With this week’s news that Pancho Thomas and his brother, incoming freshman Khalid, have been dismissed from the team many fans have been left to wonder what Kentucky will do to make up for their losses. The questions intensified following yesterday’s report that Josh Clemons may have suffered another serious lower leg injury. (Yes, I’m aware of what people are saying that the injury actually is but tests haven’t confirmed anything yet)
Losing Pancho is a big hit. Others may try to say otherwise but for a team that is thin at linebacker, losing a top backup is not good. He was likely to back up Avery Williamson in the middle and play a lot of special teams. Pancho was a good tackler and hard hitter. He was unlikely to ever be a star because he was a little deficient when it came to pass coverage, but was expected to be a solid contributor throughout his career.
So what do the coaches do? Well, Tyler Brause is the only guy on the team with experience playing the middle. But he is light and his tackling ability has been a little suspect at times. You could see Josh Forrest move inside, as he has the requisite bulk to play in the middle. I’ve always thought that Miles Simpson might be better suited inside. And before you talk about Simpson being too small, the roster lists him eight pounds heavier than Thomas.
Another possibility that may surface is freshman Jason Hatcher. During his recruitment Hatcher mentioned a couple of times that UK might let him play some LB. At the time I assumed that he meant as an outside pass-rushing type of role, but he has the athleticism and certainly the size to play Mike in a situational role. Kentucky fans need to pray for Avery Williamson’s health this season.
The loss of Khalid Thomas doesn’t sting quite as bad in the immediate future. Even following the potential loss of Clemons, running back is probably still the deepest position on the team, except maybe tight end. If he didn’t redshirt, Khalid was most likely to see time at receiver and on special teams. His future may have even been at defensive back, considering that Kentucky will add Braylon Heard, Mikel Horton and Boom Williams next season. So his loss may not be felt right away butKentuckycan’t afford to lose top athletes like him. The #35 athlete in 2013, Khalid helds offers from OhioState, Notre Dame,South Carolina and Miami among others.
So what do the coaches do? Just go recruit another top athlete with multiple BCS offers. It hasn’t proven too tall a task for them thus far. It’s hardly a secret at this point that the staff plans to sign a full class and then some due to back-counting, which means there will need to be another round of attrition this year to make room for the newcomers. Either way, it looks like Mark Stoops is sending a message to his team that you will do things the right way or do them somewhere else.