One Of The Strongest Groups On The Team

Welcome back to our ongoing series looking at the 2024 Kentucky Wildcats. A huge thanks to everyone who has checked out the previous installments. Mark Stoops’ club had their Spring Game on Saturday and things are winding down as the second transfer portal window opens. Today our focus is on the defense and one unit in particular. Brad White’s linebacker room is arguably one of the best in the SEC. In addition, an already strong group was bolstered even more through recruiting and the portal. Let’s break it all down with our 2024 Kentucky Spring Review: Linebackers.

Who Headed Out Of Lexington

The biggest subtraction from 2023 is inside linebacker Trevin Wallace. A Georgia native, Wallace declared for the NFL Draft after the end of his junior campaign. In his three years in Lexington Wallace finished with 166 tackles, 18 for a loss, and 10 sacks. In addition, he had three career interceptions. Wallace finished second on the team with 80 stops.

He’ll be forever remembered by the BBN when he took a blocked field goal 76 yards giving the Cats a lead over Florida in 2021 they would never relinquish. Wallace is garnering some serious NFL draft talk being projected as high as a second-round pick.

Not only is Wallace gone for this year but a few other linebackers have moved on as well. Keaten Wade, who along with his brother Destin, transferred to Colorado. Martez Thrower is now at Georgia State while Luke Fulton’s new home is Kent State.

Now that we’ve told you who is gone as we continue with our 2024 Kentucky Spring Preview Linebacker let’s look at the strong returning cast.

A Surprising Return

J.J. Weaver actually went through senior day festivities back in 2022. However, he decided to come back to school. Then after the 2023 season Weaver announced he was taking advantage of his extra COVID year and returning to school.

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The Edge rusher struggled during the early part of last season, however he finished strong. In the regular season finale against Louisville, Weaver had eight tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. As a result, he was given the Howard Schnellenberger Award as game MVP as the Cats upset the Cardinals on the road. Against Clemson Weaver recorded two sacks. A strong 2024 should see him drafted next year.

Tyrese Fearby and Noah Matthews are the backups to Weaver. Both players had six tackles in limited time last season. Former four-star recruit Grant Godfrey is another player to watch.

Instant Impact Transfer

Wallace’s spot at weakside linebacker will be manned by Jamon Dumas-Johnson. The Georgia transfer was a huge pick-up for the Cats on National Signing Day. As a sophomore, he recorded 70 tackles, nine for a loss, and four sacks. As a result, he was a finalist for the Dick Butkus Award awarded to the nation’s best linebacker.

During the 2023 campaign, an arm injury limited him to nine games. Even so, he still managed 34 tackles, 5.5 for a loss, and 3.5 sacks. He chose Kentucky over Auburn and Florida State. Again he’s a day-one starter for UK.

Strong In The Middle

Rounding out the linebacker group is D’Eryk Jackson. Last year the Georgia native recorded 89 tackles, eight for a loss and two interceptions. One of those picks he returned for a touchdown. While he went through Senior Day activities last year he’s coming back to school for one more year. Jackson starts 2024 as one of the SEC’s best linebackers.

Daveren Rayner is the Cats’ top backup behind both Jackson and Dumas-Johnson. The Northern Illinois transfer made 30 tackles last year. Jayvent Brown is another name to watch.

Wrapping up our 2024 Kentucky Spring Review: Linebackers let’s look at the players coming in.

Tons Of Talent

One of the areas the Wildcats hit hard during signing day is the linebacker position. In fact seven of the 24 commits fit that description. Brian Robinson, an edge defender out of Ohio, is already turning heads during spring practice. He’s a guy who’s going to be tough to keep off the field. However, there’s a chance that due to his size, 6-5 and 255 pounds, he could end up on the line instead.

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Another edge defender, Jacob Smith comes to Lexington as the second-best player in Kentucky. First is defensive lineman and his brother Jerod. A trio of Smiths, Antwan, Devin, and Jaden are more incoming freshmen offering depth at an already strong position. Finally, Tennessee native Stephen Soles, played edge in high school but will be a linebacker in White’s system.

Final Thoughts

The linebacker position is arguably the strongest on the 2024 Wildcat team and certainly one of the deepest. Dumas-Johnson has to be considered one of, if not the biggest recruiting wins for Kentucky in recent memory. Expectations are going to be really high for him, Jackson, and Weaver. The potential is there for each to be all-conference selections.

Thanks for checking out our 2024 Kentucky Spring Review: Linebackers here at Last Word On College Football. Next time out we’ll finish our position looks with the secondary and kicking game.

 

Photo courtesy: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

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