South Warren DT Middleton a UK commitment in Hilltopper country

mfields@herald-leader.comAugust 28, 2013 

Adrian Middleton, a South Warren senior in 2013

South Warren Coach Mark Nelson and defensive coordinator Brandon Smith are Western Kentucky football alumni who still proudly wave the Hilltoppers' red towel.

South Warren defensive tackle Adrian Middleton has committed to Kentucky and regularly confirms his allegiance to the Cats by wearing all kinds of Big Blue gear.

With WKU and UK set to clash in Nashville on Saturday, has there been any good-natured trash talk between the Spartans coaches and Middleton?

"We've never brought it up," said Smith, who has mentored Middleton on and off the field.

What if WKU beats the Cats for the second year in a row?

"I'll definitely have a little remark for him," Smith said with a laugh.

If UK tops the Toppers, will Middleton needle the coaches?

"He'll probably feel it out first," Smith said. "Adrian's pretty smart. He won't go jumping right into it."

Middleton is, however, jumping right into proving himself as one of the state's best players. The 6-foot-4, 260-pound senior helped South Warren beat Warren East 35-0 last week. The Raiders had minus-22 yards rushing and didn't complete a pass.

"Adrian has upped his game 10 times from last year," Smith said. "In our scrimmage (two weeks ago) and our first game, he's been phenomenal. It's exciting to watch him tap into his potential."

Middleton had scholarship offers from UK, Louisville, Indiana, Missouri, Middle Tennessee and WKU before he committed to UK in June.

"I'd been up there a few times for camps and junior days and really liked it," he said. "I like Coach (Mark) Stoops because he's defensive-minded and he put a lot of people in the NFL when he was at Florida State."

Nelson said college coaches love Middleton's size, speed and athleticism.

"And he's only going to get bigger and stronger. A lot of schools, from Florida to Auburn, called about him a few weeks ago after they saw him on film. I told them he had already verbaled to Kentucky, and that he's not going to be interested in anybody else. He's solid for Kentucky."

Smith, son of former Boyle County coach and UK assistant Chuck Smith, thinks Middleton's potential is "out of this world.

"What really makes him an elite player is he's big and young (17), and has the speed and quickness. He can move like a skill player. Everything's kind of natural with him, and he's just now starting to realize how good he can be."

Middleton played at 280 pounds last year, but he's trimmed down to 260.

"I think a lot of that was baby fat last year," Smith said. "He's young and still has a baby face. But he's pretty muscular, pretty stout now, and he's moving even better."

Middleton said his best asset is his speed (4.9 in the 40). He credits Smith for helping him "get in shape, get stronger and get my position down. He helped me a lot in recruiting, too, and he's helping me get my grades up."

Nelson described Middleton as "very humble. I don't worry about him getting a big head. His mom (Audrey) is a great lady who takes care of him, and he has a good supporting cast. Our seniors are great kids and good leaders, and Coach Smith does a great job with him."

When Middleton was in the middle of the recruiting process earlier this year, Smith assured him he would support his decision.

"Adrian knows how I feel about Western, but I told him, so it wouldn't be uncomfortable for him, that whatever school he went to, I'd make that my favorite school," Smith said.

At least after Saturday's UK-WKU showdown.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.

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