The Kentucky Wildcats were one of the best teams in the country in pass coverage this season. And that’s thanks in large part to junior cornerback Brandin Echols.
After losing two of the best players in program history in Josh Allen and Benny Snell, everyone knew there’d be a bit of a drop off after the first 10-win season in four decades.
However, what was even more worrisome was the fact that UK had lost their top FIVE defensive backs from a year ago. And then, just to pour salt in the wound, Kentucky lost their top returning defensive back for the season in Davonte Robinson.
That means the Cats lost their top SIX defensive backs from just a year ago. A big drop off was expected in pass coverage, and, honestly, it was probably the biggest concern heading into the season.
But Mark Stoops and Co. found a three-star JUCO kid from Memphis, Tennessee, that changed everything. The former wide receiver turned cornerback was lights-out in pass coverage this season.
Despite being only 5-11 and 174 pounds, Echols was Kentucky’s best defensive back on what ended up being one of the best teams in the country defending the pass.
Brandin Echols was a stud in coverage for Kentucky pic.twitter.com/KuoZabJIyU— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 14, 2019
Thanks to Echols, the Cats were FIRST in the country in passing touchdowns allowed with only seven, fourth in passing yards allowed per game, and ninth in team passing efficiency defense.
Despite not having any interceptions, Echols still dominated for Kentucky in pass coverage. But not only that, he also had 52 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, one sack, and two forced fumbles on the year.
He was named to the PFF All-SEC team, as well.
Oh yeah! Eight Wildcats on the 2019 @PFF_College All-@SEC Team #BringIt @Darian_70 @THE_DRAKE_52 @LBStenberg @calv_huncho @JamarW31 @CedrickDjr @matayo_echols @LynnBowden_1 pic.twitter.com/aXnYvpgsld— Kentucky Football (@UKFootball) December 9, 2019
There were rumblings early in the year that Echols might head to the NFL after this season. However, he has seemingly quashed those rumors, confirming his return to Lexington next year.
Coming stronger next season ✊ mark my words !!! https://t.co/3HLyDxyw7f— Brandin Echols (@matayo_echols) December 9, 2019
After losing boatloads of talent following a 10-win season, the Cats will now return all but a handful of starters from this year’s team. That includes all the defensive backs, minus Jordan Griffin, but also includes the return of Robinson.
Echols was special this season. And he’s only going to get better. As is this Kentucky football program.