By LARRY VAUGHT
Perhaps the biggest question mark on the Kentucky football team going into this season would be the defensive line. Even coach Mark Stoops knows that.
“We need certain groups to step up, in particular the defensive line,” Stoops said Monday.
Then he had to announce why that suddenly is harder — defensive lineman Regie Meant is out indefinitely for personal reasons and Stoops has no idea if he will rejoin the team this year or not.
“It is a blow to us and our depth on the d-line. But other guys will step up and we’ll continue to do that,” Stoops said.
Still, losing a player that Kentucky coaches were counting on heavily for non-football reasons is a blow, especially when Meant was considered one of the team’s vocal leaders.
“We have a great leader in (senior) Jacob Hyde. He may not be the most talented defensive lineman but he’s a great leader in that group,” Stoops said. “Talking about outside guys, they work together a lot, Denzil (Ware) has been a good leader as well. Matt (Elam) is going to have to step up and play at a higher level and be a better leader. We’ll miss Regie for sure.”
Stoops was hoping to have some true freshmen maybe provide depth in the defensive front. Now he says they have to do that.
“They’re a long ways off right now but they’re good players. They’re what you want and what you look for. We needed a good solid d-line class. We have one in this group. We have to bring them along a little bit. How much they can help us — I don’t know yet. It’s a little too early for that,” Stoops said.
He says Alvonte Bell, Courtney Miggins and Kengera Daniel are all players that could help fill the void left by Meant’s departure.
“Kengera needs to really develop. He’s a guy that needs to step up and improve,” Stoops said. “Alvonte needed the redshirt. He just wasn’t ready to play. He couldn’t really help us last year. He worked hard. He’s physically in much better shape and needs to continue to play at a higher level.”