How Kentucky and Florida match up for Saturday's game at Commonwealth Stadium.
Kentucky's injury-prone Maxwell Smith left the Louisville game with yet another shoulder problem. Jalen Whitlow has yet to prove he can throw effectively against high-level competition. Both are worrisome trends against a stacked Florida defense. UF starter Jeff Driskel was knocked out for the season against Tennessee; his backup, redshirt junior Tyler Murphy, played well in leading the Gators past the Volunteers but will be making his first career start Saturday night.
After running for 80 yards on only five carries vs. U of L, UK true freshman Jojo Kemp (DeLand, Fla.) could be the Cats' featured back against his home-state school. Fourth-year junior Mack Brown (the Southeastern Conference's 10th-leading rusher at 75.7 yards a game) and sophomore Matt Jones (49 yards vs. Tennessee) give Florida a potent one-two punch.
Dropped passes plagued UK against Louisville. A return to the rotation by junior wide-out Demarco Robinson could be a boost. Robinson had five catches vs. Western Kentucky but none since getting injured returning the opening kickoff vs. Miami (Ohio). Florida wide receivers struggled in 2012, but under new position coach Joker Phillips the Gators have two receivers, Trey Burton (10th with 14 catches) and Quinton Dunbar (tied for 11th with 13), among the SEC reception leaders.
UK's top three tight ends, Jordan Aumiller, Anthony Kendrick and Stephen Borden, were held without a catch against Louisville and have combined for eight receptions this season. Florida starter Clay Burton (Trey's younger brother) is a converted defensive end who has yet to catch a pass this season. His backup, Tevin Westbrook, has one reception.
Redshirt freshman Jon Toth is listed first team for a third straight game at center for Kentucky. The UK offensive line will be tested by a Florida front allowing the fewest rushing yards (55.3 a game) in the SEC. Offensive guard Jon Halapio started every game for the Gators in 2011 and '12 but missed the first two this season after suffering a torn pectoral in summer training. He returned last week vs. Tennessee.
Kentucky took Louisville by surprise by starting true freshman defensive end Jason Hatcher along with regular ends Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Za'Darius Smith in a five-man front. Florida star senior defensive tackle Dominique Easley suffered a torn ACL in practice this week and is out for the season. True freshman Jay-nard Bostwick may replace him. Junior defensive end Dante Fowler Jr. was stellar against Tennessee, forcing two fumbles and recording a quarterback sack.
UK middle linebacker Avery Williamson leads the SEC in tackles with 35. Converted defensive end TraVaughn Paschal remains Kentucky's weak-side starter. Antonio Morrison, the Florida MLB, leads the Gators in tackles (13) and weak-side linebacker Mike Taylor is (tied for) second with 12.
After missing time early this season with an ankle injury, Kentucky sophomore cornerback Cody Quinn played well enough against Louisville to reclaim a first-team position this week. Florida freshman cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III is an emerging star. He broke up three passes vs. Tennessee and already has two interceptions this season.
UK place-kicker Joe Mansour is 6-for-6 this season on field goals, but has yet to try from beyond 37 yards. At 25.2 yards a kickoff return, Javess Blue is second in the SEC for the Cats. Florida kick returner Solomon Patton (23.7 yards per kickoff return) is dangerous, and punter Kyle Christy has pinned foes inside their 20-yard line five times. However, Gators place-kicker Austin Hardin is only 3-for-5 on field goal tries and has not made one from outside 33 yards.
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.