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He’s no longer an official part of the Kentucky football team, but former Wildcat defensive end Jeremy Jarmon is still around the program enough to see “a lot of encouraging things” about the upcoming season.
“We are talking about a lot of young, talented players,” said Jarmon, UK’s assistant director of football operations under coach Joker Phillips and briefly under new coach Mark Stoops. “Look at young defensive linemen like Jason Hatcher and Reggie Meant. It looks like we finally have a little bit of depth in the line and good overall players.”
Jarmon, who played in the NFL, believes Stoops and his staff have done the best possible job of energizing not only the UK fan base, but also the players.
“They have gotten players to buy into what they are doing and that is so evident at practice when you see the weight loss on some players. Some guys just look completely different,” Jarmon said.
He used senior running back Raymond Sanders as an example of a transformed older player.
“He has really bought in. You can tell that by some things he did in practice,” Sanders said. “He looked quicker, more elusive. It’s encouraging to see older players like him buying in. You are talking about guys who have been here four years, five years and they are buying in. A lot of times when there is a coaching change, older guys do not buy into the new system. Actually, they do the opposite because they really don’t care. But they are buying in and taking care of the younger players, too.”
Jarmon thinks there is a “legitimate” quarterback battle between Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow.
“Max is trying to come back off his injury and get some of his confidence back. Jalen is a dual threat guy and (offensive coordinator) Neal Brown would love to implement him in the offense to give us more of a threat,” Jarmon said. “If there is a leader, it’s pretty small. They are that close.”
Jarmon was part of some of UK’s best defensive lines in recent years. He knows many expect ends Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith along with tackles Mister Cobble and Donte Rumph to be the strength of UK’s defense. He also understands why there could be skeptics.
“We struggled some last year on the defensive front. I don’t know how you could be overly optimistic about there being a 360-degree change,” Jarmon said. “But having Za’Darius Smith and the things he brings to the table and a guy like Bud Dupree to go with Rumph and Cobble, they could be good. All four belong in the SEC.
“There will be a bit of a learning curve for some new guys, but they have a lot of pride and ego. I am confident things will pick up and the defensive line will be a strong point. Coach (Jimmy) Brumbaugh is not going to let his position group disappoint. It won’t be allowed.”
He says Meant is “big and it’s hard to believe he’s only a freshman.”
Hatcher has impressed him even more
“Just how strong he is and how he doesn’t back down from older guys. He is not a tall guy but he caught my attention with how he works,” Jarmon said before noting Hatcher reminded him of former UK star Vincent “Sweet Pea” Burns. “He has talent. I know Brumbaugh will really work with him. If he can bring a spin move to game, he can be something special. He is quick. His numbers in term of athleticism, they are off the charts.”