UK Football

‘He can almost be a player coach.’ Football IQ, size could make him a star for UK.

Quinton Bohana gets special recognition from Mark Stoops

During Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops’ press conference on Monday, true freshman nose guard Quinton Bohanna was singled out for his play in Saturday’s 29-26 win over Tennessee.
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During Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops’ press conference on Monday, true freshman nose guard Quinton Bohanna was singled out for his play in Saturday’s 29-26 win over Tennessee.

Defensive success for the University of Kentucky football team begins with Quinton Bohanna. The junior nose guard is eager to shoulder that responsibility.

“Offenses, their goal in the run game is to displace the nose, get me out of my spot,” Bohanna said following UK’s practice Thursday. “And if I get out of my spot there’s nothing we can do defensively, so I pride myself on being that guy, not getting moved and being a disruptor in the middle.”

Bohanna is one of seven defensive linemen returning this fall who has started a game for UK. He played in 12 games last season, starting seven overall and the final six, despite for the second straight season having to battle a nagging ankle injury.

“I felt like I would never get right sometimes,” Bohanna said, but this spring he’s feeling more spry.

That’s good, because a UK defense lacking experience on its edges — both in the interior and secondary — will only benefit from any additional athleticism it can get from a core position.

“He’s the single most important part of our style of defense, the nose,” defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc said. “If that guy can demand double teams and then get really good and beat those double teams, what can you do with him? ...

“He can almost be a player coach. He knows the defense. He darn near knows the offense. He knows the calls, what blocks he’s gonna get, he knows backfield sets. He’s a really smart football player, and he’s 6-5, 350. So you put those two things together, you make for a pretty dominant player..”

If UK’s defense is a tree, its branches still need leaves but its trunk is sturdy: Bohanna and fellow nose guard Marquan McCall form a strong root in the middle, building up to deep groups of experienced inside linebackers and safeties.

Defensive coordinator Brad White expects to lean on that trunk come fall.

“And we need these other guys to jump on board, seeing how they act, seeing how they work in the weight room,” White said. “We need those leaders and we need ‘em to pull guys up, grab ‘em by the back of the shirt and say, ‘This is how it’s done here.’ And when we get that, that’s when we’re gonna be the defense we want to be.”

Head coach Mark Stoops on Tuesday said Bohanna is “becoming a difference-maker.” He and center Drake Jackson have warred throughout the spring, and Jackson believes Bohanna has turned himself into one of the top five defensive tackles in the SEC.

“I’m blessed to have Q lined up across from me everyday,” Jackson said. “We were just talking about it last week, the battles that we were having, he and I. We’ve been making each other better. ... He’s massive, but he moves so well for his size. There’s not a lot of guys that can use their hands, and flip their hips and go from power to speed like he does.”

Bohanna relishes those matchups with Jackson.

“It makes you wake up in the morning, to be ready to come here and practice against him,” Bohanna said with a grin. “He knows what I’m good at and I know what he’s good at so it’s fun. We have our battles. He’s had his days, I’ve had mine. It’s real fun, I love it.”

Bohanna credited the whole offensive line for helping he and his fellow defensive linemen improve. LeBlanc referenced the saying “iron sharpens iron” when asked about the duels between UK’s front men.

“Those guys just get together every day and they’re just making each other better,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a pleasure to see those guys come together and work each other out and bang each other up.”

Blue-White Spring Game

When: April 12, 6 p.m.

Where: Kroger Field

Admission: Free

TV: SEC Network