When Mark Stoops was hired away from Florida State last year, it was on the strength of his defense. The former Seminole defensive coordinator has been a successful assistant at multiple stops during his career and authored a dramatic turnaround in Tallahassee. Stoops is known for running a 4-3 defensive front with a lot of Cover 3. Not much in the way of blitzing, just generating pressure with the front four and playing sound assignment football in the back seven. That defense was the base scheme that DJ Eliot orchestrated this season and it saw some success. The Wildcats were far from dominant (except versus Miami of Ohio) but a lot of that had more to do with talent and depth than coaching.
Therefore it’s rather notable that if one looks at Kentucky’s recruiting efforts for the 2014 class, there seem to be quite a few players who are very talented but don’t really fit the mold for a 4-3. It appears that Kentucky may be transitioning to a 3-4 front or a multiple defense. Look no further than top target Matt Elam as an example. Elam is down to Kentucky and Alabama, not teams that usually square off for a recruit. Kentucky wants Elam because he is the type of talent that you need to keep in-state and has the potential to be a game changer along the defensive line. The Tide want Elam because he is a prototypical nose tackle that can eat space in the middle of Nick Saban’s 3-4.
A 4-3 defense doesn’t use a nose guard. Maybe the thing that really got me thinking about this was a recent interview with DL Adrian Middleton, where Middleton talked about Jimmy Brumbaugh saying that he would likely play defensive end in Lexington. Middleton is 6’4” and 275 lbs as a high school senior, he’ll likely grow to the 300lb range in college. That sounds like a 3-4 end to me. The same goes for Tymere Dubose, whom has said he could end up at either end or tackle in college. Defensive end commit Denzel Ware is a bit undersized to play on the line in the SEC, but he would fit nicely as a pass-rushing outside linebacker in the 3-4. Nico Firios and Dorian Hendrix are each best suited to play middle linebacker. They could be lined up side by side down the road.