Last winter, Winston Guy Jr. decided to pass on the NFL Draft.
Thursday night, at the home field of the Tennessee Titans, he provided a glimpse of what he can offer once his senior season ends.
Kentucky’s starting safety/linebacker intercepted two passes, recorded 10 tackles, with 2.5 for losses, in the Wildcats’ 14-3 victory over Western Kentucky in front of 24,599 at LP Field in the College Colors Kickoff.
Not a bad night for someone who was playing his first game at his new hybrid position, which many times saw him lining up opposite the offensive line.
“It fits him pretty well,” linebacker Ronnie Sneed said. “A lot of times he is just coming off the edge untouched and he is just blowing people up. He likes it and we all like it too.”
Guy’s first interception provided Kentucky momentum as its offense sputtered.
With Western Kentucky ahead 3-0 midway through the second quarter, quarterback Kawaun Jakes lofted a pass to Kadeem Jones. But the fullback was turned the other way and the pass bounced off his elbow. The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Guy jumped and snagged the ball before it hit the ground.
That put the Wildcats (1-0) on Western Kentucky’s 22-yard line – the first time Kentucky had moved the ball into the Hilltoppers’ territory. Three plays later, running back Josh Clemons ran to the right side for a 14-yard touchdown.
“It just popped up in my hands – for real,” Guy, a native of Lexington, Ky., said. “I wasn’t really expecting it. I wish I could have stayed up on my feet but it was a good tone to set for the defense and get the offense on the field.”
Quarterback Morgan Newton provided the dagger in the fourth quarter with a career-long 58-yard run on third-and-15 at Kentucky’s 26. Two plays later, he tossed a 31-yard touchdown pass to La’Rod King in the corner of the end zone with 4:35 left. Kentucky finished with just 190 yards of offense, with only 35 at halftime.
But Guy was around the football all night and displayed some intensity early in the first quarter.
With Western Kentucky (0-1) inside the Wildcats’ 20-yard line, he blitzed running back Bobby Rainey. Not only did he tackle Rainey, Guy and a trio of Wildcats took him back another 20 yards before throwing him hard onto the ground. The defensive pressure forced the Hilltoppers to settle for a field goal.
His second interception came in the end zone on the last play of the game. Kentucky finished with four interceptions and the Hilltoppers had three. Three of the interceptions – two in Kentucky’s favor – were on tipped balls.
It was the first game of Kentucky’s new defensive scheme, which is a combination of 3-4 and 4-3 alignments and offers a number of hybrid positions and several different packages.
“Winston has to be a guy that comes off the edge, comes up the middle, be able to play over the top at times,” Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said. “He has to understand their offense because a lot of times he has to be the adjustor for us on defense.”
Last year, Guy led the Wildcats with three interceptions and was second on the team in tackles with 106, second only to All-America linebacker Danny Trevathan. Both players went through the NFL evaluation process in January before deciding to return.
“[The evaluation] wasn’t as good as I thought it would be,” Guy, who graduates in December, said. “So I thought coming back for my senior season would be best for myself and progressing as a player individually. ... I’m glad I came back.”
So are the Wildcats.