UK linebackers: Avery Williamson setting an example on and off the field

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 20, 2013 

  • This is the sixth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position. Coming Thursday: Secondary

  • SCOUTING THE LINEBACKERS

    The main man: Middle linebacker Avery Williamson is the undisputed leader of the linebackers, the defense and maybe the entire team. The senior from Milan, Tenn., finished second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in tackles with 135, more than doubling his 49 from the season before. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one recovered.

    The supporting cast: Coaches have said Williamson is "miles ahead" of the others at linebacker, but he's doing everything he can to bring the rest of them up to cruising speed. Other likely starters include junior Kory Brown and sophomore Khalid Henderson. Miles Simpson, a starter last year with 70 tackles, could add some depth, as could Josh Forrest (13 tackles) and Tyler Brause.

    Outlook: Linebacker was one of the few positions on the field where the new staff wasn't able to bring in some highly touted talent. It's also a place where UK could use some added depth. In turn, it's now a place where the Cats can't afford any kind of injury. The coaches are beyond pleased with Williamson and are hoping the others can follow his big-play making lead this season. The work ethics of Brown and Henderson have both been lauded, so they're likely to be key contributors.

    Jennifer Smith

Avery Williamson doesn't like to disappoint.

In fact, when asked the last time he did something to disappoint his parents, Williamson had to think for a minute.

"I got mad and kicked a hole in the wall," he said.

Wow. Sounds bad. So when was that?

"In like first or second grade," he said.

Since then, Kentucky's senior linebacker has done everything he can to be the best at whatever he's doing. Williamson was an honor student at Milan High School in Tennessee, where he was named the school's "Outstanding Senior."

He's vying for that title for his Kentucky team as well.

"Avery was just born a leader," junior Bud Dupree said of the middle linebacker. "We lean on him for everything."

Which is why as soon as the new defensive coaches were named, Williamson was back in Lexington before classes started knocking on the office door of his new defensive coordinator.

"I was only on the job a few days and he was already up in my office wanting to learn the playbook," D.J. Eliot said. "I've been very impressed with his intangibles."

This summer, Williamson said he wanted to make the transition to the new coaching staff as seamless as possible for the defense. He wanted to show the coaching staff that he was a guy it could lean on as well.

He wanted to show Mark Stoops that "he's got a tough, hard-nosed linebacker that's going to handle things on and off the field, a guy he can depend on every down to take care of business and also be a leader for the young guys."

It's exactly what Stoops knows he's gotten in his lead linebacker, who has played in 37 career games, starting 12.

"I really could not be more encouraged to have somebody like Avery that's returning, that's a senior," Stoops said this summer. "He's been terrific to be around. ... A very impressive young man. Really his leadership is what jumps out to me the most."

That leadership is why Williamson buried himself in the UK defensive playbook, learned it backward and forward and then again. He wanted to be able to teach it to his teammates if they came with questions.

"When people are out with girls, he's sitting here studying," fellow linebacker Miles Simpson said of Williamson, who was second in the Southeastern Conference and seventh in the nation in tackles with 135. "He'll ask coaches to come in for extra film work and they'll show him how to do it so he can teach us.

"If we're too nervous to go to Coach to talk, so it doesn't seem like we don't know what we're doing."

It's why Williamson was angry in the defensive huddle on Tuesday afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium. The coaches had their say and then he took over from there.

Just four days after impressing its coaches during a scrimmage on that same field, the Kentucky defense struggled. No interceptions, poor tackling.

Eliot said his unit, which had been playing well the past few days, embarrassed itself.

"The great thing about this game is you can be humbled in a minute," Eliot said. "Just when you think you're doing something good, you show up, you're not ready to play and someone else is and they'll embarrass you, and that's what happened today."

Williamson doesn't want it to happen again.

Not under his watch.

"It was a lack of focus defensively," a frustrated Williamson said after the scrimmage. "I got into the guys about it. We weren't focused in the walk-through. We've got to get focused ... and get better."

That was Williamson being Williamson, his teammates said.

He does what he's supposed to do every time and expects no less from them. It's why they follow him.

"On the field, you're getting the same Avery you'd get inside the weight room or the same Avery you'd get over in White Hall (Classroom Building)," senior defensive lineman Tristian Johnson said. "He's just a genuine good guy. He's just one of those guys that you get behind and you want to fight for because he'd fight for you."


This is the sixth in a series of nine stories analyzing the UK football team position by position. Coming Thursday: Secondary

SCOUTING THE LINEBACKERS

The main man: Middle linebacker Avery Williamson is the undisputed leader of the linebackers, the defense and maybe the entire team. The senior from Milan, Tenn., finished second in the SEC and seventh in the nation in tackles with 135, more than doubling his 49 from the season before. He also had 4.5 tackles for loss, one interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and one recovered.

The supporting cast: Coaches have said Williamson is "miles ahead" of the others at linebacker, but he's doing everything he can to bring the rest of them up to cruising speed. Other likely starters include junior Kory Brown and sophomore Khalid Henderson. Miles Simpson, a starter last year with 70 tackles, could add some depth, as could Josh Forrest (13 tackles) and Tyler Brause.

Outlook: Linebacker was one of the few positions on the field where the new staff wasn't able to bring in some highly touted talent. It's also a place where UK could use some added depth. In turn, it's now a place where the Cats can't afford any kind of injury. The coaches are beyond pleased with Williamson and are hoping the others can follow his big-play making lead this season. The work ethics of Brown and Henderson have both been lauded, so they're likely to be key contributors.

Jennifer Smith


SCOUTING THE CATS

Running backs: Raymond Sanders standing out in deep backfield

Quarterbacks: Start or not, Jalen Whitlow figures to be part of plan

Receivers:Alex Montgomery has a flair for the dramatic

Tight ends: Anthony Kendrick might be a hidden gem

Offensive line: New offense forces linemen to get up to speed

Linebacker: Avery Williamson setting an example on and off the field

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