The Kentucky Wildcats struggled mightily to rush the passer and force negative plays last season.
UK finished with just 17 sacks (109th nationally) and 53 tackles for loss (122nd nationally) in 2015, and this was an area Mark Stoops made it a point to upgrade this offseason.
That's where UK's trio of 2016 pass-rusher signees come in with junior college linebacker Jordan Bonner, defensive end/linebacker Jaylin Bannerman and defensive end T.J. Carter. Bonner especially should upgrade UK's pass rush after racking up seven sacks and 10 tackles for loss at the JUCO level last season.
Here are their UK profiles and highlights:
Jordan Bonner, Linebacker, 6-5, 220, So.-JC, Lyndhurst, Ohio (Brush/Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College) - Rated a three-start recruit and the No. 10 junior college linebacker nationally by 247sports ... Recorded 37 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and seven sacks as a redshirt freshman in 2015 for the Norsemen ... Redshirted the 2014 season ... Played wide receiver and linebacker at Brush High School under Coach Jeff Wells ... Charted 65 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and two sacks as a senior ... Also had two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and an interception ... Earned first-team All-Northeast Ohio ... Also a standout basketball player ... Will have three seasons of eligibility remaining ... Chose Kentucky over offers from Louisville, Tennessee and Nebraska.
Coach Stoops on Bonner: "Jordan is a long explosive athlete that can play in space as well as rush the passer. He will have three years of eligibility when he arrives, which gives him the ability to develop in our system."
T.J. Carter, Defensive End, Fr.-HS, 6-4, 245, Mableton, Ga. (Whitefield Academy) - Earned first-team All-South Region 6-A and first-team All-Cobb County honors as a senior playing defensive end and offensive tackle at Whitefield Academy ... Totaled 68 tackles, including 10 for loss as a senior ... Also charted six sacks and 18 quarterback hurries ... Was the Wolfpacks' sack leader as a sophomore and junior ... Named Defensive Player of the Game vs. Walker after recording six tackles for loss and a sack in addition to four pancake blocks on the offensive line as a junior ... Coached by Quinn Gray ... Chose UK over Memphis, Samford and Wyoming.
Coach Stoops on Carter: "T.J. is an explosive athlete who we watched on tape and loved the way he made plays. He is an aggressive player that has a tremendous upside."
Jaylin Bannerman, Linebacker, 6-5, 220, Fr.-HS, Pickerington, Ohio (Pickerington Central) - A tall and speedy linebacker/defensive end who is a consensus three-star prospect ... PHS posted an impressive 34-10 record and won four straight Ohio Capital Conference Championships during his career ... Coached by Jay Sharrett ... Earned first-team All-Conference and second-team All-Central District honors in 2015 ... As a junior he totaled 87 tackles, including 17 tackles for a loss in helping Pickerington go undefeated in the regular season at 10-0 ... Three-star prospect by Scout.com, which ranks him as the fourth-best defensive end in Ohio and the 56th best defensive end in the nation ... Scout.com says, "Long framed athlete who is raw but shows signs of being a high-level player in the coming years. Length will allow Kentucky to do a couple of things with him. First he can stay at defensive end and add bulk without losing athletic ability. He could also add less bulk and take a step back and line up as a linebacker depending upon the scheme the Wildcats want to run" ... Rated by 247sports as a three-star prospect and as the 37th best prospect in Ohio ... Tabbed by ESPN as the No. 37 prospect in the state of Ohio and the 96th best defensive end ... Rated by Rivals as the 48th best prospect in Ohio ... Also starred in basketball and track & field as a high jumper ... Had offers from Pittsburgh, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State and Toledo.
Coach Stoops on Bannerman: "Jaylin is a dynamic athlete who has great size and length. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school who has the ability to develop as a standup edge player."