Injury-plagued Kentucky playing 26 freshmen

Associated Press Modified: October 9, 2012 at 7:47 pm •  Published: October 9, 2012
Advertisement
;

Said Daron Blaylock, "I kind of expected to get some playing time when I got here, but starting this game is a great opportunity."

As tough as it's been for Kentucky during a four-game losing streak, the Wildcats believe they might reap benefits soon from the youth movement. Through all the mistakes the freshman and sophomores have made, they're also displaying an attitude that has impressed coaches and veteran players.

Foster is coming off a game in which he averaged 43.8 yards on eight punts including a career-best 56-yarder with three inside the 20. Whitlow is getting a better grasp of the offense and just needs to make decisions sooner, Sanders said.

Quinn showed no jitters in his first start at Florida last month and has posted eight tackles and two pass breakups in three games. Backup linebacker Khalid Henderson has 13 tackles while cornerback Fred Tiller has 12.

"Seeing the leadership they've have in front of them, they've done well by picking things up and getting ready for their opportunities," senior cornerback Cartier Rice said. "They're staying focused, staying locked in. They're eager and they know they have to step up and fill those roles. They're not flinching."

Henderson said the freshmen bonded immediately, helping them adapt to being on campus and then the program.

Though things have happened much faster than they imagined, they haven't been totally surprised being part of the picture.

"We have an excellent freshman class and I expect all to them to come in here, improve and earn a spot," Henderson said. "They (the coaches) told me an opportunity was there.

"They didn't tell me, 'here, we have a spot for you,' they just told me if you come in and do what you're supposed to do, come in and earn your spot, that's the way it is. The best players are going to play at the end of the day."

But as the Wildcats have carried out coach Joker Phillips' 'next-man-up' philosophy, the changes have also forced the coaching staff to become more patient with their development. If things had gone as planned, freshman and sophomores would be learning from the veterans, preparing for their opportunities down the road.

Instead, those players have been going through on-the-job training while the coaches have changed their perspective.

Asked the hardest part of coaching freshmen, Phillips said, "They don't all know as much as they think they know. Most of the guys that have come here (have) been the best athletes on the field. And a lot of times they don't know as much as they think they know. Or they're not as fast as they think that they are. ...

"And we have all been them. I was one of them, too."