By LARRY VAUGHT
Speculate all you want on whether Gunnar Hoak or Terry Wilson will be Kentucky’s starting quarterback when the season opens. Question whether the receivers will really be improved and capable of making big loves. Wonder who will emerge as a consistent playmaker at linebacker.
Certainly all those answers will play a big role in what kind of season Kentucky has this year. However, take time to pay attention to sophomore defensive lineman Quinton Bohanna because if he could emerge as a consistent force in the middle, Kentucky’s chances for a successful season go way up.
Think back to when Kentucky signed Matt Elam and he was being counted on to be a defensive stopper, the type of player that other SEC teams have in the defensive front but Kentucky had been missing for years.
Elam could never match the hype, but Bohanna showed flashes of brilliance last year. He became a starter the second half of the season and a more experienced Bohanna should be an even better player this year.
“I am real excited. I can’t wait for this season,” Bohanna said. “It feels so good knowing the season is coming up and the work we have put it as a whole, but specifically the defensive line, will show. We grew up. We have a tighter bond. Work hard, work together. We are really looking forward to the season.”
Kentucky’s defensive front often has been criticized by UK fans and media members. Think back to the final few games last year when Georgia and Louisville gashed the UK defense at will with the run.
“We are human, so we see and hear things people say and write but we ain’t done nothing on the field. Until we go out and show out we are who people expect us to be this year and that we are better, it is just talk,” Bohanna said. “Experience from last year is going to help me a lot, especially with me getting most of mine toward the back of the season when we were deep into SEC play and played some really good teams.”
Bohanna believes he’s a more versatile player than when he got to Kentucky but totally understands his main job — “stopping the run, being a plug in the middle.” He accepts that is his main focus but also believes he can do more.
“(Defensive line) Coach (Derrick) LeBlanc did a great job opening up and letting me make plays for my position. All of us are bigger, stronger. We have got more depth. We are doing to do more together. We are just excited to get going,” Bohanna said.
Bohanna plays a thankless position. Tackles are hard to come by for a defensive lineman who normally is double teamed every play. He’s not going to chase receivers or running backs down from behind 20 yards down the field. But if a team gashes Kentucky for big running totals, Bohanna will be the first to get blamed.
“I am a lineman. I am not a flashy, skilled player. I know my job. My coaches and my teammates know the importance of me and my position,” Bohanna said. “We all know our importance and what we do. I could really care less about the stats or media. As long as they (coaches, teammates) know what I am doing and we are winning is all that matters.”