After going over what would happen if everything bounced UK’s way for 2018, it’s time to look at what could happen if the trains came off the tracks. UK returns a wealth of experience in 2018 but there are still some major questions that need to be answered.
Last season, Kentucky gave up 28.2 points per game as opponents put up over six yards per play and completed 64.2% of their pass attempts. All of those numbers ranked towards the bottom of the SEC as the Wildcats fell apart down the stretch. To end the season, the final three opponents all rushed for over 300 yards as UK ended the season on a three-game losing streak. Those numbers have to scare you entering the fall.
That’s enough of the background, those of you reading have all watched the games. There’s a lot going right for Kentucky’s defense but it’s easy to envision how this thing could go wrong. If worst comes to worst, here is what can happen to the defense.
- Along the defensive line, Quinton Bohanna could suffer a sophomore slump. There is a chance he was being overhyped this offseason after recording zero havoc plays while starting multiple games in 2017. At tackle, neither Phil Hoskins or Adrian Middleton improve from last season while T.J. Carter and Calvin Taylor, Jr. struggle at end. With no Joshua Paschal, there does not appear to be a difference maker and 2018 is just more of the same for Kentucky’s defensive line.
- At linebacker, Jordan Jones stays banged up all season and is unable to stay in the lineup. Kash Daniel has a steep learning curve at Mike that takes awhile to get through. Josh Allen does not make the adjustment, physically, to the Jack outside linebacker spot that plays closer to the line of scrimmage. Boogie Watson is not ready to make an impact at Sam while the three freshmen are just not ready to contribute at the SEC level.
- In the secondary, the pass coverage does not get any better while the competition increases. UK plays their fair share of solid quarterbacks this fall and all of them shred what has suddenly become a porous pass defense. Mike Edwards is solid but UK continues to struggle in pass coverage at free safety.
- As a group, UK’s defensive inefficiency decreases for the fourth season in a row as they are just not able to find answers. The group can’t stop the run and struggles to force turnovers. Due to increased competition, the team gives up over 30 points per game for the fourth time in six years under Mark Stoops.
There’s a ton of pressure on this defense entering this season. UK is projected to start, potentially, seven seniors and if they can’t put it together this fall it may never happen. There appears to be depth at each spot so the time for excuses is over. It’s put up or shut up time for Matt House’s unit.