2009 Kentucky Preview - Defense
Kentucky CB Trevard Lindley
Kentucky CB Trevard Lindley
Posted Jul 7, 2009

CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Kentucky Wildcat Defense

Kentucky Wildcats

Preview 2009 - Defense

- 2009 CFN Kentucky Preview | 2009 Kentucky Offense
- 2009 Kentucky Defense
| 2009 Kentucky Depth Chart
- 2008 Kentucky Preview | 2007 Kentucky Preview
| 2006 Kentucky Preview

What you need to know: The defense came up with a nice season, even though it finished 11th in the league in total defense and eighth in scoring D. Now there's some rebuilding to be done after losing seven starters, including three starters off the great line. Jeremy Jarmon, the All-America caliber end who was coming back for his senior season, was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance, but there are nice options waiting to step in and try to shine up front around veteran tackle Corey Peters. LB Micah Johnson and CB Trevard Lindley are two superstars to build around in the back seven, and while there isn't a ton of experience coming back. On the plus side, this is a fast, athletic defense that should be able to swarm around the ball and make up for mistakes with hustle. This won't be the SEC's best defense, but it'll be effective.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Micah Johnson, 93
Sacks: Corey Peters, 4
Interceptions: Trevard Lindley, 4

Star of the defense: Senior CB Trevard Lindley
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB Randall Burden
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore Danny Trevathan
Best pro prospect: Lindley
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Lindley, 2) LB Micah Johnson, 3) DT Corey Peters
Strength of the defense: Speed, Upside
Weakness of the defense: Experience, Production vs. the better passing teams

Defensive Line

Projected Starters: The Wildcats got a monster break when Jeremy Jarmon came back for his senior year, when he could've left early for the NFL without anyone thinking twice, but the good fortune went kaput after he got suspended by the NCAA for testing positive for a banned substance. With the star pass rusher gone, 6-4, 296-pound sophomore Chandler Burden will try to fill the void by filling the space with his size. He's not going to be a speed rusher in any way, and would be perfect as an end in a 3-4 scheme, but he has good quickness, running a 5.0 40, and is a great athlete.

With Ventrell Jenkins gone from the end, now it'll be up to redshirt freshman Collins Ukwu to be the new star after a solid offseason. The 6-5, 251-pounder has all the tools with a great speed burst he's been able to maintain even though he added more than 20 pounds to his frame. He has the makings of a fantastic pass rusher with a little bit of time.

While losing the ends will hurt, losing tackle Myron Pryor will really sting. 6-4, 294-pound junior Ricky Lumpkin won't be anywhere near the same interior pass rusher, but Tennessee's Mr. Football of 2005 has tremendous promise and upside. While he has had leg problems, including a badly sprained ankle last season, he has been productive when on the field making 17 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss after making 18 stops and a sack as a freshman.

The only returning starter is Corey Peters, a 6-3, 295-pound senior who made 35 tackles, four sacks, and ten tackles for loss. He's a very smart, very good cog in the system who has improved greatly over the last few years when it comes to getting into the backfield. With a big frame and with long arms, he has nice size to eat up plays and has a nice combination of strength and athleticism. He was great with all the attention paid to the rest of the line, and now he has show he can shine when the spotlight is on.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Mark Crawford comes in from Coffeyville Community College and is expected to play a big role right away at one of the tackle spots. The 6-1, 297-pounder was a top interior pass rusher last season showing amazing quickness and is always going full-tilt. He'll start out behind Lumpkin.

Some of the concerns about the losses on the end should be eased with the addition of DeQuin Evans, a superstar JUCO recruit who was an unstoppable pass rusher for Los Angeles Harbor College. Not just fast, he's 6-3 and 260 pounds with the strength to hold up against the run.

Is Greg Meisner finally ready? A good recruit a few years ago, he hasn't been able to get healthy after missing the last two seasons with a shoulder problem. When he's right, the 6-1, 233-pound sophomore has all the quickness and the instincts to be a star, but he has to be 100%. He'll start out behind Ukwu.

Watch Out For ... Ukwu and Burden to be fine. There will be plenty of concern about the loss of Jarmon and Jenkins, and their absence will be felt, but the two new projected starters are more than just productive they got the opportunity this offseason.
Size. There might not be a whole bunch of experience, but the projected starting foursome is large. The 296-pound Burden could play tackle if needed, while Ukwu has bulked up to over 250 pounds on the other side. Pushing this group around won't be easy.
: Proven top talent. Jarmon, Jenkins and Pryor were a terrific threesome, and while Peters will spend time in an NFL camp next year, and while the new players in the mix should be fine, there will be a drop-off. This was the strength of the team last year.
Outlook: The line won't be that bad. There will be a period of adjustment, and losing Jarmon after banking on his return was heart-ripping, but eventually, this group should be able to hold up well
. The key will be consistency. There won't be the pass rush of last year and the run defense might allow more than 200 yards per game, but there can't be a slew of youthful mistakes.
Rating: 7


Projected Starters
Senior Micah Johnson took over the full-time job in the middle last year and came up with a huge season making 93 tackles with 2.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss. While he's 6-2 and 256 pounds, he moves like a much smaller player with tremendous range and a burst into the backfield. He was this close to turning pro, and he likely would've gone had he received a better report back from the NFL advisory board. A likely fifth round draft pick had he come out, he can move up in a hurry with one more big year and by showing a bit better instincts for the position. While he earned First Team All-SEC honors last season, he's still getting better.

The big loss in the linebacking corps is Braxton Kelley, who led the team with 98 stops. The glamour position on the UK D is on the weakside where Kelley was great last year and Wesley Woodyard was a star a few years ago. This year it'll be Danny Trevathan, a 6-1, 220-pound sophomore who had a fantastic offseason highlighted by an 11-tackle performance in the spring game. With fantastic speed, he might be the fastest weakside linebacker the team has had in several years with the high-end motor to go along with the athleticism. He only made five tackles last season and did most of his work on special teams, but he should be fantastic in the full-time role.

Working on the strongside will be Sam Maxwell, a nice-looking 6-3, 248-pound senior who has been a key reserve over the last few years making 25 tackles after making 27 as a sophomore. While he has seen practice time on the weakside, he'll move around where needed and should start out on the other side where he can use his strength and quickness to get into the backfield with 8.5 tackles for loss in the last two seasons.  

Projected Top Reserves: Redshirt freshman William Johnson tore it up on the scout team last season and now gets to be turned loose on the weakside. He's only 6-2 and 205 pounds, but he's tough for his size and has the athleticism to play safety if needed. While he's trying to get bigger, he's able to move well enough at his current weight that he might not mess with adding more than another five or ten pounds.

The team's best scout teamer two years ago, sophomore Ronnie Sneed got his feet wet last year making a tackle and serving as a strong all-around special teams performer. The 6-2, 235-pounder isn't afraid to get his nose dirty, doing all the little things needed on special teams, but he has the speed and the athleticism to be a nice backup in the middle, and an understudy going into next year, behind Micah Johnson.

Only a special teamer so far, 6-2, 220-pound junior Jacob Dufrene will be the main backup on the strongside working behind Maxwell. He'll make the most noise once again on special teams, but he's a good tackler in practices and has worked his way into a No. 2 job.

Watch Out For ... Trevathan. He's in the weakside position that produces the big numbers and he has the speed to make the most of the chance. If he stays healthy, it'll be a stunner if he's not one of the team's top three tacklers.
: Speed. This group can move, and it's not like the Cats are sacrificing size for speed, either. Johnson might not be lightning fast, but he can get around in the middle, while Travathan and Maxwell will be all over the place.
: More big plays. Johnson is a menace and a disruptive force, but the outside linebackers have to prove right away that they can get into the backfield and be able to create more turnovers.
The linebackers did a nice job of eating everything up last season led by Kelley and Johnson. Even though Kelley is gone, the sheer tackling numbers should be there with Maxwell and Trevathan putting up big stats. Outside of Johnson, this won't be a group of all-stars, but it'll be a productive unit.
Rating: 7

Defensive Backs

Projected Starters
If Trevard Lindley isn't the best corner in the 2010 NFL Draft, he'll be in the running. After turning down a chance to leave early and be a top 50 pick, he's in a salary drive with a chance to make a ton of money with one more big season. The 6-0, 179-pounder is a great tackler for his size with 157 career stops, but his real talent shines through when the ball is in the air with a school record 34 career broken up passes with nine interceptions. Teams have figured out that he needs to be avoided, but he still finds ways to make things happen making every play that comes his way. The one thing he's missing is blazing speed. He's quick and can handle himself well against the SEC's faster receivers, but he's around a 4.5 runner instead of the sub-4.4 blazer that the NFL likes in its top corners.

Working on the other side is sophomore Randall Burden, and he'll get a ton of work his way with everyone staying away from Lindley. After a great offseason, he showed he can handle himself well under pressure and could be a strong coverman who can come up with picks and broken up passes when needed. He's a light 6-0 and 170 pounds and he isn't going to push anyone around, but he's promising after making four tackles with two broken up passes in his limited time.

Sophomore Winston Guy started out his career at corner, and he could move back there if needed, but he appears ready to become a star at free safety. At 6-1 and 208 pounds he has nice size and excellent range. He was fantastic on kickoff returns averaging 29.1 yards per try last year and made 11 stops, mostly on special teams, but he was great this offseason and appears to be a natural.

6-1, 211-pound senior Calvin Harrison was a spot starter at free safety over the last three seasons and now will work mainly as a strong safety. He's built for the position and has decent experience making 32 tackles last year and was a big, intimidating hitter, but he's average against the pass. Even so, he could move back to free safety if Ashton Cobb is back as the starter at strong safety.

Projected Top Reserves: Senior Ashton Cobb started six games last season at strong safety making 37 tackles after making 32 stops as a sophomore. The 6-0, 215-pounder didn't pick off any passes after coming up with two interceptions in 2007, but he recovered two fumbles. Able to play either safety spot, he'll start out pushing for the strong safety job and will push hard for the free safety position.

Paul Warford missed all of last year recovering from a broken collarbone, and now he'll push for a starting corner job after starting every game but one in 2007. He made 41 tackles with two picks and nine tackles for loss as a sophomore, but the 5-10, 200-pound junior has to earn his spot back with Burden coming off such a good spring. With track speed and the weight room strength of a lineman, he's a physical defender who's fine against the pass.

Sophomore Matt Lentz is a very smart, very tough playmaker who should see plenty of time in nickel and dime packages. After a great offseason, the 6-2, 218-pounder moved over from quarterback and appeared to be a natural safety making 24 tackles with an interception. He can play either safety spot and will start out behind Guy at free safety.

Watch Out For ... some good battles at safety throughout the season. Harrison and Guy are nice prospects and emerged this spring as promising playmakers, but Cobb and Lentz are just as able to step in and start. 
Lindley. The Wildcats have one of the nation's premiere corners and he'll erase half the field while locking down on everyone's No. 1 target. He'll make life easier for the rest of the secondary.
A proven second corner. Burden looks like a good one who'll grow into the job, but he hasn't done it in game action yet. Since Lindley will almost never get any throws his way, Burden, Warford, or redshirt freshman Cartier Rice will have to show they can handle the work.
The secondary, helped by an improved pass rush, improved enough to be a strength. However, it's not like it had to deal with a who's who of passing teams and got picked apart by Matthew Stafford and Georgia and by South Carolina, Middle Tennessee, and East Carolina. This won't be the most consistent group, but it'll have its moments with upside, depth, and Lindley.
Rating: 6.5

Special Teams

Projected Starters
Senior Lones Seiber isn't a special kicker, but he's not awful. The three-year starter has hit 38-of-63 kicks including 11-of-19 last year. While he doesn't have a big leg, he's not bad from midrange. However, he got two kicks blocked and missed seven kicks inside 50 yards. He's not consistent and he'll be pushed by punter Ryan Tydlacka

Tydlacka got a few chances last season in place of Tim Masthay, who averaged a whopping 45.2 yards per kick. Tydlacka was a specialist, and while he only averaged 37.1 yards per kick, he was a great at pinning teams deep putting 16 of his 22 kicks inside the 20. He got a few chances on field goals, but he only hit three of six chances.

Winston Guy was an elite kickoff returner when he got his chance, averaging 29.1 yards per try including a 96-yarder. However, he holds the record for the longest return without scoring. Randall Cobb will get a long look as the main punt returner after averaging 8.4 yards per try.

Watch Out For ... Tydlacka to be fantastic. He wasn't asked to air it out all that often, but he was great as a freshman at doing what he was supposed to. While he might not have Masthay's leg, he should come up with a few nice blasts.
Speedy returners. If it turns out to be Guy and Cobb returning the kicks, they should blossom in the roles with great athleticism to go along with their experience. The team has more than enough speed and talent to find other options.
: Dicky Lyons. He was an all-timer of a return man averaging 28.5 yards per kickoff return and 12.4 yards per punt return, UK has other options ready to shine, but Lyons was special.
The special teams are fine, but they're not going to be great. Seiber is what he is; a serviceable, veteran kicker. The coverage teams are going to be decent, but nothing special, while there aren't any major weaknesses to worry about.
Rating: 7