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Trevathan hoping to be next star in line of linebacker greats

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FB 09_10 UK_Miami web 105.jpgDanny Trevathan has a nickname for every person on the Kentucky football defense - all 40-plus of them.

There is Buzz Lightyear, aka Avery Williamson, Ronnie Sneed is Marques Houston, Ridge Wilson is likened to Kordell Stewart and Shannon Sharpe, and Malcolm McDuffen is better known by Trevathan as Avatar.

As for the name caller, Trevathan earned the nickname Money from former linebacker Micah Johnson last year. This season, UK is hoping he'll be more than money. If there is one nickname they're hoping he can embrace more than any other, it's the title of leader.

"He's been the guy who's been the quarterback and leader of the defense," head coach Joker Phillips said recently. "Now he gets a chance to be on the field full time. This year he'll be able to play a lot of snaps, and we count on him. He's what you're looking for at linebacker. He can run, he's physical, and he understands what's going on."

Kentucky's defense this year has been stripped of its leaders. Defensive tackle Corey Peters, often looked to as the reasonable voice of the team, is gone for greener pastures as a third-round NFL Draft selection to the Atlanta Falcons. Cornerback Trevard Lindley, also now in the NFL, may have been the quietest player to ever walk through the tunnels at Commonwealth Stadium, but he led by example.

At linebacker it's particularly bare. Departed Micah Johnson was one of the most vocal leaders on the team, and Sam Maxwell was a steady influence throughout his career, especially last year when he was given a chance to start.

But those faces are now gone, and it's up to the defense, one of the biggest question marks entering the 2010-11 season, to figure out who is going to emerge as the face of the defense.
Danny Trevathan is being counted on to be one of those players.

"I think Danny needs to step up to the plate because he has been a starter," linebackers coach Chuck Smith said. "He needs to stand up and be a leader in that respect. He's got to pick up the slack that Sam and Micah left in that area."

Trevathan was technically a starter last year, but he only played in roughly a third of the snaps because of UK's nickel packages with Maxwell and Johnson. Also, a cast on the weakside linebacker's right arm last year to heal a fractured wrist bone hindered him for much of the year.

"Most people don't really know how much a cast holds you back," Trevathan said. "It hurts you catching, trying to get off blocks, trying to grab tacklers. It's a lot of little things. But this year I'm without it. I'm going to try to stick that way. Hopefully I can go make more plays."

Despite those setbacks last year, Trevathan totaled 82 tackles on the season, second only to Johnson. Entering last year's fall camp, former coach Rich Brooks pronounced him a potential star of the future.

"Danny Trevathan is a big-time player, pure and simple," Brooks said at UK's Media Day in August 2009. "He's as good as any four-star guy that you can talk to me about at linebacker."

Kentucky likely won't win the distinction of "Linebacker U" anytime soon, but the line of succession UK has had at linebacker over the last few years has been mighty impressive.

From Wesley Woodyard and Johnny Williams to Braxton Kelley, Micah Johnson and Sam Maxwell, Kentucky's recent run of tough-nosed tacklers is as impressive as any team in the Southeastern Conference.

"That's every year at the linebacker corps," Trevathan said. "Every year the linebacker position has been a challenge. When Braxton (Kelley) left they were going to worry about who was going to fill in for Braxton, Wesley (Woodyard) and so and so. But every year you just have to step it up."

Enter Trevathan.

Though he's soft-spoken and slightly undersized, Trevathan possesses the speed, athleticism and instincts to be one of the league's top linebackers. What he needs to work on now, according to the coaching staff, is becoming a vocal leader and the face of the defense, the guy that UK's inexperienced youth can look to in times of need.

Trevathan thinks it's only natural that he steps in and continues the line of succession after learning from the greats before him.

"Micah was a great leader by example," Trevathan said. "Sam was a combination of both. Both of them were great players and I learned from both of them. Playing with Braxton, I just learned how to make reads and be more physical. Braxton was a smart thinker. Even though he didn't talk that much, he was smart."

Restoring the talent of Johnson and Maxwell won't necessarily be the hardest thing for UK to replace this year. Seasoning the green linebackers will be.

Of the 11 linebackers on Kentucky's roster, only two of them, Trevathan and Jacob Dufrene, have registered starts. Even scarier if you're a Wildcat fan: Trevathan has six of the seven starts.

"It's hard to replace experience," Smith said, "but you can utilize the talent and ability of what you've got. Our guys are all fast, they all run well, they are smart, they study the game and I think they all need to take the next step."

Filling in for Johnson at middle linebacker this season appears to be junior Ronnie Sneed, who has taken a hold of the position while Qua Huzzie recovers from a foot injury. At strongside linebacker, Dufrene, a senior, is slated to start.

Smith is hoping at least one of the two can step up and have Maxwell-like years.

"If you think about it, Sam was not a starter until last year, his senior year," Smith said. "But he took advantage of getting a lot of reps in practice over the years. When he got his opportunity, he took advantage of it and I think that's what Ronnie Sneed needs to do, Jacob as well. They have been waiting in the wings. They haven't been on the field playing, which could be a factor if they let it be a factor, but Sam never let it be a factor. He came out, played his heart out and made one of the (Associated Press) All-SEC teams."

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