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2008 Kentucky Preview - Defense
Kentucky DE Jeremy Jarmon
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Kentucky Wildcat Defense
Preview 2008 - Defense
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What you need to know: This is a promising, talented defense
that can't finish last in the SEC in scoring D and tenth in total
defense again. Has there ever been this much talent on a Kentucky
defense? DE Jeremy Jarmon and CB Trevard Lindley will each go in the
top 50 picks whenever they come out, while DT Myron Pryor, DE/DT
Ventrell Jenkins, and a few others should see time in NFL camps. The
line is very big, and very promising, and very underwhelming when it
comes to production so far. The pass rush wasn't there last year and
the run defense had way too many problems. The secondary was
night-and-day better after a nightmare of a 2006, and now it should
be even better if FS Marcus McClinton can stay healthy.
Jeremy Jarmon, 9
Interceptions: Trevard Lindley, 3
Star of the defense: Junior DE Jeremy Jarmon
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior LB
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Ricky Lumpkin
Best pro prospect: Jarmon & Junior CB Trevard Lindley
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jarmon, 2) Lindley,
3) DT Myron Pryor
Strength of the defense: Defensive line size, corner
Weakness of the defense:
Production from the line, pass rush
Projected Starters: Unless you're a die-hard SEC
or UK fan, you've never heard of Jeremy Jarmon. Come
March and April, you'll know all about him. The 6-3, 285-pound
junior is a dream NFL 3-4 end and after a good first year, he
broke out and became special last year finishing fourth on the
team with 62 tackles, nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss as he
put it all together. He has the speed and quickness of a much
smaller end, and the body of a tackle. The All-SEC performer
will be a top 50 pick if he chooses to come out early and will
be the star of the UK defensive front seven.
Also certain to get a hard look from the NFL types will be
Ventrell Jenkins, another good pro-style 3-4 end with 6-2,
285-pound size and good quickness. He's a defensive tackle by
nature, making 34 tackles with four sacks and 5.5 tackles for
loss, and while he might not be starter all season, he'll
provide big bulk against the run.
Working on the inside is another decent pro prospect, 6-1,
310-pound senior Myron Pryor, who made 27 tackles. While
he didn't show much of a push in the backfield, he made a
team-leading five sacks as a sophomore showing off far better
quickness and burst than he did last year. When he's on, he's
one of the SEC's best all-around tackles and he can make himself
a ton of money with a big year. If nothing else, he's going to
dominate in he weight room portion of the NFL Combine.
6-3, 290-pound junior Corey Peters was a rock on the line
starting every game but one, making 43 tackles with 2.5 sacks
and four tackles for loss. With a big frame and long arms, he's
tough to throw over, and with his excellent combination of
strength and athleticism, he should thrive with all the
attention paid to the rest of the front four.
Projected Top Reserves: While Jenkins might be
too big and too good to keep off the field, he'll play in a
rotation once Nii Adjei Ononku is healthy. A superior
pass rushing prospect who has tremendous speed, the 6-1,
248-pound senior is trying to get past a knee injury that cost
him all of last year. Nowhere near the run stopper that Jenkins
is, he might be a situational pass rusher for a while.
6-4, 289-pound sophomore Ricky Lumpkin was Tennessee's
2005 Mr. Football and is one of the team's most promising young
linemen. He made 18 tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss
in seven games, but he's trying to get healthy after having leg
problems. He had calcium deposits that had to be removed.
Watch Out For ... Jenkins as an end. It's an
interesting experiment to try to get more production against the
run. While he could end up seeing most of his time at tackle if
Ononku is healthy, he'll be a key piece of the puzzle.
Size. If Jenkins really is the starting end, this might be the
biggest front four in America averaging 6-2 and roughly 295
pounds per man. The little guy will be Jenkins at 6-2, 285.
That's why there needs to be more ...
... production against the run. With three players who'll be
drafted, and a fourth in Peters who'll get time in an NFL camp,
and with all the beef, it's inexcusable that this group allowed
191 yards per game. There were some good moments, but most teams
that could run the ball, did.
Get ready to hear this
on Draft Day 2009, "With all these players drafted, it's amazing
Kentucky wasn't better up front." Jarmon is a special player
who'll be around the big league for ten years, while Pryor and
Jenkins are big bodies who can clog things up. However, the line
was originally built to get into the backfield, and UK was the
worst team in the SEC in tackles for loss and was mediocre at
getting to the quarterback. For so much size and talent, this
group has to find something it does well.
Projected Starters: Step one is finding a replacement
for undersized tackling machine Wesley Woodyard on the weakside.
While 6-0,. 226-pound Braxton Kelley might need a little
while to figure out the job, after starting every game but the
opener in the middle, and finishing third on the team with 63
tackles with five tackles for loss, he's a good fit for the job.
A great tackler with nice quickness and athleticism, he has the
tools, especially now that he's three years removed from a tough
knee injury, but he has to prove he can make plays against the
With Kelley moving to the outside, 6-2, 255-pound Micah
Johnson will take over a full-time role in the middle. He
started the opener last year in the middle and was a key reserve
throughout the season finishing fifth on the team with 58
tackles with two interceptions and four tackles for loss. Now a
junior, the one-time superstar recruit, who could've gone
anywhere, has to live up to his potential. The former high
school running back has slimmed down a bit after pushing 270
early last season, but even though he has gotten in better
shape, he still adds more bulk than Kelley.
Former defensive end Johnny Williams will work on the
strongside coming off a 43 tackle, one tackle for loss season. A
good veteran with a nice motor, he wasn't much of a pass rusher
to demand time on the line, but at 6-3 and 240 pounds, he a good
athlete who'll make things happen against the run. he started in
seven games last year at linebacker, and now he should be
Projected Top Reserves: Pushing for time
behind Williams will be 6-3, 225-pound junior Sam Maxwell,
a smallish, quick athlete with great speed and nice upside. He
might not be big, but he can move well enough to be a bigger
factor after making 27 tackles with five tackles for loss as a
Junior Mikhail Mabry is a 6-2, 235-pound junior who has
mostly been a special teamer with two tackles and an
interception coming early in the year. A tough player who should
be decent in the middle once he gets a chance, he'll work behind
Johnson to start out.
6-2, 220-pound junior Michael Schwindel is a smart
weakside defender who made four tackles, but has good upside.
More of a safety than a linebacker, he's a great athlete who
took a big step up in practice production over the last year,
and now it has to translate to the field.
Watch Out For
... Kelley. Will he blossom in his new role, or will he appear
lost? He might not have been big for a middle man, but he knew
how to get to the ball and was a good playmaker. Consistency
might be a problem early on.
In terms of sheer skill, Kentucky hasn't had a linebacking corps
this good in years. There are good athletes across the board,
and as long as Johnson becomes the star he was supposed to be
when he arrived on campus, there are the right-sized players in
the right spots after going small and quick with Woodyard in the
mix over the last few seasons.
Getting into the backfield. This was a team-wide issue last
year, and the linebackers didn't provide any help. For the most
part, the UK linebackers have had to spend so much time helping
out against the run that they weren't able to do too much else.
That might change with an improved front four.
While the loss of
Woodyard isn't going to help, there's a chance the corps could
be better, and even though there isn't a ton of veteran depth,
it'll be deeper. The big key will be how Kelley handles his new
role. He might not make the 139 tackles that Woodyard did, but
he brings more size and he could make more plays at the point of
attack. Johnson has all the tools to be a monster now that he's
a full-time starter, and Williams is a nice veteran who'll only
Projected Starters: The secondary was night-and-day
better last year than it had in previous seasons, and part of
the reason was the emergence of Trevard Lindley as a
star. A phenomenal tackling corner who'll be taken on the first
day of the draft whenever he chooses to come out, he's 6-0,
175-pounds with good speed and great hitting ability. After
making 52 tackles with 12 broken up passes as a freshman, he was
second on the team with 66 stops, three interceptions and 11
broken up passes as a sophomore.
On the other side, at least to start out, will be junior Paul
Warford, a 5-11, 200-pound veteran who started every game
but one last year and made 41 tackles with two picks and nine
tackles for loss even though he missed time with a collarbone
injury. With track speed and the weight room strength of a
lineman, he's a physical defender who's fine against the pass,
but he isn't the elite player Lindley is.
Back at free safety will be Marcus McClinton, a 6-1,
210-pound senior who made 32 tackles and a pick in eight games.
Never healthy as he tried to play through a variety of problems,
he came back for the bowl game after missing the final three
games of the year. A big hitter who was also knocked out of the
2005 season with a knee injury, he's a good all-around playmaker
who can be a tone-setter when 100%.
With Roger Williams gone, it'll be up to Ashton Cobb to
take over at free safety. He got the start against Florida and
finished the year with 42 tackles and two interceptions. At 6-0
and 205 pounds, the junior has the size to go along with
tremendous weight room strength and corner speed. He could play
either safety spot. Now he has to grow into a consistent
Projected Top Reserves: Just a hair behind
Warford for a corner job is David Jones, a 5-10,
185-pound senior who started off his career well, earning SEC
All-Freshman honors, but hasn't done much to build on it. He has
seen time as a wideout and has started at corner from time to
time. He made 11 tackles last year.
While McClinton is firmly entrenched at free safety, 6-1,
200-pound junior Calvin Harrison is a good one who'll see
plenty of playing time after making 41 tackles with two picks
and nine broken up passes as a top reserve and four-game
starter. Also able to move to strong safety if needed, he's a
vital backup who needs to get healthy after missing all of
Stepping in late last year at free safety against Florida State
was Shomari Moore, a regular backup for the last year
with great speed and decent production making 20 tackles and an
interception last year and with 64 career stops.
Watch Out For
... Lindley to get the spotlight. He had one very good year, and
after a tremendous sophomore campaign he'll get everyone
focusing on him as a possible top NFL corner. He's that good.
Speed. There won't be a problem for this group to stay with
anyone in the SEC. This group has speed to burn at all spots and
among the backups.
Weakness: Proof. Yeah,
compared to two years ago when the UK pass defense was the
second-worst in America, things were positively impressive, but
it all might have been a bit of a mirage. The teams with the
good passing quarterbacks, like Louisville, Tennessee and
Florida, all threw without much of a problem. Yeah, the
secondary came through against Georgia. It'll be interesting to
see what happens against Hunter Cantwell and Louisville in the
The secondary improved by leaps and
bounds, and it didn't even have that great a pass rush to help
the cause. Lindley is a superstar to build a secondary around,
while McClinton, if he can stay healthy, will earn a little bit
of All-SEC recognition. Seven players with starting experience
from last year are back, and it should show; this should be a
Projected Starters: Junior Lones Seiber is back after
hitting 16 of 25 field goals last year, and 27 of 44 for his career. He
has a decent leg hitting five of eight field goals between 40-of-49
yards, but he struggled with his consistency from midrange.
Senior punter Tim Masthay only averaged 39.8 yards per kick and
put 16 inside the 20. He's a good veteran, but he's not an elite punter
and he puts too many kicks into the end zone with nine touchbacks.
Keenan Burton was a special kick returner averaging 24.2 yards per kick,
but Dicky Lyons wasn't that bad averaging 22.1 yards per try.
Rafael Little didn't have a great senior year, and Lyons will get a long
look at that job, too.
Watch Out For ... Seiber to be counted on even more. A
good kicker so far, he needs to be great considering the offense is
going to be worse. UK played in five games decided by seven points or
fewer; Seiber will be a big part of a lot of close games.
Veteran kickers. Seiber and Masthay might not be terrific, but they're
long-time veterans who aren't going to be awful. While the coaching
staff might be looking for more, these two aren't going to be a
Weakness: Kickoff coverage. There
isn't a huge leg on the lot, and it shows on kickoffs. UK allowed 23.5
yards per kickoff return and two touchdowns.
The return game should be fine after a disappointing
year, at least when it comes to punt returns, while the kicking game
will be the working definition of serviceable. This year, the special
teams have to be a major strength and can't just be average.