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Week One Positional Grades: Defense And Special Teams

Question marks were everywhere for Brad White and this 2022 Kentucky defense. A lot of newcomers were taking the field for the first time on Saturday and there was plenty to keep an eye on as a Wildcat fan. Now that we have a week's worth of tape to look at, lets grade each position.

Defensive Line: C+

There was lot of hype surrounding Octavious Oxendine into the season. Outside of Ox, there was a lot of unknown as to who was going to show up on the defensive line. True freshman, Deone Walker, was one of the most talked about players in fall camp. There was no missing who Walker was on Saturday, as he stood out as the biggest body on the field. Meanwhile, Justin Rogers is one of the highest ranked recruits in Kentucky history. With that said, there was a lot left to be desired on the field on Saturday. Miami rushed for over 100 yards and were not threatened by the pass rush of the line for most of the evening. There were some flashes by Walker and Oxendine that leaves enough to get the defensive line to an average grade.

Secondary: B-

This may be unfair to group the entire secondary into one position, but there was a great deal of concern for the secondary as a whole leading into Saturday. Brett Gabbert completed 20 of his 28 passes, but the down field passing attack that we expected out of the Redhawks was kept in check. In fact, Gabbert only completed two passes of 15+ yards and was relegated to taking a lot of short completions. Carrington Valentine was penalized for pass interference twice in one drive, but one of those calls was ridiculous and the defense held up and kept Miami out of the endzone on that drive.

Linebackers: A

It was no secret that the linebacking corps were going to be the best positions on Kentucky this season. Game one proved that to be the case, as Deandre Square and Jaquez Jones found themselves in a lot of plays, especially early in the game. JJ Weaver and Keaton Wade also played well and were responsible for a sack, forced fumble and a beautiful pass breakup. There is not much to worry about this group moving forward.

Special Teams: A+

Special teams were easily the best unit that either team put on the field on Saturday. Barion Brown showcased his elite speed, maxing out at 22 MPH on his 100-yard kickoff return. Matt Ruffalo nailed all three of his field goals, including tying his career high with a 50-yarder in the second half. We also saw a blocked punt by JJ Weaver and a big punt return by Tayvion Robinson. Essentially, these guys are very good.

The competition takes a huge leap this week, as Kentucky travels to the Swamp. Coach White and Coach Stoops will have their hands full in game planning for an offense that is highlighted by an elite talent in Anthony Richardson.


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