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Will the "Sam Maxwell Effect" strike again?

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By Kyle

It’s not every year that you have a player that can go through the type of transformation that Sam Maxwell went through between his junior and senior seasons. As a high school senior, Maxwell was a lightly recruited two star linebacker that only held division 1 offers from Kentucky and North Carolina. Upon his arrival to Kentucky, he was considered an afterthought to fellow linebackers Wesley Woodyard, Johnny Williams, Durrell White, and fellow classmate Braxton Kelley. Kentucky later added one highly rated linebacker after another to their roster and Maxwell was lost to the “career special team player” tag that gets placed on upperclassmen that are seemingly falling down the depth chart each year. By the time his junior season rolled around, Maxwell was backing up senior Johnny Williams and playing special teams, but not much else. When the 2009 season started he had ascended to the top of the depth chart as the starting strong side linebacker, but most still thought he would be the weak link in a linebacker group that included Micah Johnson and the freakishly athletic Danny Trevathan. After a spectacular senior season in which he led all linebackers in the country in interceptions, Maxwell has managed to go from humble football beginnings to a professional athlete with the world champion New Orleans Saints.
So, will we have another Sam Maxwell on this years team? There’s no way of knowing at this point. Going from a role player to a star while replacing an NFL caliber player is never easy, but these are the three best candidates.

Jacob Dufrene – SR – Outside Linebacker – 6’1/ 220
It’s fitting that the first player on the list is vying to fill the position Maxwell left vacant after heading of to the NFL. Dufrene was another lightly recruited two star linebacker prospect, but unlike Maxwell, he didn’t sport an offer from any BCS school but Kentucky. He has played admirably as a backup throughout his career and contributed heavily to special teams, but has never been considered a viable option as a starting linebacker. Dufrene will need to hold off athletic sophomores Ridge Wilson and William Johnson to remain the slated starter at his position, and then take on an impressive group of highly-rated incoming freshman. The odds are long for Dufrene to have a Maxwell-type impact, but not overwhelming. If he can utilize his advanced understanding of the defense and draw from his experience backing up Sam last year, he should be able to win the job. He’s not as big as Maxwell was though, so he’ll need to use his instincts to help him cover the bigger Tight Ends he’ll be assigned to as well as the faster Running backs.

Brad Durham – SR – Right Tackle – 6’4/ 310
Durham was no slouch coming out of Rockcastle High School and sported offers from Baylor, Cincinnati, Purdue while also getting significant interest from Michigan and Louisville as well. He’s not on this list because he doesn’t have talent, he’s here because he played in the shadows of starter Justin Jeffries for all of his career thus far. He was the first player on the Offensive Line to secure his starting spot this spring and his ability to open running lanes will have a huge impact on Kentucky’s rushing attack. Don’t be surprised if Durham sees his draft stock skyrocket by the end of the season and ends up on an NFL roster similar to his predecessor Jeffries who is with the San Diego Chargers. Durham does have the advantage of extensive playing time throughout last year while spelling Jeffries though, so he is somewhat expected to be one of the top offensive linemen on the team.

Paul Warford – SR – Cornerback – 5’10/ 205
Maybe no player on the roster has overcome more diversity than Warford. He started as a recruit that only sported offers from Kentucky, Northwestern and EKU to an instant contributor as a true freshman. After starting nearly all season as a sophomore, he got into academic trouble and was forced to redshirt after briefly leaving school in 2008. Despite his athleticism, he is on this list because he’s always been an afterthought to Kentucky fans playing in Trevard Lindley’s shadow, and being “recruited over” at the cornerback position almost every year. The addition of exciting younger player like Winston Guy, Cartier Rice, Martavius Neloms, and now Dale Trimble, Eric Simmons, and Jerrell Priester has diverted attention away from a guy that has been a solid contributor throughout his career, but never a star. For his senior year, he will have the opportunity to step up in a group of extremely young defensive backs and be the lock down corner that Lindley was before he became a philidelphia Eagle. Luckily for Warford, the SEC has plenty of talented Wide Receivers for him to show his worth against.

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