How Kentucky and Vanderbilt match up for Saturday's game at Nashville:
Against a quality Missouri defense, UK's Jalen Whitlow ran for for 44 yards and a touchdown and threw for a season-high 225 yards last week. A leg injury suffered by Vanderbilt starter Austyn Carta-Samuels against Georgia has pressed redshirt freshman Patton Robinette into the past two starts. He has not lit it up passing (56.7 completion percentage, one TD, three interceptions) but did rally Vandy past Georgia and played the whole game in the victory at Florida.
True freshman Jojo Kemp has led Kentucky running backs in rushing the past two games. For the year, Kemp (435 yards) narrowly leads senior Raymond Sanders (404) for the UK rushing lead. Diminutive sophomore Jerron Seymour ran for three touchdowns in The Swamp and the 5-foot-7, 200-pounder leads the Commodores with 541 yards and 12 TDs. Sophomore Brian Kimbrow ran tough at Florida with 38 yards on 11 carries.
Battling back from an early-season ankle injury, Kentucky junior Demarco Robinson has eight catches in the past two games. The Wildcats would get a boost if true freshman Ryan Timmons, out against Missouri with a sprained ankle, returns. Vanderbilt star Jordan Matthews (71 catches for 935 yards and five TDs in 2013) needs 16 receptions to pass former Vandy standout Earl Bennett (236 career catches) as the all-time SEC leader. Jonathan Krause (32 catches, 608 yards) missed the Florida game with a leg injury but could be back vs. UK.
Kentucky seniors Jordan Aumiller (nine) and Anthony Kendrick (seven) have combined for 16 catches this season. Vandy's top two tight ends, Steven Scheu (six) and Dillon van der Wal (one) have seven receptions so far.
The play of UK starting tackles Darrian Miller (LT) and Jordan Swindle (RT) this season earned praise from offensive coordinator Neal Brown this week. Vanderbilt senior left tackle Wesley Johnson has started 47 career games, has 208 career knockdown blocks and has been called for holding only twice in four years.
Kentucky end Za'Darius Smith had four tackles against Missouri; senior tackle Donte Rumph had two, including a tackle for loss. Vanderbilt sophomore end Caleb Azibuike was named SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after recording four tackles, two sacks and two QB hurries in VU's win at Florida.
UK weak-side linebacker TraVaughn Paschal had five stops, including three tackles for loss, against Missouri. Middle linebacker Avery Williamson is third in the SEC with 82 tackles. Sophomore outside linebacker Darreon Herring has started every game for Vandy and is 15th in the conference with 64 stops and has 10 pass break-ups.
Kentucky nickel back Blake McClain, a true freshman, led the Wildcats with seven tackles against Missouri. His backup Marcus McWilson, another true freshman, had a fumble recovery. Vanderbilt free safety Kenny Ladler has more solo tackles (50) than any player in the SEC. The senior also leads the league in forced fumbles (four) and has three interceptions. Senior cornerback Andre Hal is first in the SEC in passes defended (12) with 11 breakups and one pick.
Among players with more than two attempts, Kentucky place-kicker Joe Mansour has been the most accurate field-goal kicker (11-for-12 with a long of 45) in the SEC. Last week, punter Landon Foster had a shank that set Missouri up for a TD and a punt blocked that set up another Tigers touchdown. Vandy place-kicker Carey Spear is 8-for-10 on field goals with a long of 54. Taylor Hudson (average of 43.3 yards) has 10 punts of 50 yards or more. Vanderbilt is 13th in the SEC in both kickoff and punt returns.
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.