Tape It Up: Kentucky: The Injury Derby

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Kentucky: The Injury Derby

Kentucky is in the midst of an injury derby. Three players are coming back while four players are ducking out as this weekend's matchup with Kent State inches closer, and the race is on to see whether the Wildcats can find some healthy bodies to fill the secondary. Linebacker Braxton Kelley and defensive tackles Ventrell Jenkins and Myron Pryor are coming back from injuries that limited their participation in preseason camp, while another defensive tackle and three key members of the Wildcats' secondary are really hurting.

First, the minor pain - freshman Ricky Lumpkin suffered a minor back injury in last weekend's opener. The redshirt freshman is critical to the DT rotation, the Wildcats Thunder says, especially with Jenkins and Pryor, both juniors, not yet up to full strength.

The major pain is in the secondary, where three injuries are threatening to decimate the Wildcats' protections. Corner David Jones, a former SEC All-Freshman, had an emergency apendectomy this fall and will need a few weeks before he can take the field again. The junior played in the corner spot his freshman year before moving to wide receiver in 2006, where he played in the first 12 games before spraining a knee in practice that kept him out of the Music City Bowl.

After dislocating his wrist in last week's opener, sophomore corner EJ Adams could be out for a few weeks. Depending on how the wrist heals, he might redshirt this fall, which would put a lot of pressure on Jones to get better fast. Adams recorded 13 tackles last season and one pass breakup, and pulled in a goal-line interception in the fourth quarter against Vanderbilt, setting up the win that clinched bowl eligibility for the Wildcats. He is a clutch player that this secondary will miss for two games at a bare minimum.

Safety Marcus McClinton is doubtful for this weekend after re-injuring the ankle he sprained during camp. The junior led last year's defense with four interceptions to go along with six pass breakups, five forced fumbles (tying the national record) and 65 tackles. Especially with two corners down for the forseeable future, Kentucky would like to get McClinton back on his feet as soon as humanly possible.

The secondary may have been the most improved area of the team heading into this season, but not any more. No time is a good time for injury, but now looks especially bad, with throwing teams like Louisville, South Carolina and LSU looming large on the schedule. Kentucky now has very little room to maneuver in terms of injuries, especially in the secondary, where they really cannot afford to have anyone else go down. Younger players are going to have to step up to cover for the seasoned players who are spending time warming the bench, and those senior guys will have to get back on the field and contribute sooner rather than later if Kentucky is going to compete for a conference title.

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