Defensive line efficiency a key factor against the Gamecocks


The Kentucky Wildcats defense goes after a Mississippi State ball carrier during the game on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Peyton Barnhill

The Kentucky football team is coming off a huge win against the previous AP top-15 ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs. While it’s evident that many position groups have improved for the Wildcats, the Kentucky defensive line specifically has shown spectators what they’re capable of.

Historically under head coach Mark Stoops, defensive line seems to be the weakest position group on the team. While in his tenure he has been able to produce NFL draft picks, like Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith, Stoops seems to struggle finding talent and experienced depth on the defensive front. However, one thing we’ve already learned from this team is that they are streak breakers.

The Wildcat defense has averaged 279.5 total yards of offense per game, the lowest of any defense under Stoops’ helm. Against the Bulldogs this past week, the Wildcat defense was able to hold Mississippi State to 201 total yards of offense, 145 passing yards and only 56 rushing yards.

After practice on Wednesday, defensive coordinator Matt House had a few words to say about how depth affected his team’s performance.

“Number one, you’ve got to stay fresh in this league to play well. You look at what you’re able to do in rush defense when you’re fresh and the guys have bought into that up front,” House said.

Defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc had lots to say about how his unit was making substitutions difficult.

“You know they’re making it really hard on me, like who goes in because they are all playing pretty well,” LeBlanc said. “So, they determine who goes in, not me. When you walk out on to this grass, you have to forget all outside distractions and be prepared to play.”

One player who has shown he’s unaffected by outside distractions is defensive end/outside linebacker Josh Allen.

“We’ve just got to keep winning and taking it day by day,” Allen said.

The senior leads all Wildcats this season in sacks and tackles for loss— 3 and 6.5 respectively— and is a proven leader along the defensive front.

Production along the defensive line could be the deciding factor come Saturday against the South Carolina Gamecocks. Providing a constant pass rush and slowing down the rushing game will be huge responsibilities for the defensive front this week. However, it’s a responsibility that they have yet to show they are not capable of handling.