Hard-nosed, defensive football has become a staple of Mark Stoops’ Kentucky football program. Since promoting linebackers’ Coach Brad White to defensive coordinator in 2019, the Wildcat defense has consistently been regarded as one of the toughest groups, not only in the SEC, but in the entire country. Coming off of a season where the defense finished top 10 in multiple categories, including third overall in total defensive ranking (according to ESPN SP+), Stoops, White and company look to pick up where they left off this fall.
However, White’s defense will have a long road ahead of them to be able to accomplish that feat. After losing five of 11 starters, and a multitude of depth pieces, the path to replicating the same level of success requires major contributions from new faces. When you consider this, along with the fact that Kentucky has, what many consider, their toughest schedule in years, one would think we are poised for a major step back from the group. Afterall, they do have to get through the offenses of Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama, all in a five week stretch. Oddly enough, however, the buzz around the program is this could be one of the best defenses the Wildcat program has produced since 2018, when many outlets proclaimed them the best defense in all of college football.
So what makes people think this group could be so special? Unlike last year, where the team was led by a group of super experienced seniors at linebacker, holding down the middle of the field-this group looks to wreak their havoc up front with a stout defensive line. The front men, coached by Anware Stewart, along with some experienced edge rushers, have the talent to do something we haven’t seen since Josh Allen laced up the cleats for the Wildcats-rush the passer. Between having a real threat to sack the quarterback on all passing plays, and forcing chaos in the backfield on rushing attempts, Brad White’s defense could take immense amounts of pressure off of a new group of linebackers and corners early on in the season.