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Kentucky Football: Defense Poised for Breakout Season

Last year, Kentucky had the 8th best SEC defense. This year, they’re set up to be much better.

Jeremy Chisenhall

After losing senior quarterback Stephen Johnson last year, the Kentucky Wildcats will look to a stout run game and smash mouth defense in winning football games this fall.

After Benny Snell and a high quality offensive line, the defense is full of veteran players who know the expectations of Mark Stoops. Specifically, players like Darius West, Derrick Baity, Jordan Jones, Josh Allen, Lonnie Johnson and Mike Edwards are all poised to lead the way for the Cats.

After Thursday’s practice, Johnson said he’s ready to take the field this fall despite lack of conditioning earlier in the year.

Johnson went on to say that he looks to improve “sloppy play” from last season. After a full year with the club, as well as a competitive training camp, Johnson should be able to echo his words on the field.

Starting alongside Johnson will be Baity, who had a pretty impressive junior campaign. He played in all 13 games, not missing a beat for the second straight season. In fact, he increased his sophomore line of 42 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defended to 49 tackles, two INTs and nine passes defended.

Baity said on Thursday that his goals for the 2018 season are 50 tackles, six INTs and 12 passes defended.

Another Wildcat who should standout on the defensive side of the ball is Allen, who received some 2019 first-round draft hype earlier this year.

Allen racked up seven sacks for the second straight season in his junior campaign, while increasing his tackles from 62 to 66 and his tackles for loss from 8.5 to 10.5.

The stud pass rusher will look to lead a young pass rush this fall but will have the benefit of being backed by a veteran secondary.

West, one of Kentucky’s safeties who will start alongside Edwards, said his goal is to put an emphasis on tackling this year. West finally played a full season at Kentucky after an injury-riddled start to college and brought a gritty mentality to the backend of the Kentucky defense.

West racked up 85 tackles last year with an INT and a pass defended. With a healthy year under his belt, it’ll be interesting to watch West improve even more in Mark Stoops’s system.

While Jones has had his negative moments on the field, he’s no doubt a top-tier talent. If head coach Mark Stoops can steer him straight, Kentucky’s defense should be a nightmare for opposing teams.