By LARRY VAUGHT
Former Wildcat defensive end Dennis Johnson is the offensive line coach at Lafayette High School in Lexington and says he could have the “best offensive line in the state” this season that will feature junior Landon Young, a Kentucky commit.
“I tell kids that people who are truly driven are the ones who become successful,” Johnson said. “Now I am focused on becoming a better coach and eventually a head coach and winning titles. For a few days it was time to reflect back on maybe you did have a decent career and do things a lot of people didn’t do, but at the same time I am so driven that I want more. It was that way in college and then in the pros every day was a grind to keep your foot in the door. That’s why I tell kids you have to always be working.”
That includes Young, who verbally committed to UK last summer. He’s a 6-6, 320-pound offensive lineman.
“Landon is looking good. We are finally getting him in the weight room more with the other commitments he also has,” Johnson said. “I told him I played three sports and lifted weights at 6 a.m. But he is a freakish athlete and works hard. I just want to get him to that extra tough level not for high school, but for the next level when he will really need that mean streak.
“We are going to have a line that will average about 300 pounds (per player) and three or four guys that could go Division I. We should have the top line in the state if the coach does his job. But I am going to push them, and especially Landon just like my dad did me every day. He still has two years to improve, but I tell him until you sign that scholarship, any school could withdraw the offer if you don’t keep working and getting better. They want to see improvement and he is motivated daily by that.
Johnson likes what UK coach Mark Stoops is doing with the program despite last year’s 2-10 record.
“I am a hard-core, old school guy and that’s how Stoops is,” Johnson said. “But if you don’t have the players, you can’t compete. The more players he can keep getting in, the quicker the turnaround will come. I think they are another year away from being really good. If they win five games this year that would be doing good, but I think we might see a vast improvement the next year.”
Kentucky offensive line coach John Schlarman and Johnson have kids that play basketball against each other and Johnson tries to talk to Schlarman and UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown, a former high school star at Boyle County, all he can.
“From what I hear and see, they are getting better. They have got some talent. They just have to nurture it and get more,” Johnson said.
That might eventually mean adding Russ Yeast, the son of former Harrodsburg and UK star Craig Yeast. He’s a receiver in the 2017 recruiting class.
“That is family,” Johnson said. “Russ played for me as seventh-grader at Jesse Clark (Middle School in Lexington). Landon was an eighth-grader that same year. I knew the potential Russ had then. He has his dad’s skills and he’s already bigger than Craig. His dad has honed his skills and I think it was a good move for UK to offer him early. We are not a national power yet, so you have to get on young kids before others do.”