The announcement that senior linebacker Miles Simpson will not play this season makes Kentucky even thinner at an already lean position.
A nagging hip injury will end the backup linebacker's career, UK confirmed Monday morning.
"It's disappointing," UK defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot told the Herald-Leader. "He's a great leader and a great player and I was looking forward to working with him, and I thought he had a bright future here. But he isn't going to be able to play next year. Just part of the game."
The former Simon Kenton star played in 12 games last season and had 11 tackles, mostly on special teams. The injury kept him from practicing this spring. He will graduate in December, team spokesman Tony Neely said.
"We regret that Miles will not play this season, but understand it is in his long-term best interest," UK Coach Mark Stoops said through Neely. "We appreciate Miles' contributions to Kentucky football and wish him the best as he completes his degree and moves forward."
His sophomore season, Simpson was a defensive standout, starting 11 games at a hybrid linebacker/safety spot. He was third on the team in tackles with 70, including 12 versus South Carolina.
Kentucky returns four linebackers with game experience from last year in Khalid Henderson (51 tackles last season), TraVaughn Paschal (38 tackles) and Josh Forrest (16 tackles) as well as backup Tyler Brause, who mostly played on special teams.
To add some depth, UK is moving junior Daron Blaylock to the linebacker position fulltime, Eliot said.
The Cats' four newcomers — freshmen Kobie Walker, Nico Firios, Dorian Hendrix and junior college transfer Ryan Flannigan — will have to get up to speed quickly.
Flannigan, the most likely candidate to fill departing star Avery Williamson's spot at middle linebacker, is expected to arrive in time for training camp, Eliot said.
"We're trying to mix and match and get the best 11 on the field," Eliot said. "Avery was the only experienced backer we had last year, so we knew what he could do, but we've really gotta fill a void there and develop some guys into being good players at those positions."
Cats' receivers on mend
The Kentucky wide receivers were a battered, banged up group by the end of spring practice, but they seem to be healing in time for the start of fall camp.
Most of them are expected to be back by the beginning of August, UK offensive coordinator Neal Brown told the Herald-Leader on Monday.
Jeff Badet, who broke his fibula in what coaches called a freak accident where he clipped his own foot running routes this spring, is back and has been cleared to run straight lines.
"We feel good about him going in," Brown said of Badet, who had 22 catches for 285 yards and a touchdown.
Fellow sophomore wide receiver Alexander Montgomery, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in late October, is still a question mark.
"He's nine months post op now," Brown said. "He'll be released, but mentally where he'll be, we'll just have to wait and see."
Montgomery played in eight games before his season-ending injury. He had 16 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Javess Blue, who had shoulder surgery this offseason, has completely recovered and Brown is expecting big things from the junior college wide receiver who led the Cats with 43 catches for 586 yards and four touchdowns.
"He's set up to have a really good season," Brown said. "If you look at junior college guys, for whatever reason, they always have a better second year. That's really been the case here with wide outs like Stevie Johnson and (Chris) Matthews. I think (Blue) is going to have that type of second year."
Eliots expecting baby during camp
Fall is going to be a little more hectic and even more sleep deprived for Kentucky defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot.
Eliot and his wife, Miekel, are expecting their fourth child, a girl, on Aug. 25, the Monday before UK's season opener against Tennessee-Martin at Commonwealth Stadium.
When asked how he was going to manage all of the madness before the start of the season, he laughed.
"I don't know," he said. "I'm just rolling with the punches."
The Eliots already have a son Dawson and daughters Drue and Page.
When asked about the complicated timing of the newest addition, Eliot smiled. "I've learned in my life you can't control a lot of things."