D.J. Eliot, fourth season at Kentucky and as a coordinator.
D.J. Eliot, linebackers; Steve Clinkscale, defensive backs; Jimmy Brumbaugh, defensive line; Matt House, inside linebackers/special teams coordinator; Brian Landis, quality control assistant; Jonathan Cooley and Michael Colosimo, defensive graduate assistants.
Kentucky finished 12th in the Southeastern Conference and 59th in the nation in total defense, allowing 394.2 yards a game. The Cats allowed opponents to average 27.4 points last season, tied for second most in the league.
Derrick Baity, cornerback; Blake McClain, safety/nickelback; Marcus McWilson, safety; Denzil Ware, defensive end/linebacker; Chris Westry, cornerback.
What to watch
Kentucky is replacing five of its top six tacklers from last season’s team, including nearly every snap at the inside linebacker positions. The Cats feel like they have the raw talent and athleticism to fill that void, but the margin for error will be thin against high-powered SEC offenses. The linebackers won’t have much time to get acclimated if the defensive line doesn’t find playmakers quickly. One of the worst teams in the nation at both tackles for loss and sacks is going to find creative ways to rattle opposing quarterbacks.
Will all of the fall camp mixing and matching along the defensive line and outside linebacker spots equal an effective combination on game day? Can junior Matt Elam become a leader and a formidable force inside? Will junior college transfers Courtney Miggins and Alvonte Bell become the factors UK needs them to be? Can an almost completely revamped front seven become a cohesive unit by kickoff? Will the Cats find a way to get in opponents’ backfields and make plays after disappointing numbers last season?
It could be a long year for the Kentucky defense if noseguard Matt Elam doesn’t find a way to become a playmaker and a leader for an untested defensive line, which lost a go-to vocal leader in Regie Meant early in training camp. UK struggled mightily last season at the point of attack, allowing opponents to run for more than 196 yards a game (third worst in the league). With an explosive secondary of Chris Westry, Derrick Baity and Mike Edwards behind it, opponents are going to test the Cats’ ability to stop the run early and often. The front seven, with no returning starts at linebacker and limited experience on the defensive line, are going to have to make major strides quickly or those opponent rushing yards are going to go sky high.
2016 College Football Preview
Click on the links below to read other stories from the Herald-Leader’s season preview. Watch for more coming Monday and Tuesday, or pick up the Sunday Herald-Leader and get it all at once.