DBs feature seasoned vets and talented newcomers

The Wildcat secondary this season looks to have the proper mix of experience and youth to be successful.

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The Wildcat secondary this season looks to have the proper mix of experience and youth to be successful.

Two seniors, strong safety Muhammad Abdullah and cornerback Antoine Huffman, will anchor the secondary that has plenty of hungry young players looking to contribute.

"Muhammad Abdullah and Antoine Huffman are really stepping up and taking leadership," third-year defensive backs coach Steve Brown said. "They are being leaders by example and by making sure the younger Cats are getting to meetings on time."

Abdullah, the defensive leader in career starts with 21, will be switching this season from free safety to strong, where he'll be able to use his talent to help against the run more. A second-team All-Southeastern Conference performer the last two seasons, he has seven interceptions in his career.

"I'm glad they moved me to strong safety this year," said Abdullah, who was second on the team last season with 58 tackles. "I can get in on more hits and help the defense stop the run. I think it's a good fit for me. I know the defense very well so I can play either safety position if they need me to."

Huffman, the most experienced cornerback with 13 career starts, ranks sixth in school history with 20 pass breakups. He believes this year's secondary will be much improved because the hard work the team put in this off-season and the cohesion that is showing on the field this fall.

"I think we are doing very well as a unit," Huffman said. "I think as a group we are picking up the defense really well, we're showing good morale and that has really helped create a family niche. We're focused and we're using good technique."

The secondary also looks to receive a boost by the return of junior cornerback Bo Smith.

Smith, an Owensboro, Ky., native, sat out last season with an injury.

"We are extremely happy that Bo Smith is healthy and the fact he can still play football is a plus," Brown said. "He is a great player, a great competitor and is really tough mentally. Bo has the tendency to set the tempo so guys are going to have to play to his level."

Moving into the starting free safety spot looks to be sophomore Marcus McClinton. The Ft. Campbell, Ky., product has been displaying his ability to act on the football and make plays throughout fall camp.

While the first-team secondary has been consistent in camp, Brown continually stresses to his guys the need to have the strongest unit as possible.

"I always say I never count on four guys," Brown said. "I want 10 starters. Due to injuries, I always want guys to know the game plan and to know that they are one play away from being in the game."

The other "six starters," in Brown's eyes, will come from a mix of juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

Fighting for time on the field at the cornerback spot in the fall has been four freshmen. David Jones, Trevard Lindley, Shomari Moore, and Jarrell Williams have been working very hard and have shown great athleticism. They should be pushing each other up to the Louisville game, Sept. 4, for time as "nickel backs," extra defensive backs used in passing situations.

The backups at safety have the experience and skills needed to provide depth.

Junior free safety Karl Booker and sophomore strong safety Roger Williams both appeared in all 11 games last season and have shown great promise in camp. Booker, a Chesapeake, W.Va. native, manned the corner position last year and was moved to the safety in spring practice due to the progression of the young cornerbacks.

It's with this mix of young players, to go along with seasoned vets, that has UK's secondary looking to become established as one of the top defensive backfields in the SEC.


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