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Kentucky Football: 3 players that could step up in Denzil Ware’s absence

Losing Ware hurts, but there is talent behind him

NCAA Football: Kentucky at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Denzil Ware’s transfer from the Kentucky Wildcats football program came as a bit of a surprise, leaving a spot open for a pass rusher opposite Josh Allen.

Ware has been a fixture within the Wildcats football program, starting 30 games over the last three seasons, and being a founding member of “Blitz Bros” with Allen, while racking up 13 sacks.

Now, with that spot open, the question becomes: who will step up?

Luckily, Kentucky does have some options for guys that can step into that role and be productive.

The first option will probably be Joshua Paschal. Paschal served as a backup outside linebacker last year and played well, but was expected to move to the defensive line this year, playing with his hand in the dirt. Paschal has been working on gaining weight to handle the position change, but he could switch back to outside linebacker.

Last year, Paschal recorded 16 total tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. With that productivity in limited snaps, Paschal could have a solid year as a starter.

The second option will likely be Jamar “Boogie” Watson. The redshirt sophomore totaled seven tackles and two sacks last year. Watson played some inside linebacker last year, but is more natural as an outside pass rusher. Watson may be the coaches’ choice if they like Paschal more playing with his hand in the dirt.

Those two are probably the most popular options for filling Ware’s spot. The third option is a wild card, maybe someone like redshirt freshman Jordan Wright steps up or maybe senior Kengera Daniel breaks through. Those would be my two wildcard guesses.

Ultimately, I think it probably comes down to how comfortable Mark Stoops and the defensive staff feel about the defensive line. If they are comfortable with the defensive line without Paschal, they probably move him back to outside linebacker. However, if they like the defensive line with Paschal in the fold, the job probably goes to Watson.