Breaking Down the Depth Chart Pt 3

Last season Kentucky sported the best and hardest hitting defense in many years. While still slightly short on depth, they performed admirably in the SEC. One reason was linebacker play. While losing two starters from last year, they bring back quite a bit of talent as well as quality newcomers.

Last season Kentucky sported the best and hardest hitting defense in many years. While still slightly short on depth, they performed admirably in the SEC. One reason was linebacker play. While losing two starters from last year, they bring back quite a bit of talent as well as quality newcomers.

Outside Linebackers
The Candidates
Danny Trevathan 6-1 225 So.
Sam Maxwell 6-3 250 Sr.
William Johnson 6-2 210 R-Fr.
Antonio Thomas 6-1 230 So.
Ridge Wilson 6-3 210 Fr.
Brandon Thurmond 6-2 225 Jr.
Jacob Dufrene 6-1 220 Jr.
Tristian Johnson 6-1 230 Fr.
Ryan Mosby 5-11 200 Fr.

After losing Braxton Kelley and Johnny Williams, Kentucky has questions at the outside linebacker positions. However there is no shortage of quality prospects to replace them.

One of the hardest hitting players on Kentucky's roster is senior Sam Maxwell. Maxwell has paid his dues playing behind Braxton Kelley, Johnny Williams and Wesley Woodyard the year before. Make no mistake, Maxwell is a play-maker and will likely be the starter at strong-side linebacker. UK's defense will see no drop off at linebacker from last year and possibly could see an upgrade.

The coaches have raved about sophomore Danny Trevathan. His speed and quickness at weakside linebacker will be an asset to the team. Trevathan can be a player for UK in the mold of Wesley Woodyard because of his never-ending motor and his competitive drive. His speed will also help Kentucky's pass defense.

Athleticism is a theme for Kentucky linebacker prospects. That's no different with William Johnson. Johnson has speed and quickness to help him get around the end on the pass rush. He's also capable of making plays in the passing game. Johnson will likely be more of a special teams player, but he'll see some action.

It's not often that you see wide receivers or defensive backs wind up playing linebacker in college, but that's the case with Antonio Thomas. Thomas has put on 30 pounds of muscle and still possesses significant speed at linebacker. Thomas likely will see some time backing up both outside linebacker spots this fall and with additional experience, he will have a shot at starting next season.

One of the feel-good stories of this season could be Brandon Thurmond. Thurmond has had a series of knee injuries hamper his development over the last several seasons. When he's been able to practice, he's shown the ability to be a contributor. If he stays healthy, the staff can expect him to be an asset to the defense.

Freshmen Ryan Mosby, Ridge Wilson and Tristian Johnson are all talented prospects, however at this time Wilson may be the only one of the three who gets a chance to play this season. Junior Jacob Dufrene is a strong run stopper who likely will see time on special teams.

Final Analysis
If Maxwell and Trevathan perform as expected and remain healthy, this could be one of the surprise groups of outside linebackers in the SEC. There are quality backups in place and with the leadership in place to groom them for the future.

Inside Linebacker
The Candidates
Micah Johnson 6-2 260 Sr.
Ronnie Sneed 6-2 230 So.
Mikhail Mabry 6-2 248 Sr.
Qua Huzzie 5-10 210 Fr.

A mainstay at middle linebacker, Micah Johnson finally enters his senior year. There's no question that he's the starter at this position, but as injuries happen, the biggest question is who will step into his shoes if he goes down and who'll step up for next season?

Micah Johnson is the kind of elite athlete that Kentucky would need to put on the field to compete at the highest level of college football. Johnson was the team's second leading tackler last year even though he missed 2 1/2 games due to injury. His explosiveness and overall strength make him a virtual lock to be an NFL draft pick next year. If Johnson stays healthy, he should gain over 100 tackles, after coming up seven short in 10 1/2 games last season. Johnson will also have to step up as a leader among a fairly inexperience group of linebackers.

Ronnie Sneed showed a lot of promise as a true freshman on the scout team defense. People talked about his hitting and his nose for the ball. His game regressed a little last season as the expectation rised, but now as a redshirt-sophomore Sneed has played well and would provide a solid back up for Johnson should he go down.

Mikhail Mabry, a very seasoned veteran can also provide relief at middle linebacker. The senior from Hawai'i knows the defense and while maybe not as talented as the players in front of him will give the effort that the staff requires.

One player who everyone will have to wait to see play is Qua Huzzie. Qua went down with a shoulder injury that will require surgery. With his season over, he can concentrate on school work and recovering for next year. Huzzie is in the same mold as other former Grangers Wesley Woodyard and Braxton Kelley. When he gets on the field, you can expect all out effort from him.

Final Analysis
Micah Johnson has the middle locked up, but what we should be looking for here is who steps up and firmly entrenches himself as the backup. That player could be the future of the position for the Wildcats.


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