Over the last 15 years, the Kentucky Wildcats have had some teams that have excelled on the offensive side of the ball. During the Hal Mumme era in Lexington, the Big Blue could score as many points as just about anybody in the country. In recent years, players such as Randall Cobb and Andre Woodson have helped Kentucky’s offensive attack.
However, when athletic director Mitch Barnhart was given the task of hiring a new head coach, he decided that the Wildcats’ defense needed a boost so he hired Mark Stoops, the defensive coordinator for the Florida State Seminoles.
Stoops came to Lexington and immediately put his stamp on the Big Blue defense. He is switching from last season’s 3-4 defense to a 4-3, which is the scheme he used at FSU. Stoops brought former FSU defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot with him to serve as UK’s defensive coordinator.
With the switch, Stoops hopes to emphasize the better talent on the Kentucky roster. The strength of this year’s UK team, at least on defense, will be the defensive line. Stoops got a big boost to this group when he signed junior college All-American Za’Darius Smith, who played extremely well in the Blue-White spring game last weekend. Smith is expected to be an outstanding defensive end for UK this fall.
At the other end, former outside linebacker Alvin “Bud” Dupree should be solid as well. Dupree was one of Kentucky’s best players on defense last year, and the only apparent obstacle to Dupree’s progress is moving to a down lineman this fall. As a linebacker last season, Dupree had 12.5 tackles for loss, including six and a half sacks.
For the interior line, Kentucky figures to have three players who can clog up the middle. Defensive tackles Mister Cobble, Tristian Johnson and Donte Rumph. Last season, these three players accounted for seven and a half sacks which bodes well for this year’s defense.
If Kentucky can get solid production from the defensive line, it could help a young group of linebackers and defensive backs who need to gain experience and improve this season.