Jen Smith on UK Football

Who are some young players that Mark Stoops wants to see play more?

Kentucky wide receivers Josh Ali (82) and Clevan Thomas (18) talked during a break in practice this spring. Ali, a sophomore from Hollywood, Fla., is one of several young players Mark Stoops hopes to see more in the coming weeks.
Kentucky wide receivers Josh Ali (82) and Clevan Thomas (18) talked during a break in practice this spring. Ali, a sophomore from Hollywood, Fla., is one of several young players Mark Stoops hopes to see more in the coming weeks. cbertram@herald-leader.com

With such an experienced team back from a year ago, there weren’t a lot of newcomers on the field for Kentucky last weekend.

But there are quite a few that Coach Mark Stoops wants to get a longer look at in the future.

“There’s several of them,” the coach said on his radio show Monday night. “There’s a bunch of guys that we need to get going.”

Stoops specifically mentioned wide out Josh Ali, who played sparingly last season and had a strong spring as well as freshman wide receivers Akeem Hayes and Allen Dailey, whom Stoops said was “impressive in camp and we need to get him going.”

The head coach also mentioned offensive lineman Darian Kinnard and linebackers Jordan Wright and Chris Oats as players he’s hoping to see more from in the coming weeks.

At least three of those players would love for this to be their week because they’re playing the Southeastern Conference team from their home state in Ali and Hayes (both from Hollywood) and Wright (Fort Lauderdale).

Breaking some of those young players in at Florida might be a tall order, offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said.

“But we’ll see how it goes, right? I hope to get them in, the guys who we wanted to get in as freshmen,” he said on Tuesday night. “Let’s get them in. They have to play some time.”

Several of those players Stoops mentioned were among the 16 who made their Wildcat debuts on Saturday against Central Michigan.

Other than quarterbacks, Terry Wilson and Gunnar Hoak, 14 other players had their first UK snaps — many of those came on special teams — in wide receivers Dailey and Brett Slusher, offensive linemen Kinnard, Austin Dotson, E.J. Price and Naasir Watkins, fullback Drew Schlegel.

On defense, it was defensive backs Tyrell Ajian, Michael Nesbitt and Yusuf Corker, linebackers Oats, Jamin Davis and DeAndre Square as well as punter Max Duffy.

With the new NCAA redshirt rule that allows players to play in up to four games without losing a season of eligibility, Kentucky likely will be working in a lot of new faces this season.

After Kentucky football’s practice on Thursday, August 16, 2018, defensive coordinator Matt House talked about the new redshirt rule. Under the new guideline, a player can play up to four games without losing a year of eligibility.

“The nice thing about four games is it gives you a lot of latitude, a lot of leeway there, so you can hold onto guys,” Stoops said, noting that they have to evaluate things from week to week.

“If a guy can help us win a football game, either on special teams or on offense and defense, then we’re going to use him.”

Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson said his three turnovers against Central Michigan were from “stupid plays” he’s corrected, and the sophomore is anxious to move on to Saturday’s game at Florida. UK plays the Gators on Sept. 8, 2018.

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