Kentucky D-line ready to pave path of 'destruction' with Deone Walker and Keeshawn Silver
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Justin Rogers' transfer to Auburn took many Kentucky players by surprise.
"He hadn't shown glimpses (of transferring)," sophomore defensive tackle Deone Walker said. "He never really showed, 'I'm out of here,' like some transfers do."
Rogers, who started every game at nose guard for the Wildcats last season, was considered the team's best pro prospect — behind quarterback Will Levis — in some NFL draft circles.
With Rogers' departure, Kentucky has moved on. That's in large part because of two players expected to fill the void: Walker (6-foot-6, 348 pounds) and third-year sophomore Keeshawn Silver (6-4, 322), who spent the past two seasons at North Carolina.
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"(Silver's) pretty damn good," Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said earlier this month. "He’s got three years left, so I’m pretty impressed with Keeshawn, I really am. He’s a monster and we’ve got to get better, but I like the look of him certainly lining up next to Deone."
So does defensive coordinator Brad White.
"I'm encouraged by his attitude," White said. "Obviously his size is something that's desirable in what we're hunting. He's got length, girth and he's got a willingness to learn and put time in and work."
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At this point, however, Silver is more potential than production.
He played in three games last season at North Carolina, collecting three tackles. During his freshman campaign in 2021, he appeared in three contests (with one tackle) before redshirting.
At UNC, he played in a four-man front. UK's base formation employs three down linemen.
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That could help turn Silver's potential into production this season.
"When you look on film you're like, 'Dang, I'm huge,'" Silver said. "So I need to start using my body more."
Silver can take a cue from Walker, who threw his weight around last season — recording 40 tackles (4.5 tackles for loss) five quarterback hurries, two pass breakups and a forced fumble — en route to freshman All-American honors from Pro Football Focus, College Football News and Phil Steele, and all-freshman SEC accolades from the league's coaches.
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"I left so many plays out on the field last year," Walker said. "I feel like if I get a good year in, I'm going to have about a 50-, 60-tackle season."
If Walker and Silver perform to expectations in 2023, Rogers will be a distant memory.
"Two huge guys, strong and powerful," Silver said. "It's destruction, really, us two in there at the same time."
Reach Kentucky men’s basketball and football reporter Ryan Black at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @RyanABlack.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky football: Mark Stoops wowed by UNC transfer portal addition