By: ASHLEY SCOBY
For Kentucky’s potential middle linebackers this year, it’s time to warm up their vocal chords in addition to their hamstrings.
Two “lead-by-example” type guys have been practicing at that coveted MLB spot this spring, as the team works to replace the fierce, vocal leader that was Avery Williamson.
Both Tyler Brause and Miles Simpson have been working out at the position this spring that is well-known as the quarterback of the defense. Kentucky has a long line of successful, vocal linebackers, including Wesley Woodyard and Danny Trevathan, who are now both in the NFL.
Brause, who came into UK as a quarterback four years ago, made the transition to linebacker early in his freshman season, and is now competing for the all-important middle linebacker spot. Although he says he is more of a action-style leader, if calling out plays and formations is part of his job description, he’ll do it.
“At times you’re just worried about getting yourself lined up and looking for your keys, and then you’ve got to remember you’ve got to help everybody else out too and get people lined up,” he said. “It’s something I constantly work at.”
It’s something the coaching staff is constantly preaching to the players, too. In a spring session that has been filled with intensity and the occasional skirmish during practice, vocal leadership is important.
“I’m still getting used to it,” Simpson said of the new responsibilities he’s being called to perform. “I’m not much of a talker but I’m getting there. Coach has hounded on me to be more vocal so that’s something I have to work on big time.”
Luckily for Brause and Simpson, they have an always ready-to-help Williamson at their disposal.
Brause, who lived with Williamson for two years, said the two have a close relationship, and they can usually be found texting each other in an effort to give and take advice.
“If we have questions about something, we can always go to him and ask him about it,” he said. “He’s a good guy, a real good guy.”
Simpson shared the same sentiment about Kentucky’s graduated senior, turned NFL hopeful.
“He (Williamson) is always coming by,” Simpson said. “He’ll come over to the house and I’ll as him some questions. He always gives me good tips. He’ll stop by practice and he’ll tell me what he used to do. It helps out a lot.”
Although Kentucky’s middle linebacker spot may soon be filled by a “lead-by-example” guy, as Simpson and Brause both described themselves, the vocal leadership necessary at the position is something neither is worried about.
Brause said his experience playing quarterback helps him better understand how to communicate on the field.
Now, it’s just a matter of channeling that and playing with the kind of reckless abandon that is present in most successful linebackers.
“The biggest thing I saw in Avery was just … the confidence he had in his ability. Knowing what he needed to do kind of radiated out through him so he could play more loose. He could play fast and with enthusiasm,” Brause said. “That’s really what I want to try to get to. I want to get to the point where every call, no matter what the offense is doing, I know my assignment. I know my keys so I can play fast. I think the rest will follow.”