By LARRY VAUGHT
Going into the season not a lot of attention was paid to safety Mike Edwards even when the Kentucky secondary was being praised. Instead, it was sophomore cornerbacks Chris Westry and Derrick Baity drawing praise.
But at the midpoint of the season, Edwards might be UK’s best and most important defensive player. He’s second on the team with 51 tackles, leads the team with eight pass breakups and has three tackles for loss.
“I think you’ve heard me say just about every week how solid and impressed I am with him. He very, very rarely makes the same mistake twice. It’s always fun to be able to communicate with a player like that and some guys they need to be communicated (with) differently,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said.
“Some guys you’ve really got to lean on and some guys you’ve got to show them on film, you’ve got to show them on the board, you’ve got to show them with a lot of reps. And some guys just like Mike, you show them one time. You see why. You get that fixed very quickly. It’s always fun to coach guys like that.”
Another safety, Blake McClain, has also been a key part of the recent resurgence by the defense.
” wish I had him another year. I wish we’d redshirted him the first year, but didn’t and couldn’t. But I really think he’s getting better and better. He’s a versatile guy. He’s another guy with experience that he’s getting to that point — he plays the positions both nickel and free (safety) — which take some good amount of reps,” Stoops said.
“And you’re not seeing nearly as many mistakes out of him as we have in the past. That position takes some savvy and some smartness, just be smart and be crafty in the way you pressure and all the different zone drops that you have at nickel and different responsibilities with some tough man coverages sometimes, blitzes.
“Takes a lot of reps and that’s something that we looked at because we have so many reps invested in him at nickel in critical situations, I like to put him back in at nickel and put Marcus (McWilson) in at free because of that.”
McClain has 25 tackles, two interceptions and three pass deflections this season.