The WBN kentucky Wildcat Football Position Previews: The LBs



With Kentucky’s ever-changing defense, the linebacker position is a little but murkier than it has been in years past. The addition of two hybrid roles has moved Kentucky into a position to field a more versatile defense and to attack offenses in different ways. The early indications are that the Wildcats will have four linebacker-ish positions. There will be “Will” to play the weak-side linebacker or one of the middle linebacker positions and “Mike” to play in the middle as a traditional middle linebacker in three or four man fronts. Both of these guys are going to be your traditional linebacker-type player. The two new roles are going to be a little bit different and will require more versatility from the athletes manning them. The first is the “Sam” position, which UK has turned into a safety/linebacker hybrid. The guy playing Sam will line up on the strong-side (based on open practices) and will be able to provide a speed rush on blitzes, or a capable cover man. The other position is the Rush-End. This is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker position. This looks to be more of a traditional 3-4 defense outside linebacker. While coverage will be required at times, it looks like the rush end will be coming after the quarterback’s blindside more often than not. For the purpose of simplifying these positional previews, I’m including all three of these roles in the linebacker umbrella.

The Projected Starters:

#22 – Danny Trevathan – WLB – SR – 6’1 / 232 – Leesburg, FL

While he was far from a hot commodity as a recruit, Trevathan has become one of the best linebackers in the country and probably one of the best in Wildcat history. He is a true sideline-to-sideline defender that returns to start for his third consecutive year for UK. Hopefully this season, the rest of the Wildcat defense will step up a little more to prevent Trevathan from doing everything. Expect to hear Danny’s name a lot this fall and he should be in contention for some hardware at the end of the season if he can stay healthy.

#46 – Ronnie Sneed – MLB – SR – 6’2 / 241 – Tallahassee, FL

Ronnie has had a long journey to this point and he heads into his senior season as the favorite to win the starting middle linebacker job that he manned for most of last season. While he isn’t the biggest or the fastest player on the defense, Sneed is tough and disciplined. He brings experience from starting last season in addition to filling in for the oft-injured Micah Johnson the season before and should be tough for the younger players to unseat. That being said, Kentucky has recruited a couple of really good young players, so Sneed will need to perform well to keep the starting job.

#21 – Winston Guy – SLB – SR – 6’1 / 216 – Lexington, KY

There may not be a more controversial player on the roster than Winston Guy. As a Lexington native and former Lexington Catholic star, Guy has had the role of “the hometown hero” for most of his time at UK. He showed early promise in his career and will enter his third season as a starter, but has had issues in coverage and in open field tackling when he was playing safety. The move to a linebacker/safety hybrid role will put him closer to the line of scrimmage and give him the ability to attack the offensive play more often. This could be a huge year for Guy as he could potentially catapult himself into the NFL draft with a solid senior campaign.

#48 – Ridge Wilson – RE – JR – 6’3 / 243 – Louisville, KY

Wilson is an interesting story. He came to UK as a raw athlete out of Louisville Central high school that was known as much for dominating on the basketball court as he was on the football field. He showed promise early and even played as a true freshman before finding himself in Rich Brooks’ doghouse. He finally worked his way out last year, and took over the starting strong-side linebacker job before the end of the season. This year, he will be manning the rush end position and it is a role that fits his physical talents well.

The Main Contenders:

#40 – Avery Williamson – MLB – SO – 6’1 / 229 – Milan, TN

Of all the young players on the roster, Williamson might show the most promise. He had the size and strength to play last season, but needed some time to get the playbook down. A year later, he gave Sneed all he wanted during spring practice and is currently battling it out with the senior for the starting job in camp. If Williamson is not named the starter, he should expect to play quite a bit anway.

#32 – Miles Simpson – SLB – FR – 6’2 / 214 – Independence, KY

Simpson was moved from running back to safety earlier this year and has really taken off in his new position. He looked strong during the open portions of spring practice and has the type of athleticism that will make him a dangerous player in the safety/linebacker hybrid spot. It will be tough to unseat Winston Guy to start, but Simpson might be a darkhorse to jump in and surprise people. He should be a major special teams contributor this season at the very least.

#54 – Malcolm McDuffen – WLB – FR – 6’3 / 217 – Hopkinsville, KY

Let me be really clear here. I do not think McDuffen is going to beat out Danny Trevathan for the starting weak-side linebacker job. That said, the coaches glow when talking about the former high school quarterback/defensive end and he appears to be the future at the position. Expect to see McDuffen on special teams and spelling Trevathan when possible as the staff gets him some game experience.

#90 – Justin Henderson – RE – FR – 6’3 / 234 – Bamberg, SC

Henderson is the forgotten man in the 2009 recruiting class. He committed to Kentucky early in the process and a lot of fans simply forgot about him as he sat out last season while redshirting. A breakout performance this spring has helped Henderson make a name for himself and it looks like he has really taken to his new role. He may not unseat Wilson as the starter, but if Ridge finds himself back in the doghouse, the staff will plug in Henderson in a heartbeat.

The Best of the Rest

#47 – Jabari Johnson – MLB – FR – 6’1 / 244 – Stone Mountain, GA

Johnson originally signed with UK as part of the 2009 class, but failed to qualify to enroll. After sitting out last season as a greyshirted player, he enrolled in classes for the spring semester and was able to get to go through spring practice with the team and get back into football shape. He should provide some depth at the middle linebacker position and could realistically fill in as a rush end if needed as well.

#10 – Tyler Brause – LB – FR – 6’4 / 230 – Sycamore, OH

Brause came to UK as a quarterback prospect that most fans and recruiting services had pegged for an eventual move to tight end. After starting last season as a quarterback, he was moved to the defensive side of the ball and is currently listed as a linebacker on the Kentucky roster. On fan day, it appeared Brause was working behind Winston Guy at the Sam position, but he could realistically play any of the four linebacker spots in the future.

#49 – Demarius Rancifer – WLB – FR – 6’3 / 210 – Pensacola, FL

After the Cats struck out on several high profile targets at linebacker, Rancifer committed to Kentucky and gave the Wildcats a playmaker at linebacker. He is a little light to be expected to contribute heavily this year, but he could participate on special teams from day one if the staff feels like they need his speed. Depending on how he develops, Rancifer could play multiple positions for the Kentucky defense in the future.

#44 – Tim Patterson – LB – FR – 6’4 / 240 – Louisville, KY

Another 2009 signee that greyshirted last season, Patterson used the past year to rehab his injured knee and get ready to contribute for the Cats. He looks like an NFL player at this point and is only going to get bigger and stronger from here. If the staff feels like he’s healed enough to play, we could see him at middle linebacker or rush end this season. If he needs a little more time to get his knee back to 100%, a redshirt is not out of the question.

#61 – Travaughn Paschal – RE – FR – 6’4 / 250 – Odenton, MD

Maybe the biggest surprise of the summer, Paschal has already enrolled at UK after being a late qualifier out of prep school. He reportedly runs a 4.5 second forty-yard dash, which would be incredible for a player his size. NCAA rules mandate that he must sit out this season, but the Cats are appealing and hoping for immediate eligibility. If UK and Paschal win, he should be an impact player for the defense right away. He may eventually grow into a full time defensive end.

The Future

Daron Blaylock – LB – 6’0 / 220 – Marietta, GA

While he is listed as a defensive back by some of the recruiting services, it’s pretty apparent that Daron Blaylock is going to grow into a linebacker for Kentucky. He has great speed already and could eventually play any of the four linebacker positions, although I believe he is most likely to play the Will or Mike positions in the Wildcat’s defense.

Josh Harris – LB/S – 6’2/200 – Maysville, KY

When looking at Josh Harris, it’s hard to figure out exactly what to call him, and Depending on the recruiting service you’re looking at, he may be listed as a different position. Rivals has him as a defensive back, scout lists him as a running back, ESPN has him as an outside linebacker, and 247Sports just calls him an ‘Athlete.’ He fits the bill as a ‘Sam’ linebacker for the new defense and could utilize his versatility to attack offenses in multiple ways.

Langston Newton – DE/LB – 6’4 / 240 – Carmel, IN

The younger brother of current Wildcat quarterback Morgan Newton, Langston will come to Lexington looking to leave his footprint on the defensive side of the ball. He has the type of size and speed necessary to play the rush end linebacker for the Kentucky defense, but he could also grow into a true defensive end as well.

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