Kentucky Football: Stoops playing it close to the vest if we see injured Cats

Kentucky wide receiver Josh Ali (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky wide receiver Josh Ali (Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports) /

Normally the jovial Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops gives us some good nuggets to laugh and smile about, but whether we some injured Cats back this week he’s being pretty tight-lipped.

Front and center of attention and two that could really be of help are nose guard Marquan McCall and wide receiver Josh Ali. JuTahn McClain and Izayah Cummings have been stepping up more and more in the past weeks, but the extent of their injuries is just as big a mystery.

When asked at his Monday media session Stoops had just 12 words for us to read into.

"“Well will see. Yes, I feel like there is a chance yes.”"

He took a drink from his coffee and moved on.

Kentucky football needs McCall, Ali back from injuries for the final stretch

McCall suffered a lower leg injury and was expected to miss 4 or 5 weeks so this would seem like an early return for the 6-foot-3 379-pound senior from Detroit. He is an imposing figure for any offensive center to look at. In five games he has six tackles and one quarterback hit.

Justin Rogers has stepped up well in his absence and getting valuable playing time. He has started the last two against LSU and Georgia plus he’s played in all seven games recording seven total tackles.

Behind Rogers is Josaih Hayes who also had been in all seven games and has seven tackles as well.

No one on the team wants Ali back on the field more than Ali himself – except Wan’Dale Robinson.

With Kentucky’s top receiver one of the walkings wounded standing on the sideline ALL the attention has shifted to Robinson where he is getting blanketed by opposing defenses.

Not only did Ali stretch the field drawing coverage he was also one of the main components of the jet sweep that kept teams off balance despite his fumbling. He too was injured in Kentucky’s 20-13 win over Florida like McCall and was expected to miss 2-3 games.

Ali has 20 yards rushing on three carries but more importantly 17 catches for 248 yards and a touchdown.

The receiving corp backing him up just hasn’t stepped up much.

Isaiah Epps in the past two games has had five catches for 55 yards and DeMarcus Harris just two catches for 31 yards.

That has left Robinson as the main target and unable to break free for his explosive plays. Against LSU he had eight catches for 61 yards and a touchdown and at Georgia, he pulled in 12 throws from Will Levis for a mere 39 yards and a short touchdown.

Needless to say, Kentucky football needs Ali especially back on the field this weekend at Mississippi State and home next week against Tennessee. Their two biggest games of the year if they hope to finish second in the SEC East and third probably overall.

Stoops also gave no definitive word on tightened Cummings or McClain. Both were banged up in the Georgia battle.

Stoops would only say that McClain had a “minor physical setback,” which leads you to believe we most likely won’t him.  McClain had a nice 25-yard touchdown catch in Kentucky’s 42-21 win over LSU.

Cummings, out of Louisville Male, left the game and returned to the sideline in a sling. How severe and healed it has gotten during this past bye week is unknown.

Another player expected to make a big contribution at receiver was Dekel Crowdus who has been out since preseason with a knee injury.

The good news that Stoops brought up on Monday night’s call-in show was that the true freshman out of Frederick Douglass was back on the practice field Monday.

He is still a ways from returning one would speculate, but that was encouraging news people had been asking about.

"“Each week he’s been building up and spending more time with trainers. He was out there in uniform today, so that’s good.”"

When the Kentucky football depth chart for this week’s game was released the only player listed was Cummings as the third tight end. Obviously, anything can happen as practice progresses. We’ll have to wait until Saturday in Starkville to find out for sure.

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