The Kentucky Wildcats‘ defense was overused big time this last season, and it showed every Saturday. Kentucky ranked ninth or higher in every statistical category in the defensive-heavy SEC, the primary cause for the team reaching a winless clip in the conference.
Fortunately, Kentucky will be better defensively this upcoming season with the outstanding head coaching hire of past Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. Stoops brings with him D.J Eliot as his defensive coordinator and understudy as the Seminoles’ defensive ends coach.
The Wildcats will make the switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defensive alignment under Eliot. Just like Demarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys must make the move up front to defensive end from outside linebacker in Monte Kiffin’s new 4-3 defense, so will Alvin “Bud” Dupree for Kentucky.
It’s a move that will only pay dividends for Dupree in the future, because he both looks and feels like an end at the next level.
Dupree and middle linebacker Avery Williamson became the bright spots on a ravaged 2012 season. Unlike Dupree, Williamson put his footprint on a team desperately needing leadership, and his performance set the tone for others to follow him this season.
Approaching his last season, Williamson is not only the catalyst, captain and most experienced player of Kentucky’s defense, he might be the most indispensable player in the SEC.
Williamson maintained Kentucky’s outstanding middle linebacker play in his first season as a starter, placing second in the SEC in total tackles and seventh nationally. He had double-figure tackles in five league games, including 20 takedowns against Vanderbilt.
Williamson’s outburst signified himself as a strong presence coming back for his fourth season. His leadership characteristics have ingrained a positive mindset into a huge underdog ready to shock not only their conference, but the entire country altogether.
Whether it’s the Wildcat defense or the new quick-strike offense, Williamson has established a confident persona for the team.
Kentucky’s outside linebacking group hasn’t been setting the world on fire in fall camp, and that’s why it’s key to have an unquestioned leader right in the middle of things. The entire defense will be dependent on Williamson and the rest of the linebackers to get the job done routinely, beginning against Louisville.
The coaching staff already knows who will answer the bell first. The other two spots have been narrowed down to junior Kory Brown, sophomore Khalid Henderson and last year’s starter Miles Simpson. Closely in the mix are Josh Forrest and Tyler Brause.
Stoops and Eliot have seen Williamson being as miles ahead of the entire group since taking over in the spring.
The move of Dupree signifies that the Wildcats will have an arsenal of hefty pass rushers. The newly-improved defensive line featuring tackles Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble, Jason Hatcher and ZaDarius Smith will transform Kentucky’s 62nd-overall ranked rushing defense into a strong stabilizer for the team.
Eliot brings in a much less complicated scheme to fit the multitude of options the defense has with these lineman. The depth of the defensive lineman should allow Williamson the opportunity to roam and freelance.
Williamson more than doubled his tackles total from his sophomore season. With another similar 135-tackle total this season, Kentucky’s fan base will be saying his name along with those of Wesley Woodyard, Micah Johnson, Johnny Williams and Travathan.