UK football notes: Injuries cutting into UK defense

mstory@herald-leader.comNovember 16, 2011 

  • Tennessee at Kentucky

    When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 30

    TV: ESPNU

    Records: Kentucky 2-9 (0-7 SEC); Tennessee 4-7 (1-6)

University of Kentucky football coach Joker Phillips said Tuesday that strong safety Martavius Neloms is "probably doubtful" to play against No. 13 Georgia on Saturday in Athens.

Neloms, Kentucky's third-leading tackler with 71, suffered a high-ankle sprain in UK's 38-8 loss at Vanderbilt last week.

If he is unable to play, true freshman Ashely Lowery from Cleveland, Ga., will make his first career start against his home-state school.

"We've got a young guy that will go in at the safety position," Phillips said of Lowery.

The injury to Neloms is one of many afflicting the UK defense. Defensive tackle Mister Cobble, safety/linebacker Winston Guy, linebacker/rush end Ridge Wilson and cornerback Cartier Rice missed practice Tuesday. Middle linebacker Ronnie Sneed went through only half of practice.

The UK coach said Guy "had a little bit better motion" Tuesday in his injured shoulder and is "probable" for Georgia.

If Guy, the second-leading tackler in the Southeastern Conference with 102, can't play Saturday, former Simon Kenton standout Miles Simpson would start in his place.

Newton is backup QB

Phillips said that with only two games left in the season, it is too late to pull the redshirt off true freshman quarterback Bookie Cobbins. So if UK starting QB Maxwell Smith were to be injured, former starter Morgan Newton would be the "emergency" replacement.

Newton has not played since injuring both a shoulder and an ankle in Kentucky's loss to Mississippi State on Oct. 29.

Phillips talks hot seat

Under massive fan criticism since the lopsided loss at Vandy, Phillips was asked if he identifies with what Georgia Coach Mark Richt has gone through this season. Richt was taking heat from his fan base after the Bulldogs lost their first two games, but Georgia has since won eight in a row and is on the verge of winning the SEC East.

"That's the world we live in today. You look around the country, there were supposed to be some quick fixes even in our league, and they are struggling," Phillips said. "It comes down to players making plays. I'm not saying that's all it is about, but you have to have guys who can make plays.

"It's no different than the Indianapolis Colts. Those guys are bad coaches now? There's one player (Peyton Manning) you take off their team and they are 'Oh-fer.' That's just the way this business is.

"The thing is, that's not to be used as an excuse. Nobody wants to hear that. Everybody expects the next guy to step up and play at the same level. Very obviously, even at the next level, you don't always get that."

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