South Carolina Coach Steve Spurrier is known for finding weak links in an opposing defense.
It was often the reason why you'd see receivers streaking wide open 30 yards downfield during his heyday at Florida.
And you know somewhere in Columbia right now, Spurrier's eyes are lighting up over the fact that a true freshman, Martavious Neloms, will be lining up at cornerback for Kentucky instead of All-America candidate Trevard Lindley, who will see his streak of 43 consecutive starts end Saturday because of a sprained ankle.
The Gamecocks aren't anywhere near as dangerous through the air as some of Spurrier's best Florida teams, but you can bet he'll be willing to turn quarterback Stephen Garcia loose and try to get the ball to a receiving corps led by senior Moe Brown (18 catches, 283 yards) and redshirt freshman Tori Gurley (17 catches, 244 yards) along with tight end Weslye Saunders (14 catches, 156 yards).
"Sharp offensive minds like Spurrier, everything they do is about matchups," UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "If their guy is better than yours, they try to exploit it. We've got to disguise some things to protect our guys. It's a chess match, and it's difficult when you don't have all your weapons, but you just have to put them out there and see what they can do."
The Cats will also be without their other starting cornerback, junior Paul Warford, for a second straight game because of a quadriceps injury. Sophomore Randall Burden will line up opposite Neloms, with sophomore Taiedo Smith and redshirt freshman Cartier Rice also moving up the depth chart.
"They've just got to get in there and play," UK Coach Rich Brooks said. "They've been practicing all year. We're five games into the season. There aren't any rookies anymore."
Secondary Coach Chris Thurmond said that making sure the young corners understand their assignments helps alleviate a lot of the nerves.
"You really don't have time to be nervous," Thurmond said. "What you have to do is just put them out there and let them play and let them go. Make sure they know what they're doing and figure on them playing as well as they can. All you can do with young guys is keep telling them it's all about the process. It's not about the result. This is what you do, this is where you line up. You create a situation where it's not result-oriented so you can reduce some of the anxiety. Don't worry about the outcome. Worry about what you're doing."
The coaching staff has expressed confidence in Neloms, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound under-the-radar recruit from Memphis.
"He's really, really competitive and feisty; he battles," Thurmond said. "He's a good tackler, and he's physically and mentally tough, which is important any time you're playing corner. As a young corner, you'd better be mentally tough and be able to go on to the next play. He can do that."
Neloms showed his ability to bounce back in UK's 38-20 loss to Alabama last week. He was beaten for a 7-yard touchdown by Alabama's Darius Hanks late in the third quarter but rebounded and finished strong.
Brown absolved Neloms from blame on the touchdown. With Kentucky trailing 31-13, Brown was trying to create a big play and had Neloms defending Hanks on a slant route with no safety help. Hanks instead ran an outside route and quarterback Greg McElroy found him for an easy score.
"It's a situation where you don't really beat the player, you beat the call," Brown said. "We were trying to make something happen."
During interviews, Neloms displays a calm, quietly confident demeanor that suggests he won't get rattled easily.
"I knew Alabama would try and pick on me," Neloms said. "You just can't let it affect you out there. You've got to have a short memory. I know I'm going to have to step up this week. I've been looking at extra film just trying to get myself ready."
Burden, a 6-foot, 170-pound LaGrange (Ga.) native, has been thrown to the wolves before. When Lindley went down with a hyperextended elbow in the second quarter of the Liberty Bowl last year, Burden, then a redshirt freshman, came in and had two second-half pass breakups.
Now he'll be the graybeard among the UK corners, and Burden said the Liberty Bowl experience expedited his growth process.
"I feel like everything's on me now since I've got the most experience," Burden said. "I'm just going to go out there and do what I know how to do. By knocking down those two passes they threw at me (in the Liberty Bowl) I knew I could be a factor with the defense."
Burden spent most of the second half last week matched up on Alabama standout receiver Julio Jones, and Jones caught only two passes for 13 yards.
"We've got confidence in Randall," Thurmond said. "He's played well since the bowl game, and we expect him to keep playing like he's been playing."
Not having Lindley and Warford not only affects UK's performance but hinders the depth. Brown said he might use his regular 4-3 defense more instead of the nickel and dime packages against South Carolina's three-and-four receiver sets.
"It's kind of hard to do things you typically want to do because you want to protect those young guys," Brown said. "So you change things and try to adjust. If we have to play our regular defense more so we can play sound and put our best 11 (players) on the field, so be it."