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UK coach Mark Stoops talks signing day, new staff additions
Jon Hale/Courier Journal

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Bowling Green native and part-time starting linebacker Eli Brown is transferring from the Kentucky football program.

A University of Kentucky spokeswoman confirmed the transfer, which was first reported by a Western Kentucky University student reporter on Twitter.

Brown, who will be a fourth-year junior in 2018, totaled 38 tackles and two tackles for loss last season. He started five games in 2017 while normal starting “Will” linebacker Jordan Jones was out with an injury.

“Being a UK Wildcat was an honor and a privilege,” Brown tweeted Friday night. “I learned a lot about myself as well as the game of football. My time as a Wildcat has come to an end. But I’m walking away a better athlete and better young man. UK will forever be in my heart.”

A former four-star recruit, Brown served as Jones’ primary backup for each of the last two seasons. At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Brown was slightly undersized for his position, but he was expected to fill a significant role for Kentucky next season.

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With Brown gone, UK will need to replace two of its top three inside linebackers from 2017. The Wildcats already lost former starting “Mike” linebacker Courtney Love to graduation. 

Jones’ situation with the team also remains tenuous after several high-profile miststeps last season.

A fan video caught Jones spitting toward the crowd from the UK bench in the season-opening win at Southern Mississippi. He was held out of the starting lineup the next week — marking one of Brown’s five starts — before suffering a shoulder injury later in the week-two win over Eastern Kentucky.

After returning from a four-game absence with a shoulder injury, Jones, who entered the season as the Southeastern Conference’s leading returning tackler, again found himself in trouble when he helped spark a fight with Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson in the season finale. Television cameras caught Jones arguing with UK coaches after the fight, and he was later flagged for personal foul penalties on back-to-back plays in the second half.

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“He’s got to continue to do things right and continue to be consistent,” UK coach Mark Stoops said of Jones during his signing day news conference this week. “We all love Jordan 95 percent of the time. We can’t have that 5 percent. He can’t have that 5 percent. He’s got a very positive, infectious personality, but he also can tear down things at times, as well, and deter from the positive things that are going on. He knows that. He’s working at that.”

After Jones’ return from injury, Brown acknowledged he faced durability issues while carrying the load alone.

“I’m an undersized inside linebacker, so hitting every week, going full speed, it was tearing my body down,” Brown said in October. “Now that you have two great “Will” linebackers back, you don’t lose a step. We needed Jordan back, and I’m happy he’s finally back. I think it will lead our defense to a whole ‘nother level.”

Redshirt freshman linebacker Jamin Davis spent the spring 2017 semester at “Will” linebacker but was expected to compete with junior Kash Daniel for the starting “Mike” position this spring. Sophomore Boogie Watson split time between inside and outside linebacker last season and served as Brown’s backup while Jones was injured. Early enrolee DeAndre Square recently told reporters he would play “Will” linebacker, and four-star signee Chris Oats is expected to play one of the inside linebacker positions in the fall.

Jon Hale: jahale@courier-journal.com; Twitter: @JonHale_CJ. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/jonh.