When he returned home to Cape Coral a few months later, those maternal fears were quickly put aside.
“I remember coming back home after the bye week last year, and she was like ‘Oh my God, I’m worrying if you’re eating enough up there, and I see you come back home, you can’t even fit in the house no more,’” Meant said with a laugh befitting his new 300-pound physique.
“She’s happy, though, that I’m doing so well and looking good.”
So are the Wildcats.
When Meant was recruited as part of Mark Stoops’ first class at Kentucky, he was projected as a defensive end or defensive tackle, depending on how his body developed. He played at Baker High School in Cape Coral in the 250-pound range, but caught the UK staff’s eye due to his agility and a frame that suggested he could be a recruiting steal if he put on good muscle weight.
Now at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds following a productive redshirt freshman year, he has the look of a real SEC defensive tackle. He’s benching close to 400 pounds and squatting close to 500. And he says he has maintained the 4.7 range speed he always possessed.
“In high school, I played some defensive tackle, but mostly defensive end my junior and senior years,” he said. “When I came here, I was between 258 and 264 (pounds), so I wasn’t sure which spot I would play, but since last summer I’ve put on 30 or 40 pounds and gotten a lot more physical, so I knew I’d probably be going to defensive tackle.
“But I’ve still got the speed. I think I could still play D-end if they needed me to. I didn’t think, at 300 pounds, I’d still be able to move. I thought I’d be slow or sluggish, but I can still move how I was moving at 260.”
The timing is right for Meant to make an immediate impact. The Cats lost two senior defensive tackles in Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph from last year’s squad. As fall camp opened this week, he’s competing with seniors Mike Douglas and Christian Coleman, junior college transfers Melvin Lewis and Cory Johnson, fellow redshirt freshman Jacob Hyde and five-star newcomer Matt Elam for a starting job.
“We did lose a lot of veterans, good guys and good players, but now it’s our turn,” he said. “I’m going to miss those guys, but I can’t wait to play.”
UK defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh says Meant is poised for a breakout season.
"He's doing a good job," Brumbaugh said. "He's very focused. He's a guy who's going to give you his all when he gets out there, and that's what you really appreciate about him."
Meant is looking forward to showing some people back at home in the Sunshine State that they made a mistake when they let him get away to Kentucky.
He grew up a fan of Florida State and Miami, so he is a natural rival of the Florida Gators. He has the Cats’ game Sept. 13 in the Swamp circled on his calendar.“I’ll be very geeked up,” he said. “The linebacker coach, I don’t know if he’s still there, but he was recruiting me and they never did offer because they thought I was too undersized in high school. My old high school coach is also a Florida fan, too, so I want to show them what they missed out on.”