December 19, 2011

Lowery shines in limited time

This is the fifth in a series previewing the Kentucky football team's 2012 roster by examining young players who made their mark this season. We look at the secondary today, which will have some of the most turnover of any unit on the team.

Name: Ashely Lowery
Rivals 2011 recruiting rating: 3-star (5.6)
Height: 6-foot-1 Weight: 200
2012 class: True sophomore

What he did in 2011:
Lowery started slow as a freshman, but worked his way into an increased role as the season went on. He started in place of the injured Martavius Neloms at Georgia and finished with five tackles, by far his best effort of the season. He played in 11 games - all except for Jacksonville State - and filled in nicely against the Bulldogs.

Lowery was an all-purpose player in high school with a nose for the ball on defense. That didn't necessarily show up as a freshman, but he was as solid as to be expected in his limited minutes. He has a good frame for a safety and is athletic enough to add some weight without sacrificing mobility, which should serve him well as he continues to work out in the offseason.

Final statistics: 12 solo tackles, four assisted tackles, one fumble recovery, five kickoff returns for 107 yards.

On the way out: Hybrid linebacker/safety Winston Guy has graduated, though Lowery probably won't move to his position. Kentucky's two starting corners, Anthony Mosley and Randall Burden are gone as well. Senior Mychal Bailey, who returned kicks, is also done.

What he'll do in 2012:
With Neloms and senior-to-be Mikie Benton returning in 2012, Lowery will have to show significant progression to break into the starting lineup. It's more likely that he'll continue to be one of the top reserves for the Wildcats, though he could poach time from Benton. He could also become a bigger part of the return game, as his responsibilities there grew at the end of the season. Of course, it's not out of the realm of possibility that Lowery could overtake Benton, a walk-on who was forced into starting when attrition and injuries hit the position hard in fall camp.

But the most likely scenario is that he'll continue to back up Neloms, the most experienced player in the secondary and an excellent tackler. Lowery is a good athlete who showed a good grasp of his position and the speed to make plays in the SEC, but it's probably best for him to spend another year as a reserve. He drew praise from the coaches as early as fall camp, though, and figures to be a player for years to come for the Wildcats.

He saw as much or more time than any other freshman in the secondary, including a couple players who were more highly-touted than he. There's always the possibility that he could be overtaken himself before he can move up the depth chart, but he's a good bet to be a contributor in 2012.

Also look out for:
With such heavy losses at corner, plenty of young players will be counted on to make major leaps in production. Freshman Eric Dixon was the top nickelback for the Wildcats in 2011, but he might have to move over to corner and provide depth there as a sophomore. He's a good tackler and aggressive player who still has some work to do on his man-to-man coverage.

Glenn Faulkner was one of the highest-rated player in the 2011 class, though he suffered a series of setbacks that kept him from fulfilling his potential as a freshman. He joined the team later than most of his classmates after battling to become eligible, then missed a week in fall camp to tend to a family tragedy. His athleticism allowed him to contribute on special teams for most of the season, but he finished with just one tackle.

Daylen Hall was another player who contributed mostly on special teams, but could be counted on for depth in the secondary next year. There should also be a handful of players in the recruiting class that will have to help right away.

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