Kentucky Lands Nine on Phil Steele Preseason Lists

Kentucky Lands Nine on Phil Steele Preseason Lists


Nine Wildcats earned either preseason All-America or All-Southeastern Conference recognition by Phil Steele, it was announced this week. Junior defensive lineman Deone Walker and junior kick returner Barion Brown headlined the group with second-team All-America and first-team All-SEC honors.

Junior Maxwell Hairston was a first-team All-SEC choice at cornerback, while senior linebacker Jamon “Pop” Dumas-Johnson and junior wide receiver Dane Key earned second-team All-SEC honors. Senior offensive lineman Eli Cox and senior linebacker D’Eryk Jackson were named to the third team and super senior offensive lineman Marques Cox and defensive end J.J. Weaver were fourth team.

Phil Steele All-America Team

DL Deone Walker, Second Team (Defense)

KR Barion Brown, Second Team (Special Teams)


Phil Steele SEC All-Conference Team

DL Deone Walker, First Team (Defense)

KR Barion Brown, First Team (Special Teams)

DB Maxwell Hairston, First Team (Defense)

WR Dane Key, Second Team (Offense)

LB Jamon “Pop” Dumas-Johnson, Second Team (Defense)

OL Eli Cox, Third Team (Offense)

LB D’Eryk Jackson, Third Team (Defense)

OL Marques Cox, Fourth Team (Offense)

DE J.J. Weaver, Fourth Team (Defense)


Deone Walker, Defensive Lineman

Walker, a 6-foot-6, 348-pound defensive lineman from Detroit is coming off a sensational sophomore season in 2023. He led the Blue and White in tackles for loss (12.5), quarterback sacks (7.5) and quarterback hurries (8). He also added two pass breakups, including one in Kentucky’s win over Florida on Sept. 30, which was intercepted by UK and returned to the UF 15-yard line for an eventual touchdown.

The Wildcat was named one of seven permanent team captains last season, as he went on to play and start in all 13 games. In fact, he improved his streak of 24 straight starts, a stretch dating back to his freshman season in 2022. Walker, who also was named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy, Bronko Nagurksi and Outland Trophy Watch Lists in 2023, set or tied single-game career highs in every category last season, including recording nine tackles at South Carolina, 4.0 tackles for loss  (-7 yards) at Missouri, 1.0 sacks (-6 yards) last at South Carolina, one pass breakup last at Georgia and two quarterback hurries (-10 yards) against EKU.

Walker was recently named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List.

Barion Brown, Kick Returner

Brown, a 6-foot-1, 181-pound junior from Nashville, had a nation-high three kickoff returns for TDs in 2023. It also set a single-season UK record (former record two by Derek Abney in 2002) and tied the SEC record (Willie Gault, Tennessee 1980; Brandon Boykin, Georgia 2009; Warren Norman, Vanderbilt 2009; Evan Berry, Tennessee 2015).

His four career kickoff returns for TD also set a new UK record (former record three by Craig Yeast, 1995-98) and tied the SEC career record shared with seven other players.

The lightning-quick playmaker’s 36.0 kick return average (16 returns for 576 yards) led the nation and set a new UK single-season record. The previous record was 30.42 (14 for 426 yards) by Calvin Bird in 1959. He was named a first-team All-American by the Sporting News and a second-team All-American by 247Sports and CBS Sports.

Brown has also caught at least one pass in 26 straight games, which is every game of his college career, and he currently has 1,167 career yards receiving, which ranks 28th in school history.

Maxwell Hairston, Cornerback

Hairston, a 6-1, 183-pound junior from Detroit, totaled five interceptions in 2023, including four in SEC action, and ranked fifth in the nation in that category. His five interceptions tied for fifth-most interceptions in a single season in program history, the most since Sam Maxwell in 2009 (six). He totaled 131 interception return yards, the most since Greg Long had 176 return yards in 1981 (school record is 197 by Dave Hunter in 1968).

The Wildcat had two interceptions alone at Vanderbilt, returning both for touchdowns, tying an SEC single-game record.  He was named National Defensive Player of the Week and National Defensive Back of the Week for that game.

Along with his five takeaways, Hairston ranked eighth in the SEC in passes defended in 2023 with 11.

Dane Key, Wide Receiver

Key, a 6-3, 198-pound junior from Lexington, Kentucky, has played in 26 career games with 24 starts for the Wildcats. He has totaled 79 career catches for 12 touchdowns and his 1,155 career receiving yards rank 29th on UK’s career receiving yards list. In 2023, he had 42 catches for a team-high 636 yards and six TDs, averaging 15.1 yards per catch.

Jamon “Pop” Dumas-Johnson, Linebacker

Johnson, a 6-1, 260-pound senior from Hyattsville, Maryland, transferred to Kentucky in 2024 after three seasons at Georgia. He played in 38 career games with 24 starting assignments and helped the Bulldogs win back-to-back national championships in 2021 and 2022. He enters the 2024 season with 126 career tackles, including 17 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, one interception and one forced fumble. Last year, he started in nine games, missing four due to injury, and totaled 34 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two pass breakups and a quarterback hurry. He earned a spot on the several national watch lists, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, the Butkus Award and the Lombardi Award.

Eli Cox, Offensive Lineman

Cox, a 6-4, 311-pound super senior from Nicholasville, Kentucky, anchored an offensive line that was on the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, which honors the top offensive line in the nation. The adept blocker helped create holes for one of the top rushers in the conference last season in fourth-round draft pick Ray Davis. He also blocked on an offensive line that allowed quarterback Devin Leary, a sixth-round draft pick, to record the second most touchdowns in the SEC (23).

D’Eryk Jackson, Linebacker

Jackson, a 6-1, 246-pound senior from Dublin, Georgia, has led Kentucky in tackles the last two seasons, including 81 tackles in 2023. He covered the stat sheet, recording 6.5 tackles for loss (-20 yards), three pass breakups, two quarterback hurries, two interceptions (29 yards), a sack (-6 yards) and a forced fumble. His first interception of the season came in Kentucky’s conference opening win at Vanderbilt, when not only did he intercept the pass but then lateraled the ball to teammate Andru Phillips who returned it 50 yards to set up a touchdown. His second interception came on a 26-yard return for a touchdown in Kentucky’s win at Mississippi State.

Marques Cox, Offensive Lineman

Cox, a 6-5, 316-pound super senior from Peoria, Illinois, played left tackle on an offensive line that was on the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, which honors the top offensive line in the nation. He also helped create holes for one of the top rushers in the conference last season in fourth-round draft pick Ray Davis and blocked on an offensive line that allowed quarterback Devin Leary, a sixth-round draft pick, to record the second most touchdowns in the SEC (23).

J.J. Weaver, Defensive End

Weaver, a 6-5, 256-pound super senior of Louisville, Kentucky, is a four-year letter winner and two-time team caption for the Wildcats. The edge rusher has seen action in 48 career games with 29 career starts, including 19 in a row. He has totaled 165 career tackles, including 32.0 tackles for loss, 16.5 sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, five fumble recoveries and four forced fumbles. In 2023, he totaled 45 tackles and ranked tied second on the team in TFLs with 8.5 and second in sacks with 7.0.

The 2024 Kentucky Football season tickets are on sale now, with prospective new season ticket holders able to work together with a personal ticketing consultant to compare and purchase available seat locations by submitting a request at this link or by contacting the UK Sales Office at (800) 928-2287 (Option 1). Fans are also able to access to the Kentucky Football Virtual Venue for 360-degrees views from inside Kroger Field.

Those who missed the renewal deadline but would still like to keep their season tickets are encouraged to reach out to the UK Sales Office at (800) 928-2287 (Option 1).

For more information on the UK football team, visit and follow the team on Facebook, Instagram and “X,” formerly Twitter.


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