defense last season and recorded two interceptions in his last two games. He might be the best safety returning in the SEC. Injuries have limited Dodson in his first two seasons, but it’s clear he has potential.
1.) Cedrick Dort Jr. (5-11, 182, RSr.)
2.) Jamari Brown (6-1, 201, RJr.)
Dort lost a lot of playing time due to the emergence of LSU transfer Kelvin Joseph, but he’s had some moments with seven pass break-ups in the last two seasons. Brown, meanwhile, got lost in the shuffle last season after opening 2019 as a starter. The chance will be there to claim a spot in the rotation.
1.) Davonte Robinson (6-2, 213, 6th)
2.) Vito Tisdale (6-1, 200, RFr.)
It was clear Robinson was slowed by injury in his first year back from injury, but he decided to return for 2021 and will look to return to that promising form we saw in 2018. Tisdale is a heat seeking missile who will be very hard to keep off the field. They have to find a place for No. 7 to contribute.