Kentucky Football: How two major injuries shake up Wildcats at key spots

Josh Ali of Kentucky (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Josh Ali of Kentucky (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

With the Kentucky football rolling through an undefeated 5-0 start the team has coasted through these games with few injuries to speak of, but now they will miss key players on both sides of the ball in Marquan McCall and wide receiver Josh Ali.

Both were clearly seen heading to the locker room during Kentucky’s 20-13 win over the Gators on Saturday and reports have been surfacing all day that McCall will miss several weeks and Ali most likely the next two games.

How significant are these losses to the Wildcat’s success moving forward – plenty.

Kentucky football suffers big blow with injuries to McCall and Ali

Mark Stoops has been assembling and stockpiling depth at nearly every position allowing his team to compete more physically and athletically with the bigger boys in the Southeastern Conference.

That is going to be put to the test as defensive coordinator Brad White needs to fill a hefty hole that the 6-foot-3, 379-pound senior from Detroit occupies breathing over the opponent’s center.

He suffered a lower leg injury against the Gators and Stoops on his weekly press conference confirmed: “he will be out a little bit.”

White knows what a difference-maker McCall is to his squad and noted after last week’s win over South Carolina.

"“Boy, he played a well of a game. His energy, his effort, his physicality at the point of attack, we’re going to need that every week out of him. When he’s playing at a really high level, you see how he changes the game.”"

A pair of sophomores both from Michigan are being called upon to do so with Josaih Hayes is being thrust into that starting role with Justin Rogers backing him up.

Both had seen action in all five games so far with Hayes, who stands 6-3, 314-pounds, recording 1 solo and 5 assisted tackles. Rogers, at 6-3, 336-pounds has 1 solo and 2 assisted tackles.

Rogers is a five-star recruit and Kentucky has always been high on him offering him a scholarship when he was in the eighth grade. He and McCall were high school teammates so I am sure Marquan is giving him a lot of advice.

They aren’t quite the caliber of player “yet” that McCall is and Stoops has praised the work ethic and contribution he has brought to the team so far.

The Cats will need both more than likely to get through LSU and then Georgia and then a week to regroup and check the status of McCall as UK gets is bye week at an opportune time on October 23.

Over on the offensive side offensive coordinator, Liam Coen has to deal with his leading receiver not being on the field probably until the Mississippi State game on October 30.

All of us were wonder what the receiving corp was going to look like this season after being incognito the past few seasons. Ali was pegged to breathe new life into that role with the big arm of Will Levis able to get the ball to the receivers.

Ali has carried the ball three times this year on jet sweeps gaining 20 yards and losing seven while fumbling it as well.

He is much better out jumping defensive backs and safeties for balls. There he has 14 catches for 248 yards, an average of 14.59 yards per catch. His long is an electrifying 58 yarders.

We aren’t forgetting about Wan’Dale Robinson here but he is more of the slot and F receiver. He and Ali drew equal defensive attention.

The next man up is Isaiah Epps, the 6-foot-2, 189-pound senior from Jenks, Oklahoma who has five catches this season for 104 yards and one touchdown a 20-yard catch from Levis against Chattanooga.

Demarcus Harris, a 6-foot-1, 183-pound sophomore from Vero Beach, Florida hasn’t been the target of many passes these two seasons.

While he did see action in four games last year he totaled just 14 catches for 87 yards, averaging 6.7 yards per catch.  His best day was four catches and had a career-best 33 yards vs. Vanderbilt.

This year he has a pair of catches for 14 yards.

Again a major drop-off in backup production just like McCall.

What will Coen draw up now is anyone’s guess. I suspect some easy dink and dunk passes to the pair to get them some game reps. Epps has the speed and potential to break one long.

The tight ends may get more touches as well especially Izayah Cummings. The Louisville Male former receiver moved over to tight end this season and it’s time for him to have a break-out game.

LSU is just as bad as Kentucky when it comes to picking off quarterbacks as each team only has three on the year.

Vegas odds say it may be a good time for Coen to gamble and roll the dice a little more especially in the friendly confines of Kroger Field.

Kentucky can’t afford any more injuries and if they can remain healthy after the next two games with a week to mend the back half of the schedule looks very, very runnable.

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