Brooks expects an improved linebacking corp

When Kentucky fans watch the Wildcats talented linebackers take the field at Commonwealth Stadium for the Blue/White game this Saturday they will miss seeing Wesley Woodyard. Woodyard's college eligibility ended when the senior helped lead Kentucky to victory over Florida State in the Music City Bowl last winter. How will the Cats replace Woodyard?

The linebackers are missing a very important cog in Wesley Woodyard, but can the lost tackles be made up by committee?

Rich Brooks says that he doesn't see any particular linebacker getting as many tackles as Woodyard but he would be disappointed if the unit wasn't better.

Chuck Smith was asked how his linebackers were progressing this spring? "Right now obviously Johnny (Williams), Braxton (Kelly), Micah (Johnson) and Sam Maxwell are the leaders and right now I like their attitudes," coach Smith said about his veterans.

"When Wesley left, he said ‘I'm passing the torch – somebody's got to pick it up.'"

The coach said he's really anxious to see who picks it up. He said nobody's picked it up yet but there are three or four guys who can pick it up.

Brooks said he sees Braxton Kelly getting better every practice. He said with Kelly outside, they may sacrifice a little speed but he expects the group to be better and make up for it.

Coach Smith said – "Braxton has different reads at the outside position but he picking it up everyday. You never have to worry about Braxton going 100-percent. Micah is having a good spring. He's picking up on things well, needs to be a little bit more explosive and Johnny's have a great spring – he got a great attitude and he's flying and making a lot of plays."

Michael Schwindel is not necessarily a young guy because he's been in the program a while but he is young in that he hasn't played a lot. Smith said he is looking for big things from him. He said Mikhail Mabry has always been solid in there and Chris Cessna, who is coming off major knee surgery, is starting to show some instincts.

The pool of youngsters that are getting their feet wet is deep – Jacob Dufrene, Ronnie Sneed, Antonio Thomas, and the injured Brandon Thurmond. "Jacob Dufrene has shown more improvement since the beginning of spring than any of the youngsters," Smith said of the New Orleans native.

The question was asked Micah Johnson about his comfort level at the middle linebacker spot?

"Yeah, I think I'm growing to the position a lot more," Johnson said, "I'm getting a lot more reps now as the main guy in the middle. Knowing what you are doing, it now more reactive than thinking, which allows you to be more aggressive."

He was asked about the backs and reacting to stop them more in the hole rather than in the second line of defense?

"They have all types of runners in the backfield. There's Derrick (Locke) and Alfonso (Smith), who have dominating speed, and are slashers. And then you've got Tony Dixon who can do everything; and then there's a guy like Moncell (Allen), who's 5-foot-7, 225-pounds and runs a 4.5 and when he comes he brings it."

As for the Saturday scrimmage, Johnson said he (Allen) was out there roughing up the young guys so the older guys had to go out here and give him a hard time when they could.

"There were some big hits out there between us and him and some stalemates, he runs the ball tough. We talk about him a lot. He's probably one of the toughest guys I've ever had to tackles. Except for Darren Mcfadden, he's the toughest.

So all in all, it looks like the linebacker position is deeper than it's ever been at the University of Kentucky.

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