Carrington Valentine was the lowest-ranked recruit in Kentucky’s highly touted 2020 class, but that didn’t stop the Cincinnati native from making an immediate impact as a true freshman.
After playing sparingly to begin the season, Valentine became a starter after the Kelvin Joseph opt-out and had a coming-out party in the Gator Bowl when the rookie recorded six tackles and forced a fumble. Now, Kentucky is looking for the second-year player to potentially fill a full-time starter spot at boundary corner.
The Wildcats are attempting to replace two proven commodities in 2021. Both Brandin Echols and Joseph should hear their names called at the NFL Draft in a couple of weeks. Defensive coordinator Brad White knows his defense has some big shoes to fill.
“You gotta play with that alpha mentality out on the edge,” White told the media earlier this spring. “We saw those two yesterday at pro day. Between Kelvin [Joseph] and Brandin [Echols], those two are alphas. They’d be willing to challenge any receiver that stepped up to them no matter how good, what their ranking was, this or that. That’s what you have to be out there on the edge.”
Valentine is looking to bring some of that edge to the Kentucky defense this season. The six-foot corner is lining up in the boundary this season, and that is a position that requires physicality. Playing to the short side of the field, boundary corners are constantly facing big X receivers in press situations while also being key cogs in run support. At 200 pounds, Valentine has the size to hold up and is looking to become a tough player that can make consistent plays when nastiness is required.
“Being aggressive when the run comes, tearing off blocks,” said Valentine when asked about playing with an alpha mentality. “Basically getting our hands dirty. The stereotype of corners is that corners don’t like to hit. For our DB group, we’ve tried to hone in on being aggressive and hitting.”
Defensive backs are remembered for interceptions and pass breakups, but the great ones separate in their ability to do multiple things. Getting off blocks just doesn’t relate to the run. With the plethora of RPO options, corners will found themselves blocked in a multitude of ways. Being able to shred those blocks and get free to tackle players is a very important attribute for defensive backs to have. Valentine is looking to provide that while also increasing his football intelligence daily.
“I’m seeing the game from a different angle,” said Valentine.