Jordan Wright, Kelvin Joseph ready to step into big roles


Kentucky Wildcats linebacker Jordan Wright (15) sacks UT Martin quarterback John Bachus during the University of Kentucky vs. UT Martin football game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. UK defeated UT Martin 50-7. Photo by Rick Childress | Staff

Eric Decker

The coaching staff has stressed the importance of veteran leadership for an upcoming season plagued by the effects of Covid-19. Fortunately, the Cats return more than half of their defensive starters from 2019. But that doesn’t mean some players won’t take on a larger responsibility in the defensive scheme.

Defensive coordinator Brad White mentioned linebacker Jordan Wright as someone who has been garnering attention. Wright tallied three sacks last season, and is expected to line up across from Boogie Watson on the edge this year. White is confident Wright is capable of filling the void.

“We’re really expecting him to sort of take that next step,” White said. “There’s still some things there we still have to work through and some nuances that can help him out there, but his pass rush game has really taken a leap.”

The slower progression of Wright is understandable, given he was also heavily involved in basketball through high school career. He said his ability to focus solely on the pigskin has helped him pick up information faster.

“When I decided I really just wanted to play football, that’s when everything started to click more,” Wright said.

White talked about how Wright’s newfound mentality has helped him not only in the meeting room, but with bringing the pop necessary for linebackers.

“There was no thump, there was no power in his game, and now he’s developed that, and he’s learned to play with a more physical mindset,” White said. “At that position, to be successful, you’ve got to play with that physical mindset and then if you have the explosion and the length on top of it then you’re going to be a dynamic player.”

Moving toward the backend, Kentucky’s already stacked secondary has a notable addition that will also be fighting for time and leadership roles.

Kelvin Joseph is finally off the scout team, preparing to play SEC football for the first time since 2018 after sitting out last year due to transfer rules. The hybrid defensive back oozes confidence about his game and the combined talent of the secondary.

“It’s an honor to be a part of the DBU group at LSU, and I feel like coming here at Kentucky there’s going to be some great things happening here because I’m surrounded by a lot of good players,” Joseph said, mentioning he’s been practicing with the first team defense.

The second year Cat also said he doesn’t think his unit is getting enough recognition despite some pundits believing it will be one of the nation’s best once again.

“What’s the point of sugarcoating if I know what we can do? I’m not going to keep it a secret, we not getting the respect that we supposed to be getting,” he told reporters. “Imma just let the people know who are not respecting us that we on our way, and we not playing.”

Along with Joseph, freshman Vito Tisdale has been raved about all preseason for his playmaking ability and his demeanor on the field.

“He’s got some of those qualities that attract people. People like being around Vito and he’s got a really good personality in that regard,” Coach White said about the 6-foot-1 safety from Bowling Green. “There’s a lot of things we need to clean up in terms of technique and understanding and play style from playing within the scheme of the defense, but he does some things that are extremely natural and those are the things you can’t teach.”

“He’s got a knack for being around the football and he’s a guy you can see down the line could absolutely be one of our leaders.”

Still two weeks from kickoff, White seems pleased with what the defensive unit has accomplished to help it increase its level of play. They’re not finished yet, but are close to turning the page toward its first opponent.

“We were able to install our whole playbook pretty quick… now we’ve been able to work on some other things that we’ve wanted to work on to help grow as a defense and as a package,” he said. “We’re still honing those things, but we’ll definitely start to get Auburn focused come next week.”