Sidelines with John Clay

With injured players of its own, Florida won’t feel sorry for Kentucky on Saturday

So Kentucky will be without its starting quarterback on Saturday when No. 9 Florida rolls into town. Forgive the Gators for not giving the Cats a shoulder to cry on.

“Nobody’s going to feel sorry for each other,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said Monday.

After all, Florida is expected to be without a pair of important Gators on Saturday, Gators Coach Dan Mullen said Monday.

Wide receiver Kadarius Toney will be out at least two weeks after injuring his shoulder in Florida’s 45-0 victory over UT Martin last Saturday in Gainesville. One of the SEC’s more electric players, Toney took a Feleipe Franks’ screen pass 66 yards for a touchdown in the Gators’ 24-20 win over Miami in the season opener.

C.J. Henderson, one of the nation’s best cornerbacks, is listed as doubtful with an ankle sprain. That’s another blow to a Florida secondary that saw defensive backs Brian Edwards and John Huggins leave the team in the preseason.

Toney scored on a 36-yard run in Florida’s 28-27 win over Kentucky in 2017, the last time the Gators’ visited Kroger Field. He also caught four passes for 35 yards. He caught two passes for 35 yards in Florida’s 27-16 home loss to UK last season.

The junior from Mobile, Ala., caught 15 passes for 152 yards as a freshman. He made 25 catches for 260 yards and a TD last season. He has three catches for 72 yards and a touchdown this season.

“It’s definitely big,” fellow receiver Josh Hammond said of not having Toney on Saturday. “KT does a lot, just the way he was able to move and make plays and make people miss. We used him in a lot of different ways.”

A junior from Miami, Fla., Henderson has two pass break-ups this season. He was a first-team preseason All-SEC selection this year and a second-team All-SEC selection by the league’s coaches last season. Coming into the 2019 season, Phil Steele rated Henderson the nation’s sixth-best draft eligible cornerback. ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr. had Henderson as his eighth-best draft prospect overall on his first 2020 NFL Draft big board of rankings.

Mullen may sit Henderson in hopes he will be 100 percent healthy when the Gators play Tennessee on Sept. 21. After playing Towson on Sept. 28, No. 9-ranked Florida plays No. 8 Auburn and No. 4 LSU.

Of course, Kentucky will be without starting quarterback Terry Wilson on Saturday. The junior from Oklahoma tore the patellar tendon in his left knee during UK’s 38-17 win over Eastern Michigan last Saturday. Sawyer Smith, a grad transfer from Troy, will be UK’s starter against the Gators. It will be the Florida native’s first SEC start.

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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