To continue our preseason busy work to pass the time before September 5th, we're going to take a stab at who will be some defensive stat leaders.
First off is that critical stat of tackling which, in the past, has been a slippery proposition to begin with. In too many games last year, tackling turned into some type of elusive talent which turned the opponents running game into a juggernaut.
Lost from the '14 Cats are players that racked up almost 30% of our total tackles (bud Dupree, Za'Darius Smith, Ashley Lowery, etc.). Kentucky returns their top tackler from last year, Josh Forrest, and surprisingly after that, the next six returning top tacklers are all seniors. The starters on defense will either be very experienced or an even better at most positions.
Last year was a transition year for the defense as it took major steps toward the 3-4 defense and now works to present what Stoops refers to as a multiple defense. No longer will our defense (and our opponent's offense) be so strongly influenced by the bookends of Smith and Dupree.
Now that responsibility will be shouldered more evenly across the line and teams will be more willing to work outside the tackles. The outside will have to respond to the challenge and perhaps Chris Westry and Derrick Baity will be pushed along to provide more size at the corners for run support.
So who gets the most tackles for the season? Historically, the most number of tackles are made outside. In the past three years, the top five tacklers broke down as five defensive ends, five linebackers, three safeties and two cornerbacks.
Linebackers were always first with defensive ends being second - all Dupree. As such, the choices are heavily weighed with linebacker and defensive end players and a generic "cornerback" choice due to the fluid situation we'll be seeing at the corners this season.