Dominique Yates and Jon Hale talk where the Wildcats are at in terms of a depth chart.
Dominique Yates, Louisville Courier Journal
LEXINGTON – Kentucky football’s 2019 preseason camp opens Aug. 2. To get you ready for the start of football season, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the roster. Up next in the series is the defensive line. You can also read previous installments in the series about the quarterbacks, defensive backs, running backs, special teams, offensive line, outside linebackers and wide receivers.
Projected starters: The starting lineup matters less at defensive line than most positions given how heavily the UK coaching staff rotates players at the position, but nose guard Quinton Bohanna (6-4, 361, Jr.) might be the best player on the entire defense. Since most of his job involves occupying blockers, Bohanna is unlikely to ever put up gaudy statistics, but he could work his way into the conversation for the 2020 NFL draft with a strong season.
Starters at the other two defensive line positions are less certain, but defensive end Calvin Taylor (6-9, 311, Sr.) enjoyed a breakout 2018 season with 26 tackles, six tackles for los and one sack while starting nine of 13 games. Senior defensive end T.J. Carter (6-4, 287, Sr.) is among the most experienced players on the roster with 37 career appearances, 16 starts, 45 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks. He started alongside Taylor and Bohanna with the first-team defense in the spring game.
Other returning players: At 100%, former four-star recruit Josh Paschal (6-3, 284, So.) is one of Kentucky’s three most talented linemen, but he is still working his way back from a year of treatments following a malignant melanoma diagnosis. It’s unclear how long it will take for Paschal to return to his peak on-field shape, but having only football questions to worry about will be a nice change for the pass-rushing specialist.
The majority of the nine-man rotation from last season is back. Phil Hoskins (6-5, 310, Sr.) could push for a starting spot. Kordell Looney (6-3, 292, Jr.) should again serve a key backup role. Nose guard Marquan McCall (6-3, 371, So.) forced his way onto the field as a freshman and is set to serve as Bohanna’s primary backup. After two years learning the position, Abule Abadi-Fitzgerald (6-6, 290, So.) might be ready for his first on-field contributions.
With so much experience returning, redshirt freshmen Davoan Hawkins (6-2, 293) and Qua Mahone (6-3, 300) should be afforded time to learn in practice alongside walk-on Collin Hartmann (6-4, 281, So.).
Important losses: The line was not immune from the heavy losses throughout the defense as steady defensive tackle Adrian Middleton graduated after totaling 10 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks while starting all 13 games last season. UK also lost key backup Tymere Dubose to graduation.
Addition to watch: UK signed two defensive linemen in its 2019 class, but neither should need to play this fall. Three-star defensive tackle Isaiah Gibson (6-4, 295, Fr.) did graduate early to enroll in January. With a spring practice already under his belt, he should be poised to contribute in 2020 when the defensive line will have at least three members of the primary rotation to replace.
Other additions: Cavon Butler (6-3, 304, Fr.)
Under the radar: Now two years removed from surgeries on both shoulders, Hoskins could be in store for a memorable senior season. The former junior-college transfer totaled just two tackles in seven games in his first season at UK in 2017 but contributed 21 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, three sacks and one fumble forced in 13 games last season. Another jump in production would see Hoskins push for a starting role.
Camp questions: The line is one of two defensive positions Kentucky coaches can feel relatively confident about entering preseason camp, but due to the uncertainty elsewhere the pressure will be high on this unit to carry much of the load. Finding an outside linebacker to replace Josh Allen’s pass rushing will be less of a challenge if Taylor, Paschal, Hoskins and Carter can find their way into opponents’ backfields more often. Improved pass rush from the linemen would also help the inexperienced secondary avoid being left in one-on-one coverage too long. This looks like Kentucky’s best defensive line of the Stoops era. Can it back up that hype?