2009 Kentucky Preview - Defense
Kentucky CB Trevard Lindley
CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Kentucky Wildcat Defense
Preview 2009 - Defense
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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.
Micah Johnson, 93
Corey Peters, 4
Interceptions: Trevard Lindley, 4
Star of the defense: Senior CB
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore CB
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Strength: 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,
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 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.
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
Weakness: 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