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Season-Ending Injury Sidelines Kentucky DL Josaih Hayes

Nick Roushby:Nick Roush06/13/24

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Kentucky will be without a veteran in the trenches this fall. KSR has learned that defensive tackle Josaih Hayes is expected to miss the 2024 season after suffering a torn Achilles in spring practice.

Mum was the word for Mark Stoops when the Kentucky defense was gutted by injuries in spring practice. Of the dozen or so contributors sidelined, about half of those were due to offseason surgeries. The other half are expected to return in time to participate in fall camp, with one exception.

Hayes has appeared in 42 games throughout his Kentucky career and started in four. Ahead of the 2023 campaign, Brad White challenged the former four-star recruit to take his game to the next level. He answered the call with his best season as a Wildcat, tallying career-highs in tackles (24), tackles for loss (4.5), and sacks (1.5).

Hopes were high for Hayes to continue building on that momentum as a fifth-year nose guard in the middle of the Kentucky defensive line, the strength of the Wildcats’ defense. He showed some much-needed burst on the interior, rotating in regularly with North Carolina transfer Keeshawn Silver.

Hayes was preparing for his fifth season on campus when he suffered what’s expected to be a season-ending injury. We could see him in a Kentucky uniform after fully recovering for one more season in 2025.

What the Absence of Hayes Means for Kentucky

Kentucky went from four starting-caliber nose guards to two in one offseason, and one of those players is a guy you’d rather not play nose guard, Deone Walker. Nose guards are required to eat blocks in the trenches to free up others to make plays. Even though Walker has the size to master that task, White needs to make the most of Walker’s playmaking abilities by lining him up elsewhere.

Jamarius Dinkins was developing to seamlessly step into this absence left by Hayes. However, the third-year nose guard was stuck behind two upperclassmen at the position, which is why he opted to transfer to Purdue.

Without Hayes, Kentucky needs Keeshawn Silver to continue trending in the right direction developmentally. Even if Silver is on his A-game, that’s not enough to get the job done.

There are two ways to address the void left by Hayes: Add to the personnel or scheme around it. After failing to find a new nose guard in the spring transfer portal window, Kentucky offered JUCO NG Dennious Jackson on Wednesday. Jackson could provide enough size and depth to keep Deone from logging a bunch of snaps at nose.

Adjusting the scheme around the position is another workaround. Instead of playing an odd front in a 3-4, White could play more even fronts that look like a traditional 4-3 defense where defensive tackles shade offensive guards, rather than the center. It would allow Deone to play inside without taking on as many double teams and still let players like Octavious Oxendine thrive as twitchy interior rushers.

Injuries happen. It’s a part of football. Kentuck is in a bit of a quandary following this injury, but it’s one they are perfectly capable of figuring out before the season kicks off on Aug. 31.

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2024-07-20