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Ware’s decision to leave UK surprises those close to him for a lot of reasons

Denzil Ware didn’t hide his happiness after the win at South Carolina last season. (Keyli Chisesi Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Remember a few days ago when I noted how 11 of the 25 signees in Kentucky’s 2014 recruiting class had transferred and two others — Boom Williams and Drew Barker — did not complete their eligibility for other reasons.

Now another key piece of that highly regarded recruiting class — linebacker Denzil Ware — is leaving. He completed his undergraduate degree Thursday and then announced he was leaving as a graduate transfer rather than play his final year at UK. His former UK roommate, Jeff Badet, did the same after the 2017 season and finished his career at Oklahoma.

Ware had a rocky end to the 2018 season. He played in the first 12 games with 48 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, and had an interception and two forced fumbles. But he was suspended for UK’s bowl game for a violation of team rules and don’t forget he was seen swinging a trash can at a Louisville player during a sideline fracas in that game. However, coach Mark Stoops insisted he was fully reinstated for spring practice.

“Today is bittersweet as I am proud to graduate from the University of Kentucky with a degree in community and leadership development,” Ware posted on Instagram. “However, I am also announcing that I am transferring for my final season. It was a very tough decision to make. I want to thank Coach Stoops and all the other coaches for everything they’ve done for me. Thank you, #BBN for all the support over these last three years. To my teammates, y’all are my brothers. I’ll always bleed blue. Go Cats.”
He played in 37 games with 156 tackles, including 26.5 for loss and 13 sacks. He had been considered a possible early entry for the NFL draft but along with linebacker Josh Allen and safety Mike Edwards opted to remain in college. Those three were supposed to be the anchors for an improved UK defense in 2019.

Now Ware has bolted and dealt a major blow to UK’s expected defensive strength for next year. Sophomore Josh Paschal was moved to the defensive line in spring practice as a way to get him on the field, but he could now shift back to his natural position at linebacker with Ware gone. Sophomore linebacker Boogie Watson also can play multiple spots and could get a chance at more playing time with Ware leaving as could redshirt freshman Jordan Wright, a highly rated recruit in the 2018 class.

Ware’s decision was a surprise even to those close him. He became a father several months ago and his infant son lives in Lexington. One reason those close to Ware felt he opted not to leave for the NFL was to remain in Lexington close to his son. Stoops had visited Ware’s infant son in the hospital — he was born premature — and those close to Ware said the UK coach made it clear he cared about Ware as player and person.

He had also joined a UK fraternity and and was going to live in the frat house.

However, remember Ware did leave his Florida high school briefly midway of his junior year before returning for his senior year. He also had been verbally committed to Florida State where he was recruited by Stoops before switching to Kentucky after Stoops was hired by UK.

Ware did not announce where he would play next season but if ends up at Florida State it would not stun me.

6 comments

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  1. With Badet, and now Ware leaving UK to finish somewhere else, I think that speaks volumes as to how they feel about the UK coaching staff’s ability to get them to the next level. You look a lot better when you play for teams that beat other really good teams.

  2. If he is leaving because he is mad about the discipline he received last year, then he needs to grow up and we are better off without him. Speculation will continue until the real reason comes out, if ever. You cannot blame the coaching staff for every decision made by players. There will always be players who see better opportunities elsewhere! Most find out that you are better off where you are.

    A degree in community and leadership development, what type of job does that train you for? I guess he could run for the Presidency one day! Good luck to him wherever he goes. Life is too short to hold grudges. Time for the next person to step forward.

  3. I pretty much agree with your observations Ben27. I don’t know if we are better off without him. He just may not have liked the idea of continuing to meet all the off-field and work expectancies. I don’t know. So how did the transfer work out of Badet? How did the early departure work out for Boom? I could go down the list. Greener pastures may be more of a mental construct than an environmental reality. The “screen-savers” projected by most programs, and other institutions, are just that …

    1. Great Points! I get tired of reporters saying that this is Benny Snell’s last year. If Tubbs of Georgia and other great running backs in the SEC stay for four years, why wouldn’t Snell stay for his senior year. It is like we are wishing them out the door. The NFL spits out running back every year. Become elite in college and you have a better chance in the NFL. Please quit talking about players leaving early. They hear it so many times, it almost makes it impossible not to go early.

  4. Screw Ware…..I get tired of these departure speeches as they all say the same thing and are very disingenuous. Still makes one wonder what continues to go on in the clubhouse with all the defections. If Ware really didn’t have the concern and discipline to stay under house rules then hope the door doesn’t hit him on the way out. At least we are finally thru the Matt Elam episode. His legend will be one of the biggest Busts ever.

  5. This can’t help the UK defense in 2018. His baby son is here in Lexington, and he is transferring? Didn’t quite get the explanation on all that. My opinion is that Ware is making a huge mistake.

    Also, Stoops is losing a lot of football players along the way as this article points out. I know players transfer, but this is anything but a casual transfer. This guy was a defensive anchor with game experience in the SEC, a starter. I am with Mike on his view that there is problems in paradise. You should not lose starters on defense unless there is hidden problems the average fan don’t know about.

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