NC State transfer was portal win for UK

Published 3:16 pm Thursday, April 20, 2023

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Kentucky defensive line coach Anwar Stewart says with the transfer portal and NIL, coaches always have to think ahead about potential personnel moves.

“When you kind of sense certain things, you got to be ready. You have to do your homework and continue to recruit,” said Stewart.

That’s what he did with North Carolina transfer Keeshawn Silver after the Cats lost defensive lineman Justin Rogers to the transfer portal after the season ended.

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Stewart had recruited Silver in high school. He was a five-star prospect at Rocky Mountain High School and was ranked as the nation’s No. 8 overall player by ESPN and the third-best defensive end nationally. Rivals had him ranked as the nation’s 85th-best player and the 247Sports Composite had him No. 32.

“He was a top 100 kid coming out (of high school) during COVID, which was tough with all that virtual recruiting. I was fortunate enough to stay in contact with this kid, and it all worked out,” Stewart said.

“Fans are going to love him. He has an 85-inch wingspan, is 6-4 and about 320 pounds. He can run and do it all. He is still raw. He is a really good kid and really excited to have him for three years and dig my nails into him.”

Stewart said he expected North Carolina to initially sign Silver because “he was right in their backyard” but he never lost contact with the talented defensive lineman.

“The key is it may or may not develop like he wants, or he may not be happy. We were fortunate enough for this kid to fall in our lap and we were able to lock him down,” Stewart said. “Coach (Mark) Stoops is all about big, long athletic guys. Not just in the secondary but also on the defensive line. That is what we look for and he has that.”

Silver redshirted in 2021 when he had one tackle in three games. In 2022, he played in three games and had three tackles against Miami (Fla.). He had 47 tackles and seven sacks both his junior and senior seasons in high school.

Stewart admits losing Rogers was a blow, but getting Silver “really helped us” for next season.

“We needed a kid who could come in right now and help us and he is the one,” Stewart said. “You have to have a plan all the time. That is what we have always had. You never know.”

Silver, who also participated in basketball and track in high school, made a positive impression during spring practice. Stoops called him a “big dude” and freshman all-American defensive lineman Deone Walker — a true “big dude” himself — liked everything about Silver.

“Losing Justin, that was big, but I feel like Keeshawn is taking the spot,” Walker said. “He has a high motor, he’s efficient, he’s good and he learns quickly.”

Stewart hopes the two of them will form a potent and dynamic duo.

“They should be able to cause some havoc up front against anybody we play,” Stewart said. “Deone showed what he could do last year and we have big hopes for Keeshawn this year. They both have to keep working, especially Keeshawn, and we have some other guys we also expect to be major playmakers this season. But yes, we are expecting a lot from those two.”