Returning Players: Collins Ukwu, Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble, Taylor Wyndham, Mike Douglas, Farrington Huguenin, Alvin Davis, Tristian Johnson, Christian Coleman
Newcomers: Thomas Chapman, Patrick Graffree, Langston Newton
Projected Starters: Collins Ukwu, Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble
2012 Outlook: As the transition from the 4-3 to Minter’s hybrid defense continues, the experienced and talented defensive line will be counted on as a team strength.
In years where Kentucky can boast a true SEC defensive front, the wins usually follow. Senior Collins Ukwu will return to start for the fourth time since he took over the position as a redshirt freshmen and his experience and leadership should be instrumental in bringing along the younger players. Rumph and Cobble are as dominant of a tandem of defensive tackles as Kentucky has had in recent years and should fortify the defense and keep blockers off of the young linebackers. The first string defensive line at Kentucky is as high quality as the Cats have had in years.
Ukwu arrived on campus as a gangly unheard of defensive end from tiny LaVerne, TN. Over the past four years, he has added over 50 pounds to his frame without sacrificing athleticism and was able to work his way into the defensive end rotation as a redshirt freshman before eventually winning a starting job. He has been very productive save for some injury issues, and he’ll hope to stay healthy this season to provide leadership to the multitude of young players on Kentucky’s defensive line.
The road to Kentucky’s campus was long and hard for Rumph. He was initially signed in the same class as Randall Cobb, but was forced to sit out for two consecutive years after failing to qualify academically each year. When he finally made it to campus, Rumph made waves immediately at defensive tackle and was one of the team’s most talented and consistent players as a sophomore. If all goes well in his junior season this year, Rumph may have to decide whether to return for his senior year or to move on to the NFL. He’s that good.
When Cobble committed to Kentucky, he was lowly two-star recruit with a funny name. He was able to come in and impress the staff after redshirting his freshman season, but academic troubles prevented him from snagging a starting job as a redshirt freshman and he was forced to sit out the year. Last season, Cobble made a big, and immediate splash as a sophomore and should be a staple in the defensive tackle position. He trudges on into his junior year with high expectations as he will be counted on to occupy multiple blockers and keep Kentucky’s young linebackers free to make plays.
Wyndham was a skinny freshman that arrived on campus that was supposed to be a linebacker. Surprisingly, he made big splashes as a redshirt freshman at defensive end and contributed some heavy minutes off the bench that season. He has been a consistent contributor throughout his career at UK and should help provide a pass rush this year as a senior when Kentucky is in four-man fronts.