April 22, 2012

Williamson leads starting defense in Blue/White Game

The UK defense is no stranger to quality linebackers. And trying to replace Danny Trevathan is no easy task.

But as junior Avery Williamson showcased in UK's spring game Saturday he won't back down from a challenge.

He led the game with eight tackles, two for a loss, and one sack. No one else on the starting defense had more than three tackles.

"I'm pleased with the way he played, Avery was all over the place," Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips said. "(Sports Information Director Tony Neely) and I were just talking about for the amount of time he played last year he had a lot of tackles."

Williamson played in every game last season and recorded 49 tackles, good for fifth on the team. He didn't earn a single start over middle linebacker Ronnie Sneed, but rotated with the senior and played major minutes, particularly at the end of the season.

"I felt comfortable, I was a little bit nervous at first," Williamson said. "But I always get nervous before games. I calmed down there and I had to go out and make plays. That's my job."

The Wildcats (the nonstarters) struggled against the new faces on defense. Williamson and the starting defense gave up 189 yards to the backup offense, but 54 yards of that came when quarterback Jacob Russell scrambled for a touchdown in the first quarter.

With the exception of that play, Williamson was pleased with the defense.

The starters beat the backups 35-28 despite being down 14-0 to start the game. The only other touchdown surrendered was with 25 seconds remaining. But defensive coordinator Rick Minter still wasn't pleased with how his unit looked.

"I wasn't really happy with our performance, because I look at results," Minter said. "They hung 50 on us. When you add up 35 and 14, that's 49. That's two weeks in a row they've put close to 50 on us, so that's not good at all."

When Minter was hired, the team had to adjust to a new style and coaching philosophy. After a year of learning the system, Williamson thinks the team is ready to cash in.

"It's pretty complicated. You have to have guys commit to it and you can't just look at it a bit and not study it," Williamson said. "It's like another class, you have to study it and put forth the effort."

The starting defense had seven sacks on Saturday, led by two from senior defensive end Taylor Wyndham. Williamson says putting pressure on the quarterback can create turnovers.

"We put stress on getting pressure on the quarterback and getting turnovers, we've been stressing that all spring," Williamson said. "Defense has to score, too. Not just the offense, we want to make that a model for the defense."

Playing faster allows Williamson to play more his style. He feels he's not thinking, and just feeling the play. But he did hesitate when being compared to Trevathan.

He's more worried about becoming the best player he can be.

"I want to be myself, be Avery Williamson," he said. "In the end I just need to be the best I can be."

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