UK Football

Same old Avery Williamson leads league in tackles

Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson tackled Louisville running back Senorise Perry in the Cats' loss last month.
Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson tackled Louisville running back Senorise Perry in the Cats' loss last month. Herald-Leader

New coaches, new schemes, new players.

Same old Avery Williamson.

It doesn't matter.

Win or lose, Kentucky's senior linebacker is steady.

He's a quiet force when a season gets turbulent, which it's likely to do as UK gets ready to go on the road and face its third straight ranked opponent in No. 13 South Carolina on Saturday.

"On the field and off the field, he shows great leadership," defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said. "He tries to put the team on the right path with the things he does. He tries to get everyone along and on board with him."

If Kentucky's roster was loaded with Avery Williamsons, it would have something special.

The senior, who has started in Kentucky's last 16 games, rarely has a bad one.

Williamson, a 6-foot-1, 238-pound senior from Tennessee, has led UK in tackles in three of its four games this season.

His 42 tackles so far this season is best in the Southeastern Conference and 30th best in the country. His 10.5 average tackles a game are 13th overall in the nation.

"That's good to see," Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops said of Williamson's numbers this season. "He's a very good player. He's been playing solid all year. He's been a very good leader for us, so I've been proud of him and the way he's playing. It's nice to see him up there in tackles.

"We've gotta get some other guys making some more tackles around him, but he's doing a very good job."

Williamson is a guy Stoops can regularly point to and encourage a guy to work as hard as the middle linebacker, who has been a defensive leader for each of the past two seasons, when he's had the bulk of the 236 tackles in his career.

"When you look at Avery, you look at how he goes about his work," Stoops said of the senior, who has been a captain before every game this season. "He's always very serious about what he does. He works extremely hard every day, pays attention in the meetings, is always there. He's been very solid since we've been here and for a long time."

During one stretch last season, Williamson had four straight games with at least 13 tackles in each one, the first player to do that since Randy Holleran did it in 1990.

Starting with the South Carolina loss, Williamson had double-digit tackles in six of his final eight games last season, including a career-best 20 against Vanderbilt.

For a few games this season, Williamson has been putting up big numbers with a sizable cast on his left wrist from a deep bone bruise.

He's playing through pain and discomfort.

"It's not too bad," he said of the injury. "It's really not affecting my game that much. I just want to keep it on. I mean, my wrist has been bothering me, so I don't want to injure it again. I'd rather have it on than mess it up even more."

Williamson doesn't use the injury as an excuse. He tries to make the most of each film session, each practice, each team meeting.

It's something his coaches don't take for granted.

"Avery is just a very strong leader," Stoops said. "He's playing very tough. He makes a lot of tackles. He puts a lot into it. It's very important to him. So I think everybody respects that about him, the way he approaches the game, the way he puts in the work during the week, and he's a very good leader and a very good player."

He's been an integral part of UK rebuilding its defense and its confidence. Dupree said when he sees other players struggling or looking for direction, he sends them to Williamson because he "always tells us and shows us the right things to do."

Williamson is always steady.

"Avery's been through everything," Dupree said. "Avery's a pretty good person to just lean on."


Kentucky at No. 13 South Carolina

When: 7:30 p.m.

Records: UK 1-3 (0-1 SEC), South Carolina 3-1 (1-1)

TV: FS South