By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
UK Football: Two Defensive Players You Need To Get To Know
Nine-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant, in a press conference after he was taken as the second pick in the NBA Draft in 2007, repeated a line first made famous by high school basketball coach Tim Notke. Durant’s quote was, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.”
That line should be the constant mantra for this 2018 UK Football Team. That’s also why every UK Football fan should get to know these two defensive players who epitomize that particular saying.
These two players – a defensive lineman and a cornerback/safety who can play multiple positions in the secondary – are two guys that should provide the Wildcat defense with some standout plays in this upcoming season and here’s why.
Calvin Taylor, Jr. is a 6’9″ 300 lb. junior defensive end. He started out as a basketball player in high school but decided by his senior year that football would be his ticket to college. He received football interest from Temple but a coaching change seemed to cause that interest to dry up. Then, through a chance connection between a junior college contact and former UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh, UK became interested and the rest they say “is history.” Taylor became a Wildcat and is now working to become an integral piece of the defensive line rotation.
During the 2017 season he recorded 22 tackles and 1 sack in 9 games and in the 2018 Spring Game he had two quarterback sacks. Here’s what defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc had to say about Taylor. “Calvin is Mr. Coachable,” LeBlanc said. “He does everything right, he’s where he’s supposed to be, he’s in his gap, he can get off blocks. He’s just so long every now and then he bats a ball or two down, so he’s right where he needs to be. He’s got so much length he can spread out and take up two gaps and stick his arms out and knock down passes. We’re excited about Calvin.”
UK Football fans should be excited also. With the transfer of Denzil Ware and the loss of Josh Paschal big No. 91 should get the opportunity this season to create some havoc for opposing quarterbacks and offensive lineman.
Jordan Griffin is the other player that UK fans should get to know because of his hard work and talent. Griffin is a 6’0″ 194 lb. safety/cornerback that came in as a four star player out of Jonesboro High School in Georgia with the class of 2016. UK had to beat out the likes of Auburn, Clemson, Michigan State and Ole Miss among others for Griffin’s services.
Griffin is a guy that can play both the safety and cornerback positions. Last season he recorded 22 tackles and 1 interception in 9 games. His versatility in run support and pass coverage allows him to be used in a lot of nickel packages similar to how Defensive Coach Matt House used Blake McClain in the past.
Griffin is a team player that is all about winning. Here’s what he had to say about his versatility as a player. “I definitely feel like I can play all the positions (in the secondary). Wherever they need me most, that’s where I’ll play.”
He is also no stranger to hard work. Here’s what UK Head Coach Mark Stoops had to say about Griffin. “You give him the tools, you give him the details and work with him, he takes it all in and he soaks it up and he really works at it,” Stoops said. “I’ve seen players that have done that, that have developed themselves into first-round talent just by the work ethic. And I hope he takes some steps like that. I’m not putting that on him at a young age, but you just love his work ethic, you love how conscientious he is.”
Look for Griffin to be a guy that can come into a game, work his assignments and make the play – whether it is making a big stop in run support or deflecting a pass in coverage.
In the 2018 season, just like Kevin Durant said back in 2007, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” In the case of these two players though you have hard work and talent rolled up in the same package and that’s where winning football programs come from.