By LARRY VAUGHT
At this time last year freshman offensive lineman Naasir Watkins was making a big push for playing time. He ended up being redshirted, but he impressed UK coaches with what he did all season.
This year another freshman offensive lineman, Darian Kinnard, is doing the same thing and the big advantage he has is that a new rule this year allows a player to play in up to four games and still be redshirted.
“With this new rule it’s really helpful because we could progress him (Kinnard) as if he’s going to play every game and maybe if we don’t need him you can keep it,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “It’s yet to be seen.
“We feel like he’s in a position where he could play. We’re trusting him. He’s doing a very good job. He’s in the top eight, nine right now. We’ll just kind of see where that goes.
“Some freshmen will play and some will be on that cusp of we’ll see, hold get them ready and if we have injuries and if we feel like they progress they’ll play. We have that four games to work with. That’s the first time we’ve ever been through that. I think that will be helpful instead of just throwing guys out there and then maybe they taper off and we don’t use them as much as we’d like.
“It will be new this year, but I’m excited about it. I definitely want to be careful. There will be some guys where they definitely gonna play.”
Kinnard was ranked as the 16th best offensive tackle in the 2018 recruiting class and was a four-star recruit out of Cleveland St. Ignatius High School — a team that has one 11 state titles and three national championships for coach Chuck Kyle.
Kentucky recruiting coordinator Vince Marrow says Kinnard is the kind of player elite teams have join their program as a freshman.
“He’s a big boy. He is coming in looking good. He is forcing his way into the (playing) rotation,” Marrow said. “He’s 6-6 and tells me is 330 (pounds), but looks 340 to me. He is a guy that came from a big time program in Ohio that is always ranked.
“He is prepared for the big time games but I told him, ‘Dude, this is the SEC. This is a step up for you.’ With him, (Mason) Wolfe, E.J. Price, I think we got about eight or nine guys that (coach John) Schlarman is very excited about. Our offensive line is very, very good.”