When George Asafo-Adjei enrolled early in January and participated in spring drills, the 6-foot-5, 325-pounder earned rave reviews for his size and strength. The first week of fall camp, the raves keep on coming.
The West Chester, Ohio native is running first team at right tackle while expected starter Kyle Meadows recovers from a severe migraine that hospitalized the redshirt freshman for two days. Meadows has returned but not yet to the practice field.
Meanwhile, even if he’s not the starter, Asafo-Adjei is a sure bet for playing time as a true freshman. He has the size and natural ability every team looks for in an offensive lineman, especially when you are going up against the best defensive linemen in the country.
In researching my Thursday column, I counted 20 defensive linemen from the SEC that have been drafted in the first round since the 2006 season. That’s a prime reason the league has won seven national championships — and played for an eighth — during that time.
So you’d better have some guys capable of blocking those types of elite players. Until offensive guard Larry Warford was taken by the Detroit Lions in the third round (65th overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft, a Kentucky offensive lineman had not been drafted since 1993. That’s a long drought.
It’s premature that Asafo-Adjei is a sure-fire NFL player though defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh raved about “Big George” on Wednesday and defensive tackle C.J. Johnson said, “The talk around the locker room (is) George is going to be first round whenever he gets ready to come out. His talent and his strength is unmeasurable.”
“He’s just a hard-working guy,” said head coach Mark Stoops this week. “He embraces the opportunity. He’s becoming just a solid guy with his leadership and work ethic, and he’s gonna go through some growing pains, like you can imagine with a true freshman tackle, but I love his work ethic and what he’s doing.”
It’s not premature to say the Lakota West product is going to be a factor right away. Even if Asafo-Adjei doesn’t start, he’s the likely first backup. With senior Jordan Swindle moving over to left tackle, Asafo-Adjei can spell Myers at right tackle. Myers is a redshirt freshman who played in seven games last year. As the top reserve last season, Myers is capable of moving over to left tackle to spell Swindle or Asafo-Adjei can play there, as well. In fact, he came out of the spring listed as the No. 2 tackle at both the left and right spots.
“Sometimes, like any young guy, freshmen (or) sophomore, sometimes the game moves a little bit fast,” said offensive line coach John Schlarman on Tuesday. “Maybe a certain blitz comes that he hasn’t seen yet whereas some of those other guys, (Jon) Toth and Swindle, they’ve seen about every blitz that’s imaginable by this time. With George, he’s still seeing some of those for the first time. When that happens, it reminds you he’s still definitely young and he needs all those reps to see those things. One great thing about him, the second time he sees something he’s right on it. That’s always the sign of a good football player.”
Coming out of high school, Asafo-Adjei was rated as the nation’s 27th best prospect at offensive guard by Rivals. He was ranked as the 19th best overall prospect coming out of Ohio. He committed to Kentucky last June after considering Florida, Louisville and West Virgina, among others. The web site Saturday Down South named him Kentucky’s most underrated recruit.
Here is “Big George” last June:
He has picked up about 20 pounds since then, even though back in the spring Schlarman sad Asafo-Adjei was “put together about as well as any high school lineman I’ve seen in a long time.”
Johnson said that in the weight room, George may not always have the best technique, yet throws the heavy stuff around easily. It’s the same thing on the field. Even if the rookie lacks experience, he’s still a presence.
“You never know what you’re going to get from George,” Johnson said. “Sometimes when he play’s confused, he still locks those hands on you and you’re still done. Even if he don’t know what he’s going to do, he’s gonna hit you. He plays fast and when he knows his assignment, you better be on your game because he’s going to bring it.”
Kentucky needs more players that can “bring it” especially on the offensive line. You can tell Stoops and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson have made that an emphasis. The Cats already have commitments for 2016 from offensive linemen Drake Jackson (Woodford County), Landon Young (Lafayette), Luke Fortner (Sylvania, Ohio) and Tate Leavitt (Thornville, Ohio). You can never have too many linemen, good linemen.
Even as a freshman, George Asafo-Adjei continues to look like a good one.