Kentucky has experienced a roller-coaster-like season so far, as they started out 0-2 and then won their next two games in decisive fashion. Maybe the player that has had the biggest turnaround on the field in this stretch has been LSU transfer and freshman DB Kelvin Joseph.
In the first two games, the defensive back was on the bad end of many plays made by the opposition. Against Auburn, he was “moss’d” by wideout Seth Williams for a touchdown, and called for an unsportsmanlike penalty as he and Williams got a little too rambunctious after a whistle. In the next game, he was burned for many catches and called for one key pass interference penalty.
The next two outings? The script was totally flipped. Joseph has had two interceptions, one that he returned for a touchdown against Tennessee to put the Cats up 7-0 midway through the first quarter. His performance is overall a reflection of what has been an absolutely dominant last few weeks for the defense, as they held Mississippi State and the Vols to just nine combined points and forced ten turnovers in the process.
UK Head Coach Mark Stoops said Joseph was pressing too hard early on, but has since let the game come to him and made the most of his opportunities to make big plays.
“I think Kelvin, we all knew what type of talent he has. I think he was really pressing hard early. You have to remember, this was a young man who had to sit out all of last year. So you need to get some game reps. It is one thing to have practice reps under you and there’s another thing to have game reps under you. He really wanted to play well, for himself and for his team. Sometimes when you press too much and try to do things beyond what you are coached to do, bad things happen. That happens all the time. Again, it is not for selfish reasons. I am thinking right now about some plays that happened in this game, even up front with our defensive line because they have been getting a lot of pats on the back, well they start trying to do too much and jump around and jump out of gaps and that is not how you are going to play effective football in any area – whether it is offense, defense or special teams. Guys mean well, but sometimes when they don’t do what they are coached to do, they hurt the team and they hurt themselves,” he said.
I think Kelvin let the game come to him and at that position you are only going to have so many opportunities per game and you have to make the most of it and he has done that the past couple of weeks. He is letting the game come to him, do his job and focus on what he needs to do and good things are going to happen to him.”
In his media availability on Wednesday, Joseph alluded to the same challenge of getting into the flow of the game, saying the redshirt year really “took a toll” on him in terms of how long he had to wait before hitting the field. With that said, the former LSU DB has since grown more confident.
“Well I just had to get through all of the struggles and make simple adjustments with my coaches and my teammates, and bind a little more. Playing with a little more confidence and knowing my teammates gonna be on certain plays and me being in the right spot, same as well. So, we just wanna be the best so we come to work as it is.”
If Joseph has indeed turned a corner along with the rest of Kentucky’s defense, it is hard to not see them forcing more turnovers and scoreless quarters in the future.