Kyle Kennard has certainly had some breakout performances, maybe even a breakout game or two, but he has yet to put together a full breakout season. This year sets up nicely for the sophomore from Atlanta to put on a show. Jared Ivey transferred to Ole Miss (quick reminder that the Rebels are coming to Bobby Dodd on September 17th), and Jordan Domineck jumped to the SEC West, as well, to join the Arkansas Razorbacks. Needless to say, there are shoes to fill.
Listed at 6’5”, 235 pounds, Kennard’s size, speed, and strength make him a force on the edge. In run defense, he can create matchup issues on the interior, but Coaches Thacker and Tillman will surely be using him more frequently in pass rush as he’s shown an ability to hurry quarterbacks in past performances. His length and wingspan also give him the ability to create separation at the point of attack, allowing him to effectively get off blocks. He’s shown discipline in the past, as well, with an ability to set the edge, contain mobile quarterbacks, and limit offensive damage.
We all know too well that in Kenny Pickett’s time at Pittsburgh, he scorched our secondary through the air and made would-be Tech tacklers look silly at times with his scrambling ability. As you can see in the clip above, Kennard does a great job getting upfield, but not to the point of being washed out by the double team. He keeps contain, takes a big shot from the right guard, then uses his speed to track down a shifty Kenny Pickett. Tech ended up losing the game, but this play came at a crucial point right before halftime, forcing a fourth down and holding Pitt to three points.
That situational awareness and maturity will be a necessity on this year’s defense. In 2020, Kennard only recorded 7 tackles, 2.5 TFL, and 2.5 sacks on three games played. The following season, he doubled his tackles and remained consistent on havoc plays in the backfield. This season, we will see his numbers improve drastically. That is in part because of the pieces that have moved on, but it is mostly because of his growth in the program. He will have to become more of a ballhawk this season, because he has yet to record a forced fumble, recovered fumble, or interception (hey... defensive linemen can intercept the ball), so let’s hope the Tech defense gets back to that opportunistic style of play we’ve seen in the past.