By LARRY VAUGHT
Remember when Mark Stoops took over at Kentucky’s head coach after being such a successful defensive coordinator at Florida State. However, when he got to Kentucky he did not have a stout defensive line that it takes to be able to win in the Southeastern Conference.
That has been changing and this year the line could be the strength of Kentucky’s defense led by nose guard Quinton Bohanan.
“He was really impressive in the spring. You guys have watched, he’s been a good football player for us, made some good plays, he’s played a lot of ball in the first two years he was here. I noticed a difference in him in the spring. He had another gear. He’s very explosive. That’s a good, good person to build around. So excited about him,” Stoops said on Media Day.
Stoops believes watching Josh Allen, last year’s national defensive player of the year, along with secondary players now in NFL camps helped show UK’s returning defenders what it takes to make a step up in their play and it should show this year.
“(Lineman) T.J. Carter I think is a great example of that. He’s a guy that’s played a lot of football for us. Then you just see a different gear in him. You see his approach just that much more serious. I think he learned that from Josh Allen,” Stoops said. “T.J. is a guy, he can do big things. Again, he’s played a lot of ball. I just see a different guy.”
Most years having two defensive linemen back with experience, talent and a chance to be big playmakers would be a plus for UK. This year, though, there is a lot more to feel good about.
“Calvin Taylor is so big. He’s just one of those guys that’s very unselfish. We rarely talk about him, but he does a lot of good things. He’s very, very big and very strong and very solid at the point of attack,” Stoops said. “I think Phil Hoskins has a chance to really emerge, looking for him to take it to the next step.
“Marquan McCall is a guy unbelievably talented, so big, so quick and sudden. It’ll be good to get him going. Kordell Looney showed some flashes right there. Davoan Hawkins, Isaiah Gibson, Houssein Ali Abule, all working for times a well. We feel like we’re pretty deep there.”
Deep, talented and experienced — a combination UK certainly didn’t have when he got here in the defensive front and a combo that could be a big key to just how successful UK is this season.