With the hiring of new Head Coach Mark Stoops and the expected announcement that Florida State DL coach DJ Eliot will follow him to Lexington, it is apparent that Kentucky will be running a 4-3 defense for the foreseeable future. The change is significant for a team that has worked out of a 4-2-5/3-3-5 hybrid defense the past two seasons to limited success. Since that defense doesn’t exist anywhere outside of Rick Minter’s head, it was hard to find players who fit into the scheme. Most of the players on Kentucky’s 2012 defense were playing out of position. That, coupled with a rash of injuries, led to the disastrous results everyone saw.
With the move to a new scheme, there are several players bound to a position change and other who simply don’t have a place in this defense. Expect some attrition among the defenders as they realize that they don’t necessarily fit into the Stoops regime’s plans. It’s not a knock on the player leaving, you can have a great player in the wrong system and it won’t work.
We won’t be theorizing who will be leaving the team, but I do have a preliminary Spring depth chart for the defense. It doesn’t account for attrition, JUCO signees or early enrollees.
Left Defensive End
Right Defensive End
Some notables changes here:
- Bud Dupree at DE. Bud has done well playing linebacker in his first 2 seasons in Lexington, but he may be forced to put his hand on the ground due to lack of depth and his great ability to rush the passer. He would need to bulk up first.
- Miles Simpson at LB. The hybrid position no longer exists, even though Miles had the perfect build for it. Simpson is a great athlete who has the body to play linebacker much more so than safety, he just needs some proper coaching to tap his potential.
- Tristian Johnson at DE. Johnson played well as an undersized tackle in 2012, but that’s what he is, undersized. He was recruited to Kentucky as a defensive end and he could move there again to help with depth. Tristian could provide bulk at the end of the line to help stop the run.
- Marcus Caffey & Glenn Faulkner as starters. Caffey was supposed to start this year but got in trouble with his grades and all of BBN should hope for him to return. If he is at the same level he was last off-season, expect him to hold of Harmon and Tiller for the starting gig. Faulkner wasn’t a starter before an ankle injury shut him down for the year. The way that happened may have been for the best, Kentucky had experience at safety with Martavious Neloms and Mikie Benton and Faulkner needed a redshirt year. Every position on the depth chart is open for competition and Faulkner is a former 4* Army All-American who has been in Lexington the longest. There is no reason to believe that he can’t win the job, but don’t expect Zack Blaylock to give it to him.
- Wildcards. Besides possible January enrollees, several players whom we haven’t seen or haven’t seen much of could impact the defense next season. Josh Forrest will be interesting to watch, not sure which position he goes to or if he moves back to offense. Langston Newton is a young guy who could move into the 2-deep over an older player, he certainly has the body. Josh Harris redshirted last season and his position may depend on how he developed during his year off, could play WLB or SS. Shawn Blaylock is a guy who would’ve played this season if not for injury. Jabari Johnson has the tools if he can stay healthy.