Changing of the guard for the UK at LB – The Interior Journal

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Changing of the Guard for the UK at LB

Posted 8:06 am on Tuesday, November 8, 2022

LARRY VAUGHT

Collaborating columnist

Saturday’s game at Missouri was a subtle changing of the guard for Kentucky’s defense.

Senior linebackers DeAndre Square and Jacquez Jones, both fifth-year players and proven Southeastern Conference playmakers, missed the game due to injuries. It gave junior D’Eryk Jackson and sophomore Trevin Wallace, both former high school students from Georgia, their first starts together as UK inside linebackers.

They responded as future stars Square openly predicted they would be in for a 21-17 win. Jackson had six tackles, all solo, against Missouri, while Wallace had a team-high nine tackles, including eight solo saves, three tackles for loss and a quarterback sack.

Jackson has a team-high 42 tackles this year with 3.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Wallace has 27 tackles, including four tackles for loss and one interception.

“It was really fun. That’s what we wanted,” Wallace said after the win. “We had to ramp up. I like that we make plays. coach (Brad White) could trust us.

Coach Mark Stoops made it clear after the game that he trusted Wallace to come into the game, especially knowing how Square had helped guide him for two years. Wallace admitted he was a little nervous at first, but Square told him to “go play ball” and he did.

“Coach Square is the heart of our team. He’s been here forever giving us everything,” Stoops said. “You don’t want to see DeAndre hurt, but I didn’t blink Trevin in there. He is a very good footballer. »

He has a chance to be exceptionally good. Just ask UK Radio Network analyst Jeff Piecoro, a former UK receiver.

“He can be special. He has good football sense and he’s a great athlete,” Piecoro said after Missouri’s win. “He was all over the court today. He can play sideline vs. touchdown. He can play from first down to third down. I think he could be the next Danny Trevathan or Wesley Woodyard.

Former British linebackers Trevathan and Woodyard were not only great players for Kentucky, they were great in the NFL as well. Piecoro – and others – think Wallace has that kind of ability.

Former UK assistant coach Jon Sumrall, now head coach at Troy, recruited Wallace and told me he was one of the best athletes he had ever recruited and thought he could be one of Kentucky’s all-time greatest linebackers.

Wallace’s high school coach Ken Cribb said the same things. Wallace broke the school long jump record held by Georgia wide receiver Lindsay Scott by 8¾ inches with a jump of 23-4 1/4. He won the state weightlifting championship his senior year with a clean power of 335 pounds. He had to play quarterback one game and rushed for 384 yards against the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. At 6-2, 225 pounds, he was clocked at 22 miles per hour.

“If coaches could order a player off a computer checklist, he’d have everything you wanted,” Cribb told me when Wallace signed on at Kentucky.

Wallace wasn’t overwhelmed by the leadership role he had to take on with Square out.

“I have a big mouth. I will speak anyway. If anybody’s down, I’ll make them smile,” Wallace said before the game.

He said Square told him next year that he would be the defensive leader and needed to start showing it against Missouri.

“He said I had to take over and I took over today,” Wallace said. “Next year it will be me and DJ (Jackson).”

The two linebackers are friends off the court and both said it helps them on the court.

“You want someone you’re cool with off the pitch because you can be comfortable with them on the pitch. It’s great to have him by my side when I have a best friend off the pitch as well,” Wallace said.

“I think it helps us a lot because we know how to communicate with each other,” Jackson said. “We know what motivates us, we know what motivates us.”

Defensive coordinator Brad White liked the way Jackson and Wallace are working together to improve.

“They make a great couple because they support each other,” White said. “Trevin has a jovial personality and he keeps D’Eryk loose and D’Eryk plays his best when he’s loose. I think they can get the best out of each other.

White knows their “youthful exuberance” can lead to mistakes, but he also knows that those are mistakes that experience will correct.

“I thought he was locked up all week in training. He was delighted with this opportunity and he obviously took advantage of it. He was really good on the side. Same with D’Eryk,” White said after the game. “Obviously you can tell how much they soaked up those two older guys. It was great to see those two older guys, those two older inside linebackers, every time they came off the field, they encouraged them, they talked about them, they made sure to understand everything.

“It’s fun to watch, it’s kind of that older brother, younger brother effect and they shoot just as hard when these guys are on the pitch as they are when they’re on the pitch. It was good.”

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