By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember before the season started and Kentucky found out it would not have sophomore Josh Paschal this season just a few months after defensive end/linebacker Denzil Ware, a two-year starter, transferred.
Even though UK’s defensive front had more depth, one still had to wonder just how stout the Kentucky defense would be against the run or putting pressure on the quarterback.
Quit worrying. The defensive front has been good, really good.
“I had confidence in the group, but they needed to be challenged. They needed to step up, and they have,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “To say that I would have guaranteed you that, I would have said they need to prove it and earn it like we talked about.”
Stoops praised the “unselfish” play of the defensive front Tuesday as the unbeaten Cats prepare to host South Carolina this Saturday night.
“They’re playing hard. It’s nice to have that rotation and continue to rotate guys through. They have been pretty evenly dispersed in particular this last week. Guys are just buying into their role. They burn every coach on clichés, but the truth is the strength of our team, is the team. That’s the truth,” Stoops said.
“We are good together. We have some individually very good players that are getting some recognition they deserve, and we have some of our standouts make big plays in that game. But our team just plays well together and that’s when we’re at our best. That’s a great example, the defensive line.
“The strength of that group is just the group. There’s a bunch of guys playing and they are all playing well.”
Defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc has taken a “methodical” approach to solidify the defensive front. Stoops says the defensive linemen have built on what they have done right and worked to correct mistakes.
“That’s why I hired Derrick because the system, the style of defensive line technique teaching is what I believe. I’ve always had that style, and he’s done a very good job with them,” Stoops said.