GIDEL: Blood-bath McGrath presses on

When Ben McGrath came to Kentucky from Cincinnati (OH) Moeller HS just two short seasons ago, he was immediately heralded and deemed the next Jeff Snedegar, a former UK linebacker who played with great intensity and passion.

And despite the great comparisons to the 'old school' style of play, careless hairstyle and off-the-map personalities that draw even comparisons, what binds McGrath and Snedegar is their days as a prep.

Both the former crazed linebacker and McGrath, shifted from the quarterback position they played in high school to the middle linebacker spot on the collegiate level.

"I wish I knew all the stuff I know about defense back than," McGrath joked, "I would have been a heckuva lot better quarterback."

With his quarterbacking days past him, McGrath has moved into the leadership role as first-string middle linebacker for the injury depleted Wildcats this spring, replacing the injured Braxton Kelley, who is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season.

McGrath has taken full advantage of the extra work with the first-team, starring in both scrimmages and continuing to progress at a position he's only a few years removed from learning.

"I think people are expecting me to make plays now," McGrath explained, "I think before they didn't really know what I could do. Me being the middle linebacker, everyone looks to me to make the calls and be the leader out there and set the defense. After that it's all about getting the job done and being in the right place."

"Blood-Bath" McGrath as his teammates have deemed him, thinks having the two years to fully understand his position has helped him.

"I think that having a year under my belt, I've had a lot more experience," McGrath said. "As far as assignments, things are coming along alot easier now, whereas before it wasn't as easy."

Things won't be as easy this fall when a host of newcomers are added to Kentucky's roster. Incoming freshmen Sam Maxwell, Jamaal Jackson, Micah Johnson, Chris Cessna and Brandon Thurmond.

"We've got a bunch of young guys pushing the older guys right now, and the younger guys that played aren't that old, so there's definitely a bunch of competition," McGrath said. "And it gets heavier this fall."

So does the added pressure excite arguably Kentucky's weakest group just three years ago?

"Nah," McGrath responded, "I'm very excited about what we're gonna do in the fall. I think we've got a lot of guys competing for spots. In the end, the best guys gonna get the job."

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