VAUGHT: Smith has more linebacker depth

Kentucky linebacker coach Chuck Smith couldn't hide his happiness over the way Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell played against Eastern Kentucky. Both had seven tackles and Smith says not only will they make big plays this year, but they give his position needed depth.

"We didn't have any depth at all last year. Sam really stood out in his first game. He made two or three really nice plays. He had a big game," Smith said.

Maxwell and Johnson both had seven tackles — and that's a huge plus. Maxwell backs up Johnny Williams at outside linebacker but also can provide relief for Wesley Woodyard if needed. Johnson, a sophomore, started becaue two-year starter Braxton Kelley had been out with an ankle injury and played only sparingly.

"We have to get Braxton back healthy. He is not 100 percent yet," Smith said. "Hopefully in the next week or two, we get him back going full speed as well.

"But Micah is a lot better. There's no question about that. He feels more comfortable with what he is doing. He is playing with more confidence. He wants to be out there making plays and he is doing a good job."

Smith says all his linebackers are having "great practices and maintaining focus" each day.

"They are older, more experienced and feel more comfortable in what we are doing. You can just tell there is a different attitude about them because they do feel more comfortable."

Smith was known for having tough, physical linebackers during his successful high school coaching career. He would like this group to earn the same reputation.

"I sure would like for that to be their trademark. I think these guys have the potential to do that, too. We have a ways to go yet, but we are getting there," he said.

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