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By LARRY VAUGHT
They neither one like losing, but they both are enjoying the opportunity to play — even in somewhat limited roles at this point of the season. Twins Daron and Zack Blaylock of Georgia were two of only six healthy defensive backs left when UK ended Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State. That’s why Zack got his first playing time in the secondary and made four tackles in 23 plays while Daron, who has played in every game except the opener, added another tackle when he was in the secondary.
“It’s tough losing, but nothing I can’t handle,” Zack said. “You just have to keep working and going forward.”
“It is frustrating. I don’t like losing. We just have to play better,” Daron said. “You can’t get mad about what has happened in the past. You just have to move forward and find ways to win.”
The brothers both thought they could play this year after superb careers at Walton High School in Marietta. Their team was 14-1 and Class AAAAA runner-up in 2011. Daron was ranked as one of the nation’s top 100 linebackers by Scout.com and Zack was rated as the nation’s 34th best safety by Rivals.com.
“These two Blaylock kids, those guys, I’m excited to watch those guys play. They come up and strike people. So you get excited to watch them play,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.
However, Zack was scheduled to be redshirted until injuries continued to mount for UK in the secondary. When safety Martavius Neloms went out with a hamstring pull and safety Ashley Lowery was already out with a concussion, he got his chance to play.
I wasn’t expecting it to begin with. I was going to redshirt. Injuries just caused me to be ready to go and I was ready cause the coaches told me to be ready,” Zack said. “I learned the calls and stuff because I knew if something happened I might have to go in and play. And it was fun to be out there playing with my brother.”
Daron estimated the two were on the field “six or seven plays” together.
“That was pretty cool, just like high school,” Daron said. “It was a good experience. He didn’t really expect to be playing this year, but things happen and he was out there and ready to play. We wanted to play. It is not bad at all. The hard thing is getting adjusted to the defense. Once you started learning the defense and everything, it was fairly smooth. The speed hasn’t shocked me or anything. I feel like I am in there able to make plays and so does he.”
Senior linebacker Avery Williamson says the twins are both good teammates and good players. “One is more quiet than other, but they are good guys. They are more the quiet type and don’t talk much. But I like them. They are both really good players, too,” Williamson said.
But they are different. Phillips quickly learned that during the recruiting process.
“Zack was really not the talkative guy, he’s more the shy one. And Daron’s the talker,” the Kentucky coach said. “And so one of the things we did throughout this recruiting process is we wouldn’t call Zack, we would call Daron’s phone, because Zach didn’t always answer his phone. And it wasn’t us, it was just he just didn’t … you know how that goes.
“So he just doesn’t want to talk. But the thing we did do is we called Daron, Daron would answer every time and we’d say, ‘Is Zack there? Yeah. Put him on the phone.’ So now he’s got no choice but to talk to you. But that was one of the differences. Usually twins are close enough that you know that they want to go to the same place. So we were creative and understanding who we needed to talk to. And the one we needed to talk to was Daron. He could sell Zack. And that’s what happened.”
The Blaylocks are two of the 14 true freshmen to play this year. That’s one of the highest total of true freshmen players any team in the country has used.
“I think it is good. It gives us experience and stuff. It better be good,” Zack laughed and said.
“It is a great experience, I guess. We are kind of young. We just want to go out and get better for the next game,” Daron said. “We don’t really talk separate as freshmen about what we are doing or our future. We talk as a whole team. We just say next man up and all be ready to go. We’ve had some injuries, so we just have to toughen up and play young.”
Zack will get his first Southeastern Conference road experience this Saturday night when UK plays at Arkansas.
“I will probably get more reps on special teams and see if I can play more there and just keep practicing with the team and learning,” he said. “It does feel good to play. It was hard not to play, especially watching my brother go out there and get playing time. This is all different here. I wasn’t ready for all this, but it just happens and you go with the flow. I felt I played okay (last week), but I have to get better and work more to learn all the calls and stuff this week.”