Defensive line depth now a problem

On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle was a position that Kentucky enjoyed many athletes who could contribute this 2005 season. After going through a spring camp relatively injury free, full practices have taken their toll on the inside of the defensive line.

All through spring practice and the start of fall camp, there were two positions that the University of Kentucky football squad could really count on for depth. Although there wasn't star power in the wide receiving corps, they did and experience and leadership on their side. No one was really worried about injuries on the wide receiving depth chart. The receivers have followed through with a spring and early fall camp devoid of serious injuries.

The other position that I mentioned earlier is a different story. On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle was a position that Kentucky enjoyed many athletes who could contribute this 2005 season. After going through a spring camp relatively injury free, full practices have taken their toll on the inside of the defensive line. With the Kentucky defense switching from the 3-4 to the 4-3, depth is more of an issue when you're using two defensive tackles instead of one.

Jason Leger, the true sophomore from Rockcastle County, sprained a ligament in his knee and was on crutches as late as last week. Mike Archer and the defensive coaches have raved about Leger since he emerged in fall camp last year. Leger has been progressing well with the injury for the past couple of days, but Coach Rich Brooks still says Leger is doubtful for the Louisville game. The Cats have also lost Ricky Abren, the sophomore from Hopkinsville, due to a freak injury suffered last week. The injury, a dislocated lunate bone in his wrist, was one that the UK training staff was not that familiar with, and one Brooks said he had never seen. Abren had surgery last week and will not be available until the middle of the season, if at all.

That means a boatload of playing time for the two remaining tackles with experience, senior Trey Mielsch and junior Lamar Mills. With nobody behind them with much game experience, Mills and Mielsch will have to carry the load for Kentucky. And Mills would rather have the depth behind him, than to hog all the glory with all the snaps. According to Mills, it comes with the territory. "It's a tough position," said Mills. "It's unfortunate, but it's expected. We could really use those guys. Obviously, we need to be a little more safer when we practice; but you can't really be safe at my position. Defensive tackle is a very tough position. You are taking on three guys in the middle, and injuries are bound to happen." Mills knows he won't have the luxury of taking a play off, when the season begins. "That's a real unfortunate thing. First and foremost, Jason Leger and Ricky Abren are two guys that I like. I don't want to see them hurt. It puts a little pressure on me and Trey now. We are older guys now, and I guess we're just going to have to step it up a bit."

Mills is of the mindset that injuries actually occur more frequently when someone tries to take it safer in practice. "Actually, that's the way you get hurt," said Mills. "My position is a reaction position. If you're not moving all the time, if you don't have your feet hot all the time, someone is bound to roll up on you. You have to just play and hope for the best. Because when you start playing cautious, that's when it's going to happen. We just hope for the best, and that we have no more injuries."


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