2007 Kentucky Preview - Defense
Kentucky Wildcat Defense
Preview 2007 - Defense
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What you need to know: Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is
gone, and now former secondary coach Steve Brown will take over
in an attempt to revive one of the nation's worst defenses. The
run defense won't be any good again with little size up front,
but the secondary should be better with excellent speed and good
young prospects. It'll take awhile to see any improvement
overall, but there's enough overall athleticism to expect things
to be a bit better.
Myron Pryor, 5
Interceptions: Marcus McClinton, 4
Star of the defense: Senior LB Wesley Woodyard
Run defense, pass defense
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior DE
Nii Adjei Oninku
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Corey Peters
Best pro prospect: Junior FS Marcus McClinton
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Woodyard, 2) LB Braxton
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, speed in the
Weakness of the defense:
Projected Starters: The line has to be better
against the run, and that starts on the inside. 6-1, 300-pound
junior Myron Pryor is back at right tackle after making
42 tackles and five sacks. While he's a strong interior pass
rusher, he has to hold up better when push comes to shove. He's
tremendously quick for his size.
Taking over the other starting tackle job from, vacated by Lamar
Mills, is 6-3, 290-pound sophomore Corey Peters, the
rising star of the defense. A fantastic prospect with a great
combination of strength and athleticism, he made 18 tackles and
a sack as a reserve. He has the potential to be the anchor of
the line over the next three years.
Returning at left end is 6-3, 268-pound sophomore Jeremy
Jarmon after getting six starts and making 30 tackles and
four sacks. It took him a little while to figure out what he was
doing, but once the light went on, he became a factor. Now that
he's stronger, and with a little bit of experience, he needs to
be the team's go-to pass rusher.
Trying to take over for do-it-all end Durrell White will be 6-1,
248-pound junior Nii Adjei Ononku, a star in practice who
has to grow into a regular terror in the backfield. Want-to
isn't an issue, but toughness against the run is after making 12
tackles. He has the speed and the motor to become a star if he
gets more time to develop.
Projected Top Reserves: 6-3, 261-pound senior
Dominic Lewis remains one of the team's most interesting
defenders. A tailback to start his career, he has emerged as a
decent speed rusher with two sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss,
along with 30 tackles, as a reserve. Extremely strong with
plenty of experience, he'll be a good option behind Oninku on
the right side.
Playing behind Pryor on the inside is one of the team's most
promising up-and-coming prospects, 6-4, 289-pound redshirt
freshman Ricky Lumpkin. an end to start out his career,
Tennessee's "Mr. Football" of 2005 will look to become a steady,
athletic tackle option.
Watch Out For ...
Peters. Lamar Mills wasn't bad, but he didn't do nearly enough
to be missed. Peters is a great looking prospect who should be
an upgrade on the inside.
Pressure. The line might not be all that physical, but it can
move. By design, this is an athletic group that can swarm to the
ball and create mismatches with its speed. Generating sacks and
tackles for loss shouldn't be an issue.
Run defense. You and four friends could push the UK front
four around. The line is full of four pass rushers and doesn't
have the brick-wall run stopper to work around. There isn't much
appreciable hope for a big turnaround this year.
It's almost like
Kentucky, as a program, realized it just isn't going to be able
to consistently stop the run, so it set out to try to figure out
something it could do well. While it did a good job of getting
into the backfield, and a decent job of getting to the
quarterback, the line could stand to be better overall. If
Oninku and Jarmon can use their speed on the outside more
consistently, the tackles can spend more time trying to hold up
against the power running teams.
Projected Starters: For all the problems on the defense,
the one player the Wildcats can rely in is 6-1, 212-pound senior
Wesley Woodyard on the weakside. The former strong safety
has been a tackling machine over the last two seasons with 222
tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. Extremely fast and always
around the ball, he'll be the leader and tone-setter for the
Returning to the middle is 6-0, 226-pound junior Braxton
Kelley, an undersized playmaker who hits much bigger than
his size. He finished second on the team with 82 tackles and
should be even better and more active now that he's two years
removed from a knee injury that kept him from seemingly going
full-tilt early on in 2006.
A reserve as a true freshman making six tackles, 6-3, 225-pound
sophomore Sam Maxwell has tremendous upside with
fantastic athleticism and good toughness on the strongside.
He'll be pushed for playing time, but he's too fast and too
talented to keep off the field for long.
Projected Top Reserves: Is the light going to
go on for Micah Johnson? The superstar recruit could've
gone anywhere in America, but chose UK last year and was
expected, almost unfairly so, to be All-Everything right off the
bat. To be fair, he was mostly a high school running back who
was just starting to learn all the defensive ropes, especially
at an SEC level, and he still made 29 tackles as a true
freshman. He's now up to 270 pounds and should eventually grow
into a force in the middle once he gets over a sports hernia
that kept him out of a bulk of spring ball.
Adding depth to the mix is 6-3, 240-pound junior Johnny
Williams, a bigger option than Maxwell on the strongside,
and a good veteran with seven starts last season, and 24 games
of playing time overall, making 35 tackles in 2006. While strong
and with a great motor, he's likely better served to end up as a
smallish defensive end than a linebacker.
Watch Out For
... Johnson. He's not there yet, but eventually, he'll become
one of the team's top defensive players. His skills and upside
are phenomenal. He'll make plenty of mistakes and could end up
on the line, but he's too talented not to blossom into a player.
Strength: Tackling. Woodyard and Kelley get to
everything and are rock-solid certain tacklers. They've been
around long enough to know all the ins and outs of playing in
the SEC, and they're good ones to clean up the messes created by
the bad line.
Weakness: Pass defense. The pass
defense is a team-wide issue, but the linebacking corps needs to
do more against the short to midrange passes. There's too much
speed and athleticism to not be better, even though the corps
has to spend most of its time dealing with the run.
The strength of the
defense by default, this is an experienced, athletic, and active
group that'll only get better once Micah Johnson figures out
what he's doing. Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley will be
among the SEC's most effective linebacking duos, and Sam Maxwell
is a good one who'll eventually become a top producer.
Projected Starters: As bad as the pass defense was last
year, there are some decent players returning. 6-0, 175-pound
sophomore Trevard Lindley took his lumps, but he turned
into a whale of an open field tackler, finishing fifth on the
team with 52 tackles and led the way with 12 broken up passes
with two interceptions. He'll be one of the team's best
Getting the start on the other side will be 6-0, 190-pound
sophomore E.J. Adams, a lightning fast prospect who made
13 tackles and a pick in a limited nickel role as a true
freshman. With 4.4 speed and tremendous jumping ability, he has
the size and the measurables to grow into a consistent second
corner. It might take a while, but it'll eventually happen.
Back at free safety is 6-1, 210-pound junior Marcus McClinton
after finishing third on the team with 65 tackles and
leading the way with four interceptions. A big hitter who showed
no ill-effects from a knee injury that knocked him out of the
2005 season, he should be the tone-setter for the secondary who
needs to start doing more to help out the corners when the ball
is in the air.
Pushing for the starting strong safety job will be 6-0,
205-pound sophomore Ashton Cobb after making 11 tackles
as a reserve. While he'll be in a fight for the starting job, he
has the strength, speed and upside to get him more starting time
and hope he'll grow into a consistent playmaker.
Projected Top Reserves: Battling for the
strong safety job will be senior Roger Williams, the
starter throughout most of last year who finished fourth on the
team with 62 tackles and two interceptions. A huge hitter who
has cornerback speed, he'll be back in the starting mix sooner
than later. He has too much experience not to be a big part of
Seeing plenty of action as a reserve will be 5-11, 200-pound
sophomore Paul Warford, who made 34 tackles with a broken
up pass. One of the team's fastest players and best all-around
athletes, he'll see plenty of time in the rotation behind
Junior Shomari Moore has been a regular backup for the
last two years with great speed and good experience making 44
career tackles. With five career starts, he could step in and be
a key player if Adams struggles.
Watch Out For
... Adams. If there's going to be improvement in the secondary,
it'll likely come from Adams, who began to show a little bit of
what he could do last year in a limited role. Now he should
blossom on the other side of Lindley.
Speed. The corners can fly. From Lindley to Adams to Warford to
Moore, staying with the speedy receivers won't be an issue. The
hope has to be for the overall athleticism to overcome the other
Weakness: Coverage. Only Kansas was
worse against the pass. With three sophomores starting, and a
slew of young backups, things might take a while before they get
a little better.
The secondary can't be any worse
than it was last year, and it won't be. All the green players
who got toasted so often last year are now veterans, even if
they do need more seasoning. The speed and athleticism is there,
but now there has to be a little bit of consistency and far more
done to keep the big plays and big passes in check. This will be
one o the team's strengths next year. Next year.
Projected Starters: Both kickers return, but they could stand to
be a bit better. Sophomore Lones Seiber hit 11 of 19 field goal
attempts with two kicks blocked. He has decent range, able to connect on
anything inside 50 yards, but he needs to be more consistent.
Junior punt Tim Masthay averaged 39.2 yards per kick with 13 put
inside the 20. He has a good leg and gets fantastic hang time. While his
net average isn't all that great, he doesn't allow much on returns.
Watch Out For ... a tremendous year from the coverage
teams. After allowing just 3.6 yards per punt return and 18.4 per
kickoff return, the attention will once again be on the details. Doing
the little things right, like kick coverage, helps make an average team
Strength: The return game. Rafael Little is
one of the nation's elite punt returners averaging a whopping 22.6 yards
per try. Not to be outdone is kick returner Keenan Burton, who averaged
24.7 yards per return. UK was first in the nation in punt returns and
tenth in kickoff returns.
Weakness: Seiber on
bombs. It's nitpicking for the loaded special teams, but Seiber has to
be more consistent overall and he's not going to hit too many from
beyond 40. Again, nitpicking.
If Lones Seiber can get his field goal percentage to
around 75% and if Tim Masthay can average over 40 yards per kick, the UK
special teams will be among the best in the country. It would help if
returners Keenan Burton and Rafael Little could stay healthy.