Kentucky Wildcats Football: Linebackers Preview

1 of 2

For the better part of the last decade, Kentucky has been extremely strong at the linebacker positions. Wesley Woodyard, Braxton Kelley, Micah Johnson, Sam Maxwell, Johnny Williams, Danny Trevathan, and Avery Williamson all made it seem like the Wildcats couldn’t miss on linebackers as ALL of the above named players are still in the NFL or spent time there. That string of outstanding linebackers could come to an abrupt end this season, or it could continue. It will largely depend on the current players on the roster stepping up and showing they have what it takes. Here are the candidates, and due to the varied nature of Kentucky’s defensive alignments, no particular designation (Weakside/strongside, right/left, middle) will be given.

. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Forrest (JR) – He came to Kentucky as a wide receiver. Then he was moved to tight end briefly before being switched to safety. Last season, Josh Forrest was moved to linebacker and that appears to be where he will stay. As an obviously athletic player, Forrest presents match up problems for defenses as he is unusually fluid for a player with his size. He seems to have the inside track at the starting middle linebacker position at this time, but he will have to hold off a couple of versatile upperclassmen as well as several underclassmen overflowing with potential. He is big enough and strong enough to play any of the linebacker positions in a 4-3 or 3-4 defense though, so expect to see Forrest in some capacity even if he doesn’t win the starting job.

Khalid Henderson (JR) – It seems like yesterday that Kentucky was able to swing Henderson’s commitment from Tennessee and then we allwatched him step out and play well as a true freshman. A sophomore season full of obstacles followed and Henderson’s status a starter is anything but certain. He has the ability to play any one of the linebacker positions in the traditional 4-3 looks, but Henderson should be one of the top challengers at the weak-side linebacker spot or in the middle now that he is up to a respectable 230 pounds. Speed is the name of his game though, so expect to see him playing extensively even if he doesn’t secure a starting spot.

Ryan Flannigan (JR) – Coaches don’t recrui and sign junior college players to sit on the bench and you can bet that the Kentucky staff is planning on Flannigan contributing this season. He is athletic enough to have played safety at the junior college level and now the coaches are hoping he can use that speed at his more natural position at linebacker. A candidate to play on the weak-side or in the middle, Flannigan will join Henderson and Forrest as one of the top contenders for a starting job.

Travaughn Paschal (SR) – Paschal seems to have bounced from the defensive line to linebacker and back and forth nearly his entire career at Kentucky. At 6’4 at 260 pounds, he’s far and away the biggest linebacker on the team and his size may make him a dark horse for the starting middle linebacker job. When Kentucky uses 3 linebackers, Paschal also has the size to play the strong-side position and his experience as a defensive end always makes him a dangerous blitzer. Don’t let his size fool you though, as Paschal can move. While he may not be a favorite to start, he will undoubtedly play and Paschal could certainly pull the upset over the smaller linebackers.