By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshmen defensive players JJ Weaver, Jared Casey and K.D. McDaniel all got to play for the first time this season in Kentucky’s win over Missouri and likely could play against Tennessee again Saturday night in what is a huge game for UK.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops says it is important to make sure young players have “hope” they will get to play to keep them doing all they can to improve.
“They have to hold on to the hope. You can never take the player’s hope. You take their hope away, you take everything away, so I think that’s where this rule is important in giving them the opportunity to play in four games, and we took advantage of that in one, so we’ll manage that down the stretch here, but it’s good to see them continuing to have great weeks and develop themselves because players aren’t going to stay the same,” Stoops said.
“They’re going to get better or they’re going to get worse. It’s been encouraging to see them have really good practice habits, and a lot of our freshmen have been that way.”
Stoop says he has “quite a few” true freshmen who could play in UK’s final four games starting with the one Saturday night.
“(Cornerback) MJ (Devonshire) was set to go in (when UK played Missouri), and we ended up holding him (out of the game). We have some opportunities. You don’t know what’s going to happen with injuries, and so we didn’t feel the need to get him in there,” Stoops said.
“There’s two ways to look at it, as you’ve heard me talk about it. You can throw him in there when you’re ahead like that and get him some experience or you can hold and wait and see what happens with some injuries and things of that nature down the stretch when maybe you need him to be a bigger role, so we’ll see.”
Devonshire — a player I thought definitely would play this year — was slowed earlier by a wrist injury.
“That just set him back a little bit. I mean, he could go out there and play, but that set him back a touch in the middle of the season there,” Stoops said.