Cats will be shorthanded on visit to The Swamp

ccosby@herald-leader.comOctober 20, 2008 

The University of Kentucky will be without one of its primary offensive weapons and will also likely be missing a key cog on defense when the Cats travel to Gainesville to face No. 5 Florida on Saturday.

Sophomore running back Derrick Locke has been ruled out of the game with a knee injury, while defensive tackle Myron Pryor is doubtful with a high ankle sprain.

Locke suffered the knee injury in the second quarter of UK's 21-20 win over Arkansas Saturday night. Brooks said Locke has an MCL injury but will take an X-ray on Monday to see if there is any further damage.

The 6-foot-1, 310-pound Pryor leads the Wildcats with 7.5 tackles for loss and is tied with Johnny Williams for the team lead in sacks with 3.5.

"Myron's had a great year," Brooks said. "He's been a dominant guy inside for us."

Several other members of the defense are banged up, including three starters who are listed as questionable: Middle linebacker Micah Johnson re-aggravated a high ankle sprain Saturday, cornerback David Jones suffered an arm/elbow injury, and free safety Marcus McClinton suffered a sprained MCL.

Johnson had a career-high 15 tackles against Arkansas in his second game back after missing two games with the high ankle sprain.

"Micah has been playing very well for us even not at 100 percent," Brooks said. "(The ankle injury) may be something that sticks with him the entire year. Hopefully we can get to closer to full strength by Saturday."

Pryor's absence could hurt a UK run defense that has had trouble containing some of the better backs in the league this year. Alabama's Glen Coffee ran for 218 yards on the Cats, and Arkansas' Michael Smith piled up 192 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a concussion. While Florida doesn't get as much production from the tailback position, Brooks would still like to see his defense shore up against the run.

"(The Arkansas game) was a little too much of the bend but don't break defensive effort," Brooks said. "We've done a good job against the passing game, but we've got to do much better against the run."

Locke, who leads UK in rushing with 314 yards on 63 carries, is the second top-of-the-line UK offensive player to go down in the past two weeks. Leading receiver Dicky Lyons Jr. suffered a season-ending knee injury against South Carolina on Oct. 11.

"It takes another explosive playmaker away from us," Brooks said. "It's not good when you lose a guy that has some production. It's definitely not a good thing when you're struggling on offense and keep losing key people."

Kentucky does have some depth at the running back spot. Alfonso Smith caught five passes for 108 yards with a 71-yard TD against Arkansas, and senior Tony Dixon should be healthier this week after being slowed by an ankle injury last week. Sophomore Moncell Allen, who entered the game fourth-string on the depth chart, ran for a team-high 46 yards on seven carries. At 5-foot-7, 225 pounds, Allen packs the biggest physical punch of the UK backs.

"Moncell's been playing well the last two or three weeks and been getting more chances to touch the ball," Brooks said. "He's one of the guys that has broken some tackles for us, and has done a good job of that. He's a little bigger load coming in there."

Cobb to focus on receiver

UK Coach Rich Brooks said that freshman Randall Cobb will continue to see action at quarterback and receiver but will focus more on receiver as the Wildcats get prepared for Saturday's game at No. 5 Florida. "He may see a series or two at quarterback as we move forward, but we'll focus him more at receiver," Brooks said during his Sunday teleconference.

Cobb caught five passes for 73 yards against Arkansas, including a pair of touchdown catches in the final four minutes that allowed the Cats to get the come-from-behind win. Sophomore Mike Hartline, who threw for 239 yards and three TDs, will remain the starter.

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