It was Kentucky linebacker Jordan Jones who won SEC co-Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 13 tackles, one sack and two tackles for a loss in UK’s 29-26 win over Tennessee on Saturday night.
And yet Jones did not win Defensive Player of the Game honors from his own team. That distinction went to true freshman nose guard Quinton Bohanna, head coach Mark Stoops said Monday.
How could this be? After all, the Cordova, Tenn. native was credited with just two tackles from his nose guard position. In this case, you don’t get the entire story from the statistics.
“He did well in all phases,” Stoops said Monday. “He executed his assignments on blitzes and certain techniques that we needed to be better than we were a year ago. He executed some things that had some awareness. He was physical. He played with great effort. He did some good things. Very good.
“He’s given more production out of that position than we’ve had in awhile,” Stoops said. “He’s actually our Player of the Week defensively within our own team. He’s our Defensive Player of the Week.”
Many of Jones’ 13 tackles had to do with UK’s interior defensive linemen carrying out their assignments, occupying blockers and creating angles to make tackles. Those are things that don’t show up on the stat sheet.
Bohanna, a 6-foot-4, 320-pounder, was rated a three-star recruit by 247Sports who committed to UK in February of 2016 before he signing with the Cats a year later. Its composite ranked him the 29th best prep prospect coming out of the state of Tennessee. Rivals ranked him 33rd. Yet right away in training camp, Bohanna earned praise from the coaches. He has trended up ever since.
When recruiting Bohanna, did the staff see him as a player who could help immediately?
“I think he has probably exceeded my expectations for his first year,” Stoops said. “I knew he was going to be a very good football player, but he’s played well as a freshman. That’s a tough position, as you know. Playing nose in this league, you’re getting banged around pretty good.”
It’s also a terribly important position. Show me a good SEC defense and I’ll show you a terrific defensive line. Alabama’s defensive interior has been the hallmark of the Crimson Tide’s success under Nick Saban, who knows a thing or two about how to coach defenses.
Once a heralded recruit, Matt Elam has slipped to third string on the depth chart. Naquez Pringle, a former junior college transfer who has played well, is now second team. Bohanna is at the top of the depth chart. And as a freshman, he figures to stay there for awhile.
It’s sort of ironic that the weekend that Randall Cobb, another Tennessee native (Alcoa) who starred at UK, was in town for the reunion of bowl teams under Rich Brooks, Bohanna would have an excellent game against the Vols.
“I love his attitude,” Stoops said. “Our players like him. He’s got a great demeanor about him. He’s very focused. He’s on a mission. I just like the way he handles his business. If he continues to progress, he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”
Kentucky football 2017