We have reached single digits for the number of days remaining until Kentucky kicks off against Ball State. In anticipation of that, we've reach the final iteration of my reasons for optimistic and pessimistic views on Kentucky football in 2023. In the other posts, I've given multiple reasons to my thinking. In this one, however, I think the Wildcats are in a spot where there's really only one glaring concern when it comes to Brad White's group - the secondary. More specifically, the corners on the boundary.
Losing both of your top corners from the year prior is obviously not a situation you want to be in. Unfortunately, this is exactly what Coach White and the defensive staff are going to have to figure out. Keidron Smith became well known for his timely playmaking last year while Carrington Valentine was showing flashes of being a future NFL corner. Both of those guys are on to greener pastures and their replacements lack the experience. Max Hariston and Andru Phillips will step into their roles, with guys like JQ Hardaway and Jantzen Dunn rotating in. All of these guys have the talent to be great players, but they haven't been through the full grind of a SEC season like the secondaries of the past few years.
As for the safeties, I don't anticipate much concern. Jalen Geiger returns off of an injury and Zion Childress was becoming one of the better impact players on the Wildcats defense at the end of 2022. The wild card in all of this is true sophomore Alex Afari Jr. Expect to see him in nickel packages as a corner and playing SAM linebacker as well. He's Kentucky's Swiss Army knife.
This group reminds me a lot of the 2019 secondary. The max exodus of seniors after 2018 left a lot of new faces in the defensive backfield. That group went on to be the top-ranked passing defense in the SEC that year, so there is hope to be had. With that, there still are many uncertainties that won't be answered until we start playing actual games.