There have been a lot of questions soaring around the defense again this season. Many want to know what the linebacker position will look like, and if Jordan Jones is healthy.
Let’s break down the position.
Jamar “Boogie” Watson (redshirt sophomore DE/OLB)
The athletic outside linebacker is back for his redshirt sophomore year, and he is looking stronger and faster than ever for the Kentucky Wildcats.
He will be playing opposite of Josh Allen, so he will have to be hard-nosed. Watson was a three-star prospect out of Bishop McNamara in Maryland, where he ranked as a top-100 linebacker by Scout.
Boogie actually didn’t play football until his junior year of high school because he was a star basketball player. He instantly became a star when he began football. Watson has an athletic build, and he needs to get a little bit quicker to make a big impact on the edge, but if he can do that, he will make some waves in the conference.
Josh Allen (senior OLB)
The senior athletic linebacker has decided to come back to finish his senior season, rather than enter the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen was tabbed as an AP All-SEC Second Team Player after the 2017 season.
Allen is entering the 2018 season after an amazing 2017 junior season, where he started 13 games and became a mid-season All-SEC player by The All-American. Allen had a team-high 7.0 sacks and 65 tackles. Allen has now totaled 14.5 career sacks. The 260-pound senior is very fast and strong off the edge. Allen just has a knack for finding the ball and making plays. If Allen can manage to get better again this season, he can have a great end to his already great UK career, and have a good NFL career.
Kash Daniel (Junior MLB)
The hometown eastern Kentucky kid is back for his junior season, and many people believe he is tremendously improved from 2017.
Daniel will be playing the 2018 season at 242 pounds, and the Paintsville native has looked really good as of late. Daniel had a great spring game for the Cats, as head coach Mark Stoops kept saying, “he looks the part.” In 2017, Daniel totaled seven tackles. He also rushed 6 yards on a fake punt to get Kentucky the first down over Missouri in the fourth quarter to help with the win.
Daniel was a U.S. Army All-American and was named a team captain for the West Squad. Daniel was also named Kentucky’s Mr. Football and Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year in 2015. He is very strong and very active between the tackles making plays. If he can keep improving, he will be able to be a big part of the UK defense.
Jordan Jones (Senior MLB)
The hard-nosed linebacker is back for the 2018 season and many people look forward to him having a big year if he can keep his temper under control. There have been many questions about if Jones would be ready to go for the 2018 season opener or not, but Stoops addressed that at media days, saying that Jones would be ready to go for the season opener against Central Michigan.
In 2017, Jones was a very fun player to watch. He is always playing with a chip on his shoulder, but that also tends to get him in trouble as well. Many people know Jones as a tough, hard-nosed player, but they also know him as a guy that loses his temper a lot and gets too many unsportsmanlike penalties.
Jones finished the 2017 season with 54 tackles and 7.5 of those tackles, being tackles for loss. Jones missed four games of the 2017 season with an injured shoulder. Jones is very athletic and one of the quickest lateral movement linebackers in college football. If Jones can keep his temper down, he will be a force to be reckoned with in the SEC.
Mark Stoops has spoke about the UK defense with a lot of confidence from spring coming into camp, and I believe it will live up to the hype. If all these guys play well and guys like, Alex King and Jamari Brown play well, the Cats defense should be pretty good.