Three true freshmen will be playing the rest of the season for Kentucky because they’ve already participated in too many games to redshirt in 2018.
One, Chris Oats, will be an important contributor early at Texas A&M this weekend as starting middle linebacker Kash Daniel sits for a half after a targeting penalty against South Carolina.
Oats and redshirt freshman Jamin Davis will combine to fill Daniel’s spot until he can return after halftime.
When asked about coaching up freshmen on the road at a place like Texas A&M, Stoops laughed.
“Oh yeah, there’ll be a lot of coaching up,” he said. “How do you get them prepared for Kyle Field? Good luck simulating that.”
Oats isn’t the only true freshman linebacker who has played in all five games this season. So has DeAndre Square. They are joined by wide receiver Allen Dailey among those who should be contributors the rest of their first full season.
Per the new NCAA redshirt rule, a player can play in up to four games without losing his redshirt opportunity, which means that UK still has plenty of freshmen who could get on the field before the end of the season.
Players who still qualify for that option include nose guard Marquan McCall and offensive lineman Darian Kinnard, who each have played in two games this fall, according to UK records submitted each week to the NCAA.
Kinnard is likely to see the field more this week and is listed as the backup at both the right and left tackle spots this weekend after the injury to left tackle Naasir Watkins.
“We can always use him, and that’s where that rule would have come in, could play him and let Naasir clear up,” Stoops said after the South Carolina game of Kinnard. “We have a bye week after next week, so could plug him in and maybe still keep his year.”
There’s not a clear timeline on when Watkins will return from his knee issue, but the Cats’ coach said he was excited to see more of Kinnard, who so far has played against Central Michigan and Murray State.
Seven other true freshmen have played in one game apiece this season for Kentucky and would have up to three more to play without losing their redshirt options.
Those players are defensive backs Jamari Brown and Stanley Garner, defensive lineman Davoan Hawkins, wide receivers Akeem Hayes and Bryce Oliver and running back Chris Rodriguez.
One player who hasn’t played a snap yet this season, whose name comes up regularly, is kicker Chance Poore.
The true freshman is behind Miles Butler on the depth chart, but the senior has shorter range than Poore, who is still working on his accuracy percentage.
Stoops didn’t seem concerned about misses of 36 and 43 yards from Butler this season. Butler has been perfect on point-after attempts.
“We have a lot of confidence in Miles. He’s going to do a good job,” Stoops said, “but we still have that opportunity on some longer field goals to use Chance.”
Does Stoops worry about marching Poore out at a huge moment to make a game-winning field goal later this season? It doesn’t sound like it.
“I’m just trying to pocket those four games right now,” UK’s head coach said. “We put a lot of pressure on (Poore) in practice and he works all the time. We expect him to step in and hit that 55-yarder for a game-winner. No problem. That’s why we recruited him.”
Poore is one of several UK newcomers who have not played in a game yet.
The others include wideout B.J. Alexander, tight end Keaton Upshaw, offensive linemen Kenneth Horsey, Nick Lewis and Quintin Wilson, defensive lineman Jerquavion Mahone, linebacker Ashtan Pierre and running back Kavosiey Smoke.