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Kentucky Football

5 Newcomers who Can Make an Immediate Impact on the Field

February 10, 2019

Kentucky just finished up their 2019 recruiting class. Finishing 34th nationally and 12th in the conference, Mark Stoops and his staff brought in the normal talent they have since taking over at Kentucky. There is a lot of talent coming in as new Wildcats set to replace the eight impact players who are heading to the NFL combine. With the entire starting secondary gone, along with a guy like Josh Allen off the edge, a lot of those holes come on the defensive side of the football.

There are five guys in particular that I believe can make an impact in blue and white as soon as their first game on August 31st. But first, I will start with some honorable mentions.

Honorable Mentions

  • Moses Douglass, Safety
  • Cavon Butler, Defensive Lineman
  • KD McDaniel, Outside Linebacker

Douglass is an early enrollee coming in as a safety. With Mike Edwards and Darius West departing to the NFL, Kentucky will have to fill those voids. Jordan Griffin, Davonte Robinson, and Tyrell Ajian all have experience in the back end, but Douglass is a prototype for the nickel position, which is where he could see the field in 2019. Douglass has the size and the physicality to play in the SEC as a true Freshman.

Butler has the best offer sheet in the class with offers from Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan State. He is a powerful defensive lineman that is athletic and his speed and quickness pop on film. At 6-foot-3, 300 pounds, Butler has the size and the talent to get minutes on the defensive line, which would likely be at the end or tackle spot. Depending on the rotation and if guys get moved around, Butler has the talent to add immediate depth.

McDaniel comes in with a monster class at outside linebacker, alongside highly touted in-state recruits, JJ Weaver and Jared Casey, as well as Juco product Marquez Bembry. McDaniel plays with great energy and has the power and athleticism to make an impact. He has a nose for the football and could get playing time early, as Josh Allen’s departure will make the OLB room an experiment for the most part. Depending on if Boogie Watson stays at the sam linebacker spot and Jordan Wright’s progression, McDaniel could get some time on the field.

The 5 

JJ Weaver, Outside Linebacker

Weaver is Kentucky’s most polished recruit. A big question that has yet to be answered is if Boogie Watson will switch sides from the Sam linebacker to the Jack spot, filling Josh Allen’s void. However, Weaver seems to be the perfect replacement, already at 6-foot-5, 240 pounds. Weaver has a lot of talent and maybe a higher ceiling than Allen had.

Regardless if it’s at sam or jack linebacker, Weaver has the talent to play immediately. I believe they will let Watson stay put at sam, and let Weaver get his chance off the edge. Weaver has more moves and is a better fit to rush the passer off the edge. His combination of speed and power are eerily similar to Allen.

Weaver will need to learn the playbook quickly and keep working on his craft. However, with the way Kentucky’s staff evolved a 210-pound two-star recruit into a top-five lock in the NFL Draft makes Weaver look all the more ready to take the role.

Jared Casey, Outside Linebacker

Casey is already on campus, which will help his chances a lot to get on the field in 2019. It will be an experiment, and Casey looks like a perfect mold for the sam linebacker spot. If Watson switches sides, Casey could be the starter, but if not, he can be behind him and learn while giving him a breather. Casey joins Weaver as Kentucky’s two most ready recruits to play immediately, and they will both get their shot.

At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Casey has great athleticism and is a playmaker at linebacker. He is not built to rush the passer off the edge, he is a true outside linebacker that has active hands when shedding blocks. Casey is an athlete and will be a step ahead while being with the team early. He can make an immediate impact and has a bright future as the sam linebacker.

Brandin Echols, Corner

Echols is a Juco product that has experience as a man-to-man corner. With the top three corners gone, that spot is wide open for Kentucky. Cedrick Dort might be finally ready to take over the role as the number one guy, and Stanley Garner could be prepared to make an impact depending on his progression. Echols has the experience to come in and start.

Echols is a physical corner that plays much bigger than his size. He has good instincts and has good length and range. Someone will be forced to step up at corner for the Cats, and I am going with the experienced early enrollee that lives on an island.

DeMarcus Harris, Wide Receiver

Harris is about to surprise a lot of people. With Tavin Richardson transferring, Kentucky needs another receiver not named Lynn Bowden to step up and make a big impact. Ahmad Wagner seems to be ready to step into the backside wideout role. With that said, Kentucky needs someone to step up and become the number one wide receiver.

Harris’ tape showed a polished wideout that can beat you on 50/50 balls, take short routes to the house, and take the top off as a true vertical threat. This all depends on Isaiah Epps’ and Josh Ali’s progression, but Harris seems to be more of a true deep threat. I am one of the few, maybe the only one, who thinks the true freshman can start as the number one wideout. The early enrollee will have a head start to learn the playbook and get a feel with the team.

In his last two seasons of high school in Vero Beach, Florida, Harris hauled in 116 catches for 2,583 yards and found the end zone 27 times. He ran an official 4.42 in the forty-yard dash, and his film shows off his speed. I think Harris is more of an all-around talent at receiver than Ali and Epps, and he will have a chance to showcase his talents in blue and white in 2019.

Marlin ‘MJ’ Devonshire, Corner

Devonshire is a pure playmaker and athlete at corner. He plays aggressive and shows great instincts by consistently making plays on the football. He has experience in man-to-man coverage as well as zone. The lone signee on National Signing Day can make an impact on defense and in the return game.

There is a lot of young talent coming in at defensive back, but Devonshire might be the one guy that can be a jack of all trades. He will be able to help the secondary out early in some form or fashion, and I believe it will be at corner. He is special enough to come in and make an impact as a true Freshman.


Discussion from...

5 Newcomers who Can Make an Immediate Impact on the Field

How long do you want to ignore this user?
Glad to see a mention of Butler. Watch his film, he's very talented and could see early PT.
Patrick Loney
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I was impressed with Braxton's assessment. I agree with his list and would add Travis Tisdale as an honorable mention.
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