ROSTER REPORT: Comparing UK's defensive depth and talent with SEC foes

Justin Rowland, Publisher
Cats Illustrated

CatsIllustrated.com takes a look at each position group on Kentucky's football team compared to the rest of the Southeastern Conference.

Part One: How Kentucky's offensive position groups stack up against the rest of the SEC in depth and talent.

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For our purposes the following answers may be given:

Excellent, meaning Kentucky's depth or talent at a given position is well above average even for an SEC program;

Above average, meaning Kentucky would rank in the upper echelon of the SEC;

SEC average, which would mean Kentucky is comparable with the average one would see across the rest of the league;

Below average, meaning Kentucky would rank decidedly in the bottom half of the SEC;

Poor, meaning Kentucky's depth or talent at a given position is well below SEC average.

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DEFENSIVE LINE

Defensive Tackle

99 Adrian Middleton, 6-3, 303, Jr- 2L

59 Kordell Looney, 6-3, 293, Fr-RS

Nose Guard

77 Naquez Pringle, 6-3, 320, Sr- 1L

69 Matt Elam, 6-7, 360, Sr- 3L

Defensive End

90 T.J. Carter, 6-4, 280, So-1L

20 Kengera Daniel, 6-5, 260, Jr- 2L

DEPTH: Below Average. There are names. There are bodies. There's the potential for more depth to be developed over the course of the season. Losing Alvonte Bell didn't help. Kentucky will play Naquez Pringle and Matt Elam at the nose, Adrian Middleton, Kengera Daniel, T.J. Carter and Kordell Looney, and perhaps all with confidence, but compared to most of the league's other defensive lines there is just not the level of proven depth, which is obviously related to talent and experience.

TALENT: Below Average to Poor. If you've got a problem with this ranking then just hope it serves as motivation. Make no mistake about it, Kentucky's talent level on the defensive front is on the rise, due in large part to the now-enrolled Class of 2017 and young players like Kordell Looney and T.J. Carter. But relative to the rest of the SEC, well, that's a tough comparison, because many years it's the defensive line that separates the SEC from most or all other conferences. Between Adrian Middleton, Carter, Looney, the new freshmen and the 2018 commitments the talent level should tick upwards significantly, but compared to the SEC West, Florida, Georgia and even one or two other SEC East foes, the talent isn't quite there.

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LINEBACKER

Strongside Linebacker

41 Josh Allen, 6-5, 230, Jr- 2L

47 Jordan Bonner, 6-5, 220, Jr-1L

Defensive End / Outside Linebacker

35 Denzil Ware, 6-3, 255, Jr-2L

31 Jamar “Boogie” Watson, 6-3, 240, Fr- RS

Or 45 Jaylin Bannerman, 6-5, 238, Fr- RS

Middle Linebacker

51 Courtney Love, 6-2, 242, Sr- 1L

56 Kash Daniel, 6-1, 235, So- 1L

Weakside Linebacker

34 Jordan Jones, 6-2, 220, Jr- 2L

32 Eli Brown, 6-2, 215, So- 1L

DEPTH: Average to Above Average. Losing four players to offseason transfer doesn't help the situation, but if you consider the contributions those players had made, or their expected playing time, the effect seems negligible. The linebackers as a whole have adequate depth. Eli Brown was locked with Jones in a battle to be a starter before last season. Kash Daniel would probably step in serviceably in Courtney Love's absence. Boogie Watson and Jaylin Bannerman are both expected to be solid contributors during their time at Kentucky. Jordan Bonner got a good amount of playing time last year.

TALENT: Above Average. This reflects well on the staff's recruiting, evaluation and development because some other league foes have quality linebackers, and this is one of the SEC's higher quality bunches. Jordan Jones and Denzil Ware are all-SEC candidates and Josh Allen could be one soon.

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DEFENSIVE BACKS

Nickelback

5 Kendall Randolph, 6-0, 183, Sr- 3L

Cornerback

29 Derrick Baity, 6-3, 186, Jr- 2L

6 Lonnie Johnson, 6-3, 203, Jr- JC

Or 28 Kei Beckham, 5-11, 169, So- Sq

Cornerback

21 Chris Westry, 6-4, 195, Jr- 2L

3 Jordan Griffin, 6-0, 186, So- 1L

Strong Safety

27 Mike Edwards, 6-0, 200, Jr- 2L

17 Tobias Gilliam, 5-11, 191, Fr- RS

Free Safety

25 Darius West, 6-0, 210, Jr- 2L

9 DaVonte Robinson, 6-2, 187, Fr- RS

DEPTH: Average. For all the young talent on the roster Kentucky's defensive backfield is strong, or considers so, largely because of three players until others prove themselves. Westry and Baity are very strong as cornerbacks but Kentucky could stand to develop a solid third this year.

TALENT: Above Average. Mike Edwards is an All-SEC performer and one of the nation's top safeties. Chris Westry and Derrick Baity are probably one of the better starting cornerback duos in the SEC and both have legitimate NFL aspirations. Kendall Randolph was a highly-touted recruit several years ago and has extensive game experience. Jordan Griffin and DaVonte Robinson are both very talented if young. Tobias Gilliam has a good skill set to back up Edwards. No one has ever doubted Lonnie Johnson's talent. Darius West has always gotten people excited when he's healthy because he does have a lot of tools.

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