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Kentucky defense feeling sense of urgency

Brad White (Photo by Britney Howard | UK Athletics)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON — After a lackluster performance in the first scrimmage of fall camp, Kentucky’s defense took a step forward and has been in the upswing for the past two weeks.
 
“As a whole (on) defense we’ve picked it up,” Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White said Thursday. “We felt the urgency a little bit. We did some things in the second scrimmage that were better, we did some things in the second scrimmage that maybe weren’t quite as good as the first scrimmage. I think we’ve found a little bit more consistency, especially in today’s practice.”
 
That’s good news, considering Kentucky’s defensive unit — mainly the secondary — is inexperienced going into the season opener in less than two weeks.
 
White singled out the improvement of veterans Quinton Bohanna, T.J Carter and Calvin Taylor during preseason camp. 
 
“If they’re talking, that means they’re getting mental reps while those two’s are going,” White said. “They’re not just playing around in the back, they’re not just trying to get water, they’re not just trying to take a knee. They’re dialed in from started to finish. Even if you’re not in there getting a physical rep, you can always get a mental rep, and we try to preach that to the guys. … When you get that kind of leadership, good things happen.”
 
Josh Paschal, Boogie Watson and Jordan Wright also have been impressive, while Jared Casey, a true freshman, could be among the newcomers to watch on defense. Wright could be poised for an expanded role on defense and enduring what White termed a “little bit of a roller coaster.”
 
“He’d have some good weeks and he’d be excited and then he’d fall off a little bit or he’d get dinged and he’d have an injury,” White said. “It’s been his most consistent four weeks thus far and we need to keep that, because he’s playing at a high level right now at both (linebacker) positions.”
 
The biggest question mark remains the secondary and White isn’t sure exactly what to expect when the season kicks off against Toledo on Aug. 31.
 
“Some of it we’re gonna have to see how they react,” White said. “Are they gonna be able to put it behind ’em? Because in this league, against the wide receivers and the quarterbacks that you’re gonna have to face, plays are gonna be made.
 
“It’s the ones that can put it behind ’em and continue to compete at a high level that are the good ones and the great ones. The ones that sulk, the ones that put their head down, the ones that are thinking about it for the rest of the game, those are the ones that’ll get beat consistently and until you’re in that situation, we won’t know.”

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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

2 comments

  1. everyone thinks this year’s offense will be stronger than last year and this year’s defense will be weaker. The question is whether the offensive gains will keep pace with or exceed the defensive losses. If not, then I find little basis to expect 2019 to end with results similar to 2018. If it does, then I believe this team will perform well over the course of the season.

    For the defense, it seems most of the attention is on the secondary, which is completely understandable given the losses the defensive unit sustained from last year’s team. However, I believe that the strength of the front 7 will be the key to the defense’s ability to hold ground by stopping opponents on the ground and providing a sufficient pass rush to force sacks and forced passes. If opponent QBs are allowed time to pick apart the young secondary, the UK defense will struggle mightily. LIkewise with opponents who can establish a legitimate running game forcing defensive adjustments in the secondary to stop the run.

    On offense, the key as always is the ability of the O-Line to open running paths and protect Terry Wilson. With Wilson’s legs, his improved quarterbacking acumen, and a stable of good (not Benny) running backs, I believe the UK offense will be potent and average well above 30 points per game, but probably not above 35 ppg.

    This means the defense must hold opponents to 20 to 25 ppg (or less than 20 ppg which would be heaven for this football team).

    I believe in this team, and let’s all check in again on these scoring averages after the Arkansas game (mid-season).

  2. IMHO, it is absolutely amazing how the loss of Robinson at the start of practice changed the whole picture of how this season is likely going to play out. It just might favor us in the long run however, if the young, inexperienced corners and safeties can hang in there early on while gaining the needed experience to balance out our front rush. We may not get the number of sacks that Allen contributed last year, but we sure need a real increase in “rushed passes” that The Professor alludes to…welcome back to a much needed Josh Paschal. Now if the NCAA will do the right thing and grant Xavier Peters eligibility for this year, then hopefully, that extra speed will also add to the
    rush difference when teams start rolling the pocket…hi Fla.! Really feeling an over all confidence about this TEAM-go Cats!

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