Kentucky’s defense produced a mixed bag of results in 2017. Mark Stoops expects that to change in 2018.
An optimist would say that Kentucky’s defense had great moments last year. They showed flashes of dominant defense and carried the team to victories at South Carolina and Southern Miss. A pessimist would point to piss-poor numbers. Kentucky was 12th in the SEC in total defense and ranked 97th overall in the S&P+ metrics.
The lack of depth on the defensive line was the root of Kentucky’s defensive problems in 2017. After a successful spring, defensive coordinator Matt House doesn’t believe that will be the case in 2018.
“Our league is a line-of-scrimmage league, and you can’t be successful in our league with just ones. You got to have a group, ” House said at UK Media Day. “We are excited about the depth they’ve got there…I think they have had a good summer and I’m excited to see how that translates in training camp.”
Charged to recruit more depth in the trenches, Vince Marrow believes they have enough bodies to consistently control the line of scrimmage.
“I always thought the key was our D-Line. I think we’re two deep, maybe three deep at every position on the D-Line.” He added, “I’ve seen a difference this spring in our front seven.”
When the defensive line did not apply pressure, it hurt UK’s secondary. The unit boasted plenty of talent, but could never consistently produce. With four guys playing to prove they belong in the NFL, House has seen a change in the veteran group.
“They’ve committed themselves. You’ve seen a heightened level of preparation. You see them around the building watching film together, talking about coverage, and you see them down in the weight room working,” House said. “I think they learned from the past.”
The linebackers are the only defensive unit that will feel the affects of attrition. Courtney Love was the playcalling captain. Filling that void will not be easy, but Stoops believes Kash Daniel will accomplish that task admirably.
“He has good command of the defense. He’s playing very well, playing very confident and I’m excited about Kash,” Stoops said.
Unlike previous years, a lack of depth and talent is no longer an excuse. Marrow has never felt more confident about a Kentucky football team.
“I think this is Coach Stoops’ best defense.” The Big Dog took it one step further, “This is the most talent we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Hear who Marrow believes will break out this fall, why you should believe in UK, an inspirational quote from Gladiator and much more in the 15-minute interview below:
Mark Stoops did not say it with the same enthusiasm, but he agrees with Vince: this should be the best defense he’s put on a Kentucky football field.
“There’s been times we’ve had some pro defensive linemen, but maybe not at the second and third level of the defense. If you just look at the defense as an entirety, it’s definitely the strongest since we’ve been here.
“We have to go prove it and play better than we have and be more consistent. We’ve done good at times. We need to be more consistent.”