Several true freshmen will see action for both Kentucky and Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
Kentucky has nine freshmen on its depth chart this week: receiver LaRod King, right guard Larry Warford, defensive tackle Mister Cobble, linebacker Ridge Wilson, cornerback Martavious Neloms, defensive end Patrick Ligon, quarterbacks Morgan Newton and Ryan Mossakowski and center Sam Simpson.
Newton, Mossakowski and Simpson are unlikely to play. Simpson is third string behind starter Marcus Davis and Matt Smith and will slide to fourth string once Jorge Gonzalez returns for the Louisville game.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pound Neloms is listed No. 2 at cornerback behind Trevard Lindley and will see time on special teams and in the nickel and dime packages.
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Neloms didn't play football until his junior year at Memphis Fairley and received offers only from UK, Southern Miss and Arkansas State. UK got hot and heavy after Neloms during preparations for the Liberty Bowl last December and appears to have found a diamond in the rough.
"He's a guy that I think can be a great player for us in the future," UK defensive coordinator Steve Brown said. "He's physically ready, so we want to let him play in a game and see what he can do."
Miami will be relying even more on true freshmen. Three rookies are slated to start for Mike Haywood's first RedHawks squad: center Brad Bednar, and linebackers Wes Williams and Evan Harris.
George attends coach's funeral
One UK freshman who's had a rough fall camp is running back Jonathan George. George impressed early on and looked like a candidate to play before suffering a high ankle sprain that has sidelined him for the past three weeks.
Then, earlier this week, George returned home to Lincoln (Ala.) to attend the funeral of his high school coach, Keith Howard, who died unexpectedly of a heart attack at the age of 48 during Lincoln's season-opening victory at Etowah.
"I loved Coach Howard, he was like a second father to me," George said. "It was a tough trip back home. But things happen. It's been tough, but I'm just trying to get well and get back to business."
Smith here and Smith there
It will be a big day in the Chuck Smith household. Around the same time the UK linebackers coach is getting his team ready to face Miami, his son Brandon will be making his first career start at quarterback for Western Kentucky against Tennessee at Neyland Stadium.
But Smith says he won't be distracted when the Cats kick off.
"My wife will give me a play-by-play after the game," Smith said. "Brandon's waited a long time for this opportunity, and now he knows he's got to do something with it. But I'll be into our game. We've got a lot invested in this game. But as soon as our game is over, I'll want to know what the score was and how he did."
Wright faces alma mater
UK graduate assistant coach Dontae Wright was a letterman at Miami from 2003-06 and started at linebacker as a senior for the RedHawks. While he still keeps in contact with Athletics Director Brad Bates, most of the people he knew at Miami have moved on.
"A lot has changed, but it's still Miami and I love it," Wright said. "I still keep in contact with Brad regularly. But it's a business. Your heart's where you're at right now, and my heart is with Kentucky. We're going to win a game. That stuff isn't even in the equation right now."
Big Blue meter
With archrival Louisville, top-ranked Florida, No. 5 Alabama and South Carolina next in line on the schedule, the Cats can't afford to stub their toe against the RedHawks. Not only do the Cats need to win, they probably need to look good doing it. UK is a 15-point favorite. If the Cats win going away, optimism will be high going into the Louisville game. If they struggle, doubts will arise. If they lose, Cats fans might start turning even more attention toward basketball.