VAUGHT: Smith evaluates linebackers for '08

Larry Vaught spoke with UK assistant Chuck Smith regarding the returning lineback corp, and the new additions that are part of the class of 2008. The lone loss at linebacker from the top six that lined up for snaps in '07 is a big one, Wesley Woodyard.

Kentucky added two, or maybe three, linebackers in its recent recruiting class. Here is what linebacker coach Chuck Smith had to say about each one.

William Johnson, 6-3, 195, Nashville -- "He's really athletic. He has some speed, good size and a good frame. He is going to put on some weight when he comes up here. The best thing about him right now is his athleticism. He played receiver some and caught a lot of balls. Then he also played outside linebacker. He is a really nice athlete with a big upside. There are a lot of good things about him. To be a SEC linebacker, you have to be athletic and you have to be fast. He fits both of those. He plays hard, too. He has a fast motor and just keeps going. I have been impressed with what I have seen of him."

Danny Trevathan, 6-1, 210, Leesburg, Fla. -- "He is another fast player. He will be one of the fastest linebackers we have. He has a motor, too. He is about Wesley Woodyard's size coming in. He has the same kind of speed Wesley has. I don't want to compare him to Wesley because Wesley was a two-time all-SEC player but he has the same kind of potential that Wesley had. He is a very, tough physical player. He has a bright future. He is a big hitter. But the thing that is the most impressive about him is that he is so fast."

Taylor Wyndham, 6-4, 210, Swansea, S.C. -- "He is a linebacker/defensive end. He is a big kid at 6-4. He has a nice frame. He could grow into a defensive end but he is going to start off as an outside linebacker. He has good skills. He has long arms and is tall. I am kind of anxious to see what he looks like when he comes up here. He played some defensive end and outside linebacker in high school. He is going to start as a linebacker for us but he might not end up there depending on how much he grows."

Smith isn't sure if any of the three will play as freshmen. One reason is the adjustment to the college game.

"It is a lot more different than high school is. You don't just line up and play. You have to understand what the schemes are and what the responsibilities are. You can't be making mental mistakes, and that is the thing most freshmen struggle with when they come in," Smith said.

There's also the competition the three will face as UK returns five of its top six linebackers from last season. Only Woodyard will be missing when the Cats open spring practice.

"We have a lot of options," Smith said. "We are going to move Braxton (Kelley) to the outside linebacker. We are going to get those best guys on the field."

Going into spring practice, that would put Micah Johnson in the middle with Kelley on the outside. The other outside linebacker would be either Johnny Williams or Sam Maxwell.

"Then we have Michael Schwindel who was coming on strong at the end. We have Brandon Thurmond, who had a good spring practice last year and then obviously had the knee injury that sidelined him, back. He could be in that mix, too," Smith said.

Smith hopes Thurmond will be 100 percent for spring practice.

"He has made a lot of progress. He started practicing during the bowl week. The first part of practice, he looked like a guy who had come off knee surgery and then by the end he was getting his timing down and getting his speed back. Hopefully he will come back in spring ball ready to compete again because he could be a special player," Smith said.

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