On Thursday, we previewed the upcoming offensive position battles in Kentucky’s fall football camp. Today, we take a look at the defensive side of the ball. To simplify Kentucky’s complicated defense, the position groups will be divided into defensive linemen, linebackers, hybrids, corners, and safeties.
The favorites: Mister Cobble (JR), Dante Rumph (JR), Collins Ukwu (SR)
The dark horse: Christian Coleman (SO)
Others: Mike Douglas (SO), Alvin Davis (SO), Farrington Huguenin (RFR), Taylor Wyndham (SR), Tristian Johnson (JR), Thomas Chapman (FR), Patrick Graffree (FR), Langston Newton (FR)
The race: ICE COLD
Sometimes competition is good for a team, but in this case, it doesn’t really even matter. The trio of Rumph,Cobble, and Ukwu should be so firmly entrenched into the starting positions that the only remaining question will be who else will make the two-deep. Luckily, depth all along the defensive line is very good and experienced and capable backups should help five the starters a breather. Add to that that UK has been able to add some quality young players on the line, and this has to be considered the strength of the team.
The favorites: Avery Williamson (JR), Malcolm McDuffen (SO)
The dark horse: Khalid Henderson (FR)
Others: Tyler Brause (SO), Demarius Rancifer (RFR), Pancho Thomas (FR), Jabari Johnson (RFR),
The race: MILD
As set as the defensive line is, the linebackers aren’t too far behind. Avery Williamson has patiently waited his turn and looks like he could be the next great linebacker at UK with little opposition from his backups. Malcolm McDuffen managed to hold onto the starting job at the weak side linebacker throughout the spring, but his ability to continue to do so isn’t as certain anymore. Thomas and Rancifer both look the part of SEC linebackers, but the real competition might end up coming from true freshman Khalid Henderson. Regardless of who wins the job, filling Danny Trevathan’s shoes will be no small task.
The favorites: Bud Dupree (SO), Miles Simpson (SO)
The dark horse: Josh Forrest (RFR)
Others: Kory Brown (SO), Travaughn Paschal (SO)
The race: COOL
The untimely departure of Ridge Wilson took all the sizzle out of the battle for the DE/OLB job, and no one has REALLY been able to challenge Simpson yet either for the LB/S hybrid spot. Paschal looks like a capable backup to Dupree, but is unlikely to overtake him on the depth chart. On the other side of the field, Brown and Forrest will have to make a stronger push to unseat Simpson.
The favorites: Cartier Rice (SR), Martavius Neloms (SR)
The dark horse: Fred Tiller (FR)
Others: Eric Dixon (SO), Eric Simmons (SO), Jonathan Reed (FR), Cody Quinn (FR)
The race: COOL
The biggest news of the offseason had been the emergence of freshman Marcus Caffey at cornerback, but that was before Friday’s news that he will be academically intelligible this fall. To add to the woes at theposition, freshman Shawn Blaylock will undergo season ending knee surgery as well. Down to only five scholarship players at the position, the staff decided to move senior safety Martavius Neloms back the the position he played for his first two years on campus. Now, he and fellow senior Cartier Rice are expected to hold down the starting jobs while sophomore Eric Dixon fills the role of the nickel corner. Reinforcements arrived earlier this summer when the freshmen got to campus, and not a moment too soon. While Blaylock may be out, Quinn and Reed can both contribute right away and I’ve been talking up Tiller all summer long. Now, it’s only a matter of everyone staying healthy.
The favorites: Ashely Lowery (SO), Mikie Benton (SR)
The dark horse: Glenn Faulkner (SO)
Others: Dakotah Tyler (JR), Strrling Wright (FR), Josh Harris (FR), Daron Blaylock (FR), Zach Blaylock (FR)
The Race: ON FIRE
Safety WAS a position of strength for the 2012 season. Now, after the shuffling of Neloms back to corner, things have opened back up. Benton is the incumbent at one of the two safeties and had been edging out Lowery this offseason. Now it appears as though we will see a three-man battle for the two starting jobs and Benton, lowery, and Faulkner will all have their hats in the ring. The smart money would have Lowery and Faulkner coming out on top, but Benton has made a living out of beating long odds.