How Kentucky and Tennessee match up for Saturday night's game at Commonwealth Stadium:
Jalen Whitlow was knocked out by injury (neck spasms) last week at Georgia. In relief, Maxwell Smith hit on 10 of 16 passes for 149 yards with a TD pass. Depending on Whitlow's health, both are likely to play Saturday. Tennessee lost starter Justin Worley to an injured right thumb in its loss at Alabama. True freshman Joshua Dobbs is a promising dual threat but has thrown for only 181 yards combined in UT's last two games.
With senior Raymond Sanders suspended, It would be nice if UK senior Jonathan George gets some touches in his final game. Still, true freshman Jojo Kemp (460 yards rushing) and true sophomore Dyshawn Mobley figure to be Kentucky's prime ball carriers. Mobley, a Powell, Tenn., product, had his best game as a Wildcat at Georgia with 92 yards rushing, including a 69-yard TD run. Tennessee senior Rajion Neal is seventh in the SEC in rushing (990 yards) and has four 100 yards-plus games.
Kentucky's Javess Blue (team-leading 40 catches) had five receptions for 93 yards and a TD at Georgia. UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown says true freshman Jeff Badet (16 catches, one TD) has been one of his most pleasant surprises. Alton "Pig" Howard leads Tennessee with 42 receptions. The 5-foot-8, 185-pound sophomore caught 11 balls at Missouri. True freshman Marquez North (38 catches) has had a strong UT debut.
UK lists five tight ends on its depth chart and four — ex-Boyle County standout Jordan Aumiller (nine catches), Anthony Kendrick (seven), Tyler Robinson (one) and Patrick Ligon (none) — are seniors. Robinson, an Alcoa, Tenn., product, caught a TD vs. UT in 2010. Tennessee's Brendan Downs averages 5.9 yards on his 11 catches. He does have two touchdown receptions.
Kentucky sophomore right tackle Jordan Swindle is considered one of the most improved players on the UK roster by the Wildcats coaches. Bryan Station product Darrian Miller at left tackle has played well. Tennessee's team strength is a veteran front that features four senior starters. Massive junior left tackle Antonio Richardson (6-foot-6, 327 pounds) was named pre-season All-SEC first-team by the league's coaches.
UK end Za'Darius Smith, a junior-college transfer, had a career-high nine stops at Georgia. This will be the final Commonwealth Stadium appearance for Kentucky senior tackles Donte Rumph, Mister Cobble and Tristian Johnson. Tennessee left end Jacques Smith had six tackles and a fumble recovery in the loss to Vanderbilt. Redshirt senior end Marlon Walls leads the Vols with 4.5 sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.
UK middle linebacker Avery Williamson stands third in the SEC in tackles (96). The senior from Milan, Tenn., will end his career against his home-state school. Tennessee MLB A.J. Johnson led the SEC in tackles last season (138) and is second this season (97).
An unsung hero for UK has been true freshman nickle back Blake McClain. He had a career-high 12 tackles at Georgia. Sophomore Cody Quinn is listed first-string at cornerback after missing the loss to UGA due to suspension. Tennessee has intercepted 14 passes this season, with strong safety Brian Randolph leading the way with four. Cornerback Justin Coleman, a junior from Brunswick, Ga., is a player Kentucky recruited.
Kentucky senior place-kicker Joe Mansour (11-for-12 field goals, a TD run) has been an unexpected strength. Sophomore punter Landon Foster (41.1 yards a kick), a Franklin, Tenn., product, had a better season last year. With returners Demarco Robinson (punts) and Raymond Sanders (kickoffs) suspended, UK needs Javess Blue to step up in both areas. Tennessee's Michael Palardy is second in the SEC in field goals made (14-for-17 with a long of 51) and fifth in punting (43.9 yards, a whopping 28 inside the opponent's 20).
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com.