Two Wildcats suspended for season opener

jsmith3@herald-leader.comAugust 25, 2014 

UK receiver Rashad Cunningham at practice on Wednesday March 27, 2013 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff

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  • SEASON OPENER

    Tennessee-Martin at Kentucky

    When: Noon Saturday, Aug. 30

    TV: SEC Network

Because of unspecified violations of team rules, Kentucky will be without a starting offensive lineman and a reserve wide receiver when it opens the season against Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.

Senior left tackle Darrian Miller, who has started 24 consecutive games for the Cats, is sitting for a transgression that "happened some time ago," Coach Mark Stoops said at his regular Monday news conference.

"We've addressed the situation. He's done what he needed to do. He'll be back in good standing after one game."

Stoops also added that junior wide receiver Rashad Cunningham will miss the opener for an unspecified violation of team rules.

Court records show that Cunningham had a couple brushes with the law during the offseason, but in an email Monday night, the wide receiver said they were not connected to this suspension.

Kentucky declined to comment on whether the pending charges are related to his suspension.

One incident involved a noise violation at his residence and a subsequent citation for failing to pay the fines in that case.

A second misdemeanor charge involved theft of property, which Cunningham characterized as a "misunderstanding between the subject and myself."

He has a court date set for Nov. 10 — the Monday before UK's game at Tennessee — on all charges.

The receiver, who hasn't caught a pass in six career games he played in 2012, missed last season with academic issues, but said he is trying to do better.

"I have worked hard to maintain a 3.0 (grade-point average) and above the last three semesters," he said in the email. "I have worked to better myself off the field as well."

Cunningham had eight catches for 80 yards and a touchdown in the Blue-White Spring Game in April.

Without him, Kentucky is without three scholarship wide receivers for the opener, including Alexander Montgomery, who is rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and Jeff Badet, who took a tennis ball to the eye during fall camp.

Without Miller, UK will have a patchwork quilt of an offensive line with Jordan Swindle taking over Miller's spot at left tackle and red-shirt freshman Kyle Meadows subbing in for Swindle at right tackle.

Miller has started 26 games in his career, including the last 24, and has played in every game since arriving on campus as a highly touted recruit from Bryan Station.

"I feel good about Kyle," Stoops said when asked about the redshirt freshman moving into a starting role. "Be good to get him out there and see what he can do. Jordan Swindle will do good on the left side."

That means Kentucky will be starting two redshirt freshmen on its offensive line this weekend — both on the right side — in Meadows and Ramsey Meyers, who is the Cats' starting right guard.

News, notes

There has been some speculation about whether Patrick Towles is just a mistake or two from being yanked as the starting quarterback because the competition was so close.

Stoops quashed that talk, saying: "He has the keys. ... He's going to go through some ups and downs. That's anybody at any position. We never guarantee anything except an opportunity. He's not on a short leash. He won the job. He is the starting quarterback."

Stoops did say that coaches will do what they can to ease Towles into the job. The head coach also said he is hopeful that backup quarterback Reese Phillips will get a series or two.

"That's the plan right now," Stoops said. "I'd love to play (Phillips). ... You know and I know Patrick needs the reps. We've got to get out there, get better, move this program forward. We'll see how that goes."

Wide receiver Demarco Robinson, who was suspended the last two games of last season and was still a question mark as of last week for the opener, will play, his head coach said.

Robinson is listed as a starter at one receiver spot and as one of two punt returners along with Ryan Timmons.

Braylon Heard and Stanley "Boom" Williams are listed as kick returners. Stoops said he's excited to see Williams with the ball in his hands.

Running back Josh Clemons suffered a minor tweak in one of the recent scrimmages and has missed practice time. He's sat out each of the last two seasons, first with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and then with an Achilles' tendon tear.

Ticket sales updates

As of Monday morning, Kentucky has sold 40,600 season tickets for the season, UK officials said.

Before the season opener last season, Kentucky reported UK had 47,426 season tickets out, which included student tickets as well as comps.

The current 40,600 number does not include students or comps, just season tickets sold. Before 2012, the previous low for season ticket sales numbers this decade was 42,974 in 2006.

Not a Rocky Top thing

Is it a Tennessee prank? Some Rocky Top high jinks?

Nope. Kentucky put out a statement via its Twitter account on Monday explaining the need for the orange and white checkered flag atop a Commonwealth Stadium crane.

The flag, commonly known as an "Airfield Safety" flag, is there per regulations, UK said.

"The checkered flag atop the construction crane at Commonwealth Stadium is an FAA requirement," the tweet said. "Cranes of this height fly the flag in order to ensure the safety of aircraft traveling in the area."

Staff writers Jim Warren and Karla Ward contributed to this report.

Jennifer Smith: (859) 231-3241. Twitter: @jenheraldleader. Blog: ukfootball.bloginky.com, ukwomen.bloginky.com

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