LEXINGTON, Ky. — They call him Blitz Baby, but Josh Paschal has about 20 pounds on his older Blitz Brothers.
“They just always say that because of my face,” Paschal said. “I’ve got a baby face.”
It’s understandable for a freshman to have a baby face. It’s not understandable for said freshman to be a ready-made 6-foot-3, 270-pound SEC outside linebacker.
Paschal, the top defensive signee in Kentucky’s 2017 class, is a bundle of muscle who’s already made his impact felt on the college stage. Just ask Southern Miss running back Ito Smith.
This running back deserves to fight his offensive line, his quarterback, his coordinator. Everyone pic.twitter.com/Um6zVOp4k1
— Barstool Sports (@barstooltweetss) September 2, 2017
Paschal clobbered Smith on the 1-yard line last Saturday. It was a crucial late-game play in Kentucky’s 24-17 win. It was a play junior outside linebacker Denzil Ware said he couldn’t have made at Paschal’s age.
Ware, along with fellow junior outside linebacker Josh Allen, are Kentucky’s Blitz Brothers. The name was backed up by Ware and Allen’s performances last Saturday against Southern Miss. They combined for 8 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and 2 fumble recoveries. Ware, who scooped and scored the second fumble, was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week.
And yet, after all of that, neither Ware nor Allen said he was as good as Paschal is at his age.
Blitz Baby has the respect of his Blitz Brothers.
“He picked up the defense quicker than I did,” Ware said. “He plays a lot faster, he’s stronger. He’s a lot bigger than I ever have been. Comparing his freshman year right now to my freshman year, way better.”
“He’s past me,” Allen said when comparing his freshman season to Paschal’s. “With me, I was trying to fight to get my weight up. He came in 260, big SEC linebacker. I had to work my way up. He has that advantage already over me and now he just has to learn the game.”
It’s not just Paschal’s size that separates him from other freshmen — it’s what he pairs with it.
Naasir Watkins, a Kentucky offensive tackle who was high school teammates with Paschal at Good Counsel in Olney, Md., said Paschal’s size doesn’t stop him from being fast. And that’s what could make Kentucky’s pass rush so formidable.
Kentucky has a third-down package that puts the Blitz Brothers and their not-so-little baby on the field together.
“It’s pretty impressive for a human being that size to be doing the athletic things he does at that position,” outside linebackers coach Dean Hood said.
The size-strength combo talk is something Paschal has long heard.
“I came in bigger and a little faster than most people could,” Paschal said. “I just want to build on that and become bigger and faster.”
As imposing as he is on the field, Paschal minds his business off of it, Ware said. He’ll challenge his older Blitz Brother to a card game every once in a while, but Ware said Paschal is otherwise quiet.
Paschal was available to the media Wednesday for the first time since preseason camp started. He called his first college game a “dream come true.” Paschal was asked about a time in preseason camp when Ware challenged him to take his starting job.
“I haven’t really been on a team that we had that much competition where our older guys really wanted the best out of us, and it was really a brotherhood there,” Paschal said.
Ware has become Paschal’s mentor. The pair is first and second team at Kentucky’s defensive end/outside linebacker spot.
“I’m on him 24/7 if he’s slacking, if he’s walking, if he’s doing anything that he’s not supposed to be doing,” Ware said.
Paschal doesn’t look like a freshman, and his Blitz Brothers don’t expect him to play like one. Allen said playing like a freshman means accepting failure. “I’m trying to get him right,” Allen said.
“If you look at him, you’d think he’s a junior, but he’s not,” Ware added. “That’s just something I wasn’t blessed with. I wasn’t blessed to be that big and that strong, but he was. I’m gonna make sure he uses his blessing at all times.”
Paschal is one game into his college career. His performance against Southern Miss was only a “preview,” Ware said.
But potential doesn’t equal entrance into the exclusive “Blitz Brothers” fraternity. Ware and Allen have a bragging rights bet on who finishes the season with the most sacks. The quarterback crushing feat is the ultimate prize for edge rushers such as Ware, Allen and Paschal.
Paschal has to prove he can keep pace in the race to the most sacks.
“Until then, he’s just gonna be Blitz Baby,” Ware said.
Josh Paschal interview after practice Wednesday
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