VAUGHT: Smith breaks down the linebackers

As the countdown to the opening football game against Louisville Sept. 4 continues, UK linebacker coach Chuck Smith breaks down the players who could be playing for him against the Cardinals.

Wesley Woodyard (pictured): "He's a special player. He's got a gift for playing. He has a nose for the football. He's a physical, tough kid who is only going to get bigger and better."

Joe Schuler: "He has a great spring. He laid it on the line every day. He's going to be a big part of our success. He's a lot like the kids I coached in high school. He's tough, too."

Raymond Fontaine: "He's a great, great athlete, even better than I anticipated. He's tall and could be a real playmaker. He's got to carry a lot of the load for us this year."

Braxton Kelley: "He's a real quiet young man, a real polite kid. He has a great attitude. He's a hard worker and knows what he is doing on the field. He has good speed, and quick feet. He's very physical, too. He'll light up people."

Sam Maxwell: "He has height and speed that I like. He's very physical and will hit."

Jamaal Jackson: "He's a great athlete with great speed. He's a big-time playmaker."

Ben Bates: "He could also play fullback. He's not as tall as some guys, but he's tough and physical. We want to look at him at linebacker first."

Johnny Walker: "He's a walk-on, but I think we got a steal in him. He has talent. I think he's a steal."

Ben McGrath: "He could be a big part of our defense. He had a good spring. He was hurt, but never asked out. That impressed me."

Johnny Williams: "He will flat-out hit you. He's well built and physical. He likes to make plays and he has the speed to go all over the field. He's not afraid to try and make plays."

Makhail Mabry: "Like Johnny, he grayshirted and then had a great spring practice. He's really impressive. He's going to be a very important player."

Terry Clayton: "He did some great things in the spring, too. He's really eager to learn and play."

Kentucky is still not sure if Maxwell and Jackson will qualify academically to play this year or not. There are also still questions about whether Dennis Johnson will be able to play because of a back injury.

But Smith likes the young group of linebackers he has. What they lack in experience, he promises they will offset with aggressiveness.

"I think we have some guys that will hit you. Johnny, Mikhail, Wesley, Joe, they all want to smack you in the mouth. They are not afraid to hit you.

"Overall, we have tremendous athleticism and athletic ability. The freshmen are as good as any group of linebackers I've seen on tape. They just need experience, and we're going to get that for them."

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