The UK defense is loaded with maybe the most talent and experience that the unit has had in the Mark Stoops era. At the helm of that side of the ball is junior linebacker DeAndre Square, who will play a crucial role yet again in stopping the opposing team’s offense.
With the season beginning this Saturday against Auburn, game plans are getting finalized and a feeling of tension rises in preparation. Square is ready to hit the field and make some noise from the start, but doesn’t feel that he will have to calm himself down.
“I’m looking to set the tone in the first series, I’m going to keep myself calm — I’ve been there before, it’s not my first go-around,” he said. “So it’s nothing new, just another game for me, just ready to set the tone in the first series.”
The team will honor junior linebacker Chris Oats, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed medical issue, by having a player wear his jersey number (22) each game. Square will be the first player on the Cats to do so on Saturday, and is honored to be part of remembering him.
“First off, it’s an honor to wear his jersey on Saturday, and it’s been tough because he’s working hard and I know he wants to be out there and just going through practices, and not having him out there is kinda tough,” he said. “We just come out there every day, every week and work hard for him and know he’s working hard.”
Replacing Oats will be a tall task for the Cats, as the linebacker room has become smaller with his absence. Junior linebacker Jamin Davis, who will fill that starting role, has some playing experience, but his backups — redshirt freshman Jared Casey and sophomore Marquez Bembry — have not seen as much time on the field. Despite the inexperience, DeAndre Square is confident that they will be ready to go.
“Those guys, they’re coming along pretty well,” he said. “It took them a while to get the hang of it, but they seem up to beat now and they take my leadership well. They work hard every day, they come prepared to just go, and they attack every day. So I feel they’re pretty good right now.”
For himself, Square mentioned that he is also working on becoming more consistent on the field. The linebacker also mentioned that the whole offense has been “spectacular” through fall camp, and is ready to watch them on Saturday.
Later on Thursday, UK Head Coach Mark Stoops will hit the podium once again, then Square and the Cats will finally head to battle against Auburn.