UK Football

Kentucky freshman Quinn rises quickly with confidence, hard work

Kentucky cornerback Cody Quinn, 16
Kentucky cornerback Cody Quinn, 16 Lexington Herald-Leader

Cody Quinn knows offensive coordinators must see him on the field and will the ball to go in his direction.

He's a true freshman for one. And he's a touch under the 5-foot-10 at which Kentucky lists him, small for a cornerback in a Southeastern Conference filled with long, lean wide receivers.

"I know they're going to try to attack me, try to pick on me, I've just got to be ready for it," Quinn said this week. "I'm fine with it. I'm ready for the challenge. I'm out here for a reason."

That's the Quinn his high school coach remembers fondly.

"The man has extreme confidence," Middletown (Ohio) Coach Troy Everhart said of Quinn. "On a scale of 1-10, he's a 50. That's what makes him so good. He's not arrogant. He's not conceited, but he's confident."

He has earned the right to be confident, though, Everhart said.

The Middletown coach called Quinn one of the hardest workers he has coached.

Of the 100 or so Division I players Everhart has coached, Quinn was one of maybe three who continued to condition and lift weights after signing his national letter of intent.

"They take most of the rest of the spring off," Everhart said of the others. "Not Cody. Cody got with our defensive backs coach and they worked out two, sometimes three days a week just on his skills. Not many high school kids are willing to do that."

That work ethic is what separates the cornerback.

"When he was here, on a Sunday, he'd go down to the park, take the cones, do his own drill work in preparation to go to Kentucky," Everhart said.

That work has paid off in the form of 19 tackles, including a career-high seven at Arkansas, and a UK-best three pass breakups in five starts this season.

Quinn doesn't just have confidence, effort and speed (he reportedly ran a 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds) on his side.

He also has a bit of amnesia, which could come in handy against a pass-happy attack like Missouri's.

Quinn didn't flinch when he gave up a huge touchdown last week against Georgia. Coach Joker Phillips worried that he might.

"When he came off, I grabbed him and just wanted to look him in his eyes and see what I saw," Phillips said. "I saw still a confident guy, but (one who) really didn't believe that the guy had beat him."

The freshman, who helped guide Middletown to three straight 10-win seasons, said he just tells himself to "flush it out" and move on to the next play.

"You just keep moving forward to the next play because if you dwell on the last play, then you'll be messed up for the rest of the game," Quinn said. "You can't really focus on what happened in the past. You just have to keep moving forward."

In Quinn's less-immediate past, he was so dominant as a high school senior that teams rarely went his direction on the field.

"No one was dumb enough to throw or run in his direction," Everhart said. "Nobody went near him. He's that kind of kid."

There was a six-week span of his senior season when opponents avoided Quinn's side of the field altogether.

In week nine against a rival, the team threw toward Quinn "a couple of times," his coach said. "He picked two off."

For his career, he returned five interceptions for points.

Kentucky coaches hope to see those kinds of results from Quinn soon, despite his stature and youth.

"He's not getting any taller, but he's really becoming a really good football player," defensive coordinator Rick Minter said with a smile two weeks ago. "He came here really prepared in a sense of mental toughness, physical skills, mental ability to absorb and retain."

Injury update

Kentucky's injury situation continues to improve, with quarterback Patrick Towles taking snaps all week in practice. Phillips said fellow freshman QB Jalen Whitlow will start, but Towles will get in the game early.

Towles' high ankle sprain is healing ahead of schedule.

"I thought he did a good job this week, moving around better than I ever would have thought," Phillips said.

Defensive back Martavius Neloms (hamstring) hasn't practiced much this week, but that's mostly been because of illness. Defensive back Mikie Benton (ankle) will play.

"Neloms is the leader back there, and it would be really comforting if he's out there," Phillips said of the senior safety.

Offensive lineman Zach West (shoulder) was able to practice some on Thursday, but he's still day-to-day. "He says he's going to play," Phillips said. "We'll give him the start if he's ready."