Kentucky will be without a key player as it rebuilds its defense in 2019.
The Wildcats announced Thursday that safety Davonte Robinson would miss the season after tearing a quadriceps muscle. The injury happened Tuesday, according to the team, and Robinson needs surgery.
Robinson made three starts in 2018 and played in all 13 of Kentucky’s games. He was expected to start at safety and was the team’s sixth-leading tackler last year. He had 42 tackles and tree tackles for loss.
Kentucky’s secondary will have four new starters
If you wanted to generously count Robinson as a returning starter, Kentucky only needed to replace three starters in the secondary. That number is now undisputedly four and there’s even less experience among those four projected starters.
Safeties Mike Edwards and Darius West were seniors in 2018. They were both in the top four in the team in tackles and had five of the team’s nine interceptions. Corners Derrick Balty and Lonnie Johnson are gone too. They each saw significant playing time outside and both notched an interception.
The only defensive back who returns who had an interception in 2018 is Tyrell Ajian. He could now start at free safety instead of Robinson. And outside of Robinson, the team’s leading returning tackler is senior safety Jordan Griffin. He had 13 tackles in 2018.
The turnover in the defensive backfield is also part of a larger turnover on defense. Josh Allen was a first-round pick in the draft after dominating the SEC in 2018 and two other starters have to be replaced in the front seven. That loss of talent on defense, as well as the departure of workhorse running back Benny Snell, is why it won’t be terribly surprising if Kentucky fails to repeat the 10-3 season it had a year ago.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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