"Time will tell, but with work they are putting in, I feel good about them. But practice and game day are two totally different things."
For the last two years, Kentucky's high-powered offense often had to outscore teams to win because the defense didn't consistently stop top opponents. That offense often pushed the UK defense around in practice. This preseason, it has been the defense that often has been praised for dominating play.
"Our job is to be as good as we can be. It works both ways. We have a really good group of young offensive linemen that are battling our defensive linemen. We have talent at running back position. We have a lot of young talent at receiver," Brown said. "I think it works together, hand in hand, to make each other better. Who is leading who doesn't matter as long as we are leading each other the right way."
Brown leaves no doubt that the defensive front that features Jarmon and tackles Myron Pryor and Corey Peters needs to be the strength of the defense. He wants to see them throttle the run and pressure the quarterback in passing situations.
"In my opinion, the strength of your team always has to be the lines. What I told our defensive line the other day is that you have to be Andre Woodson, Keenan Burton, Jacob Tamme, Rafael Little, Wesley Woodyard," he said. "You guys have got to be that. You guys have to be leaders on this team like they were last year.
"Hopefully they will take that and run with it. They are putting in great effort and I think they are taking that challenge. But any great defense starts with great play up front. That never changes."
Brown won't deny that his front, which also will start either Ventrell Jenkins or Nii Adjei Oninku at the other end, has talent and depth.
"We have some guys that played a lot of football for us, which is wonderful. We have some guys that are really good," he said. "We have some guys that are powerful. We have a couple of young kids coming along that are going to be good players for us. Time will tell, but right now all indicators are they can do a great job."
The linebackers are settled with Kelley, a three-year starter in the middle, moving outside and Johnson starting at middle linebacker. Johnny Williams returns at the other linebacker spot.
Free safety Marcus McClinton and Lindley return in the secondary. David Jones has moved back from receiver to cornerback and won a starting job.
Brown likes the young players he has either backing up McClinton or vying for a starting spot at strong safety.
"We have a bunch of guys there. We have Matt Lentz who came over from offense in the spring doing a great job. Taiedo Smith is a young guy we moved to free safety. Calvin Harrison, Ashton Cobb, Greg Wilson. They can all play," Brown said. "Some guys have played more than others, but some young guys are doing great, too, and could play a vital role for us this year."
Did you know?
- Cornerback Trevard Lindley has five interceptions, 23 pass breakups and 118 tackles in two seasons. He needs five pass breakups to become UK's all-time leader.
- End Jeremy Jarmon had 13.5 tackles for loss and nine quarterback sacks - fourth in the SEC - last year.
- Linebacker Braxton Kelley has 189 career tackles, including 63 last year. He made the game-winning tackle in the third overtime against LSU.
- Linebacker Micah Johnson had 58 tackles and two interceptions last year.
- After allowing 453 yards per game in 2006, UK's defense yielded 397 yards per game last year.