There are no ones and twos on the depth chart for Kentucky’s interior defensive line.
Sure, there are a couple of players listed first on a piece of paper and a couple who run out on the field first, but that doesn’t matter.
“When you’re on the field, you’ve got to play like a one,” said line coach Derrick LeBlanc, who got big production out of backups on Saturday in the win over Central Michigan that included 17 tackles from seven different defensive linemen.
Four of those players had at least three tackles apiece, including senior nose guard Tymere Dubose, who had three tackles with two for a loss.
None of those four players started the game.
“Our strength is in the numbers,” said LeBlanc, whose team will be playing in the hot, humid swamp-like conditions at No. 25 Florida on Saturday. “It keeps us fresh and we have seven guys that can play.”
In the next few weeks, don’t be surprised to see the Cats’ defensive line depth expand to eight players seeing significant snaps as true freshman Marquan McCall continues to develop.
Having fresh legs along the line is key, defensive coordinator Matt House said Wednesday.
“That’s one of the things right now that you have to do in college football is develop depth so those guys don’t get wore down — wore down in the game and wore down in the season — especially in our league,” House said. “It’s such a line of scrimmage league.”
While there were some missed assignments and some big plays the defensive line left on the field, it was a solid first showing, the coaches said.
“So those guys, I thought did some good things, we were able to go deep,” head coach Mark Stoops said. “We’re looking for some impact plays, but if nothing else the defense was very, very sound and everybody was taking care of their primary responsibilities. We got a chance when you do that.”
The UK defensive line, which had just four total tackles in the Florida game last season, has bought in, its position coach said.
“I always talk to them about playing fast, playing physical and playing smart,” LeBlanc said. “I think they’ve kind of grasped that identity and they are. Right now they’re feeling good about themselves and they’re playing that way.”
Dubose called the linemen a bunch of “go-getters,” who are going about proving some naysayers wrong.
“They’re always talking about how the old D-line was,” the senior said. “We’re the new D-line. We’re trying to create our identity ourselves. … We listen to it, but we use it as motivation.”